YOLO SUN OPINION :

This self-explanatory Notice (per state Government Code Section 65009(d)), prepared by Yolo Sun‘s editor, is filed with City of Woodland on September 8.

Legal process involved, is that the City has 60 days to respond to this Notice; thereafter, its causes of action will accrue and 180 days are allowed to file a formal lawsuit.

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____  NOTICE TO WOODLAND CITY COUNCIL  ____

September 8, 2015; Page 1 of 8

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN — Pursuant to California Government Code Section 65009(d) — Woodland City Council approval of the Spring Lake Central Project is in violation Government Code Sections: 65913(a)(2, 3), 65913.2(a), 65864(b), 65866 and 65867.5(b).

This NOTICE specifies in pertinent detail issues raised by City of Woodland resident, Bobby Harris, within his testimony expressing general concerns and disputes about its deficiencies regarding affordable homeownership, related to Woodland City Council action on May 5, 2015, approving an adversely revised / amended Spring Lake Central Project.

Specification of Deficiencies

Deficiencies include:

(a) Imposition of planning design criteria (Government Code, Section 66418(5, 9)) for purpose of “rendering infeasible” development of proper dwellings for economic segments of this community requiring / desiring affordable homeownership (Government Code, Section 65913.2(a));

(b) Imposition of planning design criteria (Government Code, Sections 65913.2(a), 66418(5, 9)) for purpose of disabling and circumventing City of Woodland’s inclusionary zoning ordinance, wherein such developmental infeasibility (item (a), above) triggers collection of in-lieu fees (Woodland Municipal Code, Chapter 6A-5-20(d)(1)), intending the unlawful diversion of in-lieu fees thereby obtained (involving multiple violations of Spring Lake Specific Plan Housing Element; please see Descriptive Narrative, below), from supporting provision of local affordable homeownership opportunities, to uses outside of the legal nexus for such fee collection, assisting local rental-housing development;

Notice to Woodland City Council

September 8, 2015

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(c) Failure of City of Woodland to make a “diligent effort” (Government Code, Section 65913(a)(2, 3)), through its administration of land use and developmental controls and the provision of regulatory concessions and incentives, to significantly reduce housing development costs and thereby facilitate the development of affordable homeownership;

(d) Elimination from the Spring Lake Central Project of zoning categories for 15 and 20 dwelling units to the acre (item (a), above), the only zoning categories reasonably accessible / available for affordable homeownership;

(e) Avoidance by the City (item (a), above) of feasibly using “small lot development” (Woodland General Plan Housing Element, pp. 80-81), the City’s use of which is purportedly designed / intended to increase feasibility of affordable homeownership by significantly reducing development costs;

(f) Violation by the City’s Spring Lake Central Project Development Agreement, of Government Code, Sections 65864(b), 65866 and 65867.5(b), resulting from item (b), above.

Descriptive Narrative

“The SLSP [Spring Lake Specific Plan] is intended to be a ‘life-cycle’ community,” indicates its Housing Element (Section 3 of the Plan): “Life-cycle housing” means that “people can, theoretically, remain in or near their neighborhood their whole life[, through]: “Diversity in housing stock[.]”

“Life-cycle housing [leading the SLSP Housing Element’s presentation] makes good business sense,” it continues; “[b]y tapping many market segments, land absorption occurs more rapidly, which is a factor in increased developer profit. Diverse housing creates its own demand as families move up through the market. [  ] The social network (what is often referred to as ‘small town’ atmosphere) can remain intact, as children, adults and seniors all live within a neighborhood.”

This Notice pertains to the fact that Woodland City Council approval of Spring Lake Central Project starkly abandons this basic SLSP percept.

Notice to Woodland City Council

September 8, 2015

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The SLSP Housing Element plainly states (p. 3-5) that: “Since the multi-family / single-family split is already built into the Specific Plan planned land uses, the affordability requirements are achieved on [  ] a project-by project basis, based on the density category of the project.”

Thus, SLSP projects must be independently designed expressions of its central theme of establishing “life-cycle housing.”  Obviously, Spring Lake Central Project fails to satisfy this “intention” of SLSP Housing Element, because it extinguishes all opportunity for affordable homeownership.

Moreover, collection of in-lieu (of building affordable, for-sale homes) fees is being formulated and designed for diversion away from opportunities for affordable homeownership, toward municipal support for rental housing.

Woodland City Council has violated Woodland Municipal Code, Chapter 6A-5-20(d)(1), by failing to satisfy its fundamental provision: “Only the city may initiate this in-lieu fee option and only where it is demonstrated based on substantial evidence that there is no feasible alternative.” (Emphasis added.)

There exists no such infeasibility “demonstrat[ion] based on substantial evidence,” related to City of Woodland’s inclusionary zoning ordinance and policies to create affordable homeownership.

Thus, Woodland City Council approval of Spring Lake Central Project also violates SLSP Housing Element Regulation 3.6, which demands such a “demonstrat[ion],” as well as mandating : “[C]ertainty that the required units for which the in-lieu fees are being paid will actually be built on a designated site in the proximate area, in a timely fashion consistent with the Ordinance and Specific Plan,” contrary to the city’s plan of in-lieu fee use for rental housing.

Purportedly, the SLSP Housing Element “encourages the construction of [affordable] types of housing products, rather than traditional ‘garden-style’ apartments, which are often the only type seen in multi-family densities.” (SLSP Housing Element, p. 3-6.). This policy fails, due to items (a) and (b), above.

Notice to Woodland City Council

September 8, 2015

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With regard to affordable homeownership in a “life-cycle community,” SLSP Housing Element Regulation 3.8 is also violated by Woodland City Council approval of Spring Lake Central Project: “Notwithstanding whatever programs / methods are ultimately used to implement the affordable housing obligation, the required end result is that the calculated number of affordable units will be built in a timely fashion and be spread throughout the Plan area, including throughout each neighborhood.”

Specifically noting affordable homeownership opportunities, SLSP Housing Element Regulation 3.11 demands that: “The affordability requirement for each project [ ] is to be met on the project site to the greatest feasible degree.”

Since Woodland City Council approval of Spring Lake Central Project has violated its Municipal Code, Chapter 6A-5-20(d)(1), by failing to satisfy its fundamental provision: “Only the city may initiate this in-lieu fee option and only where it is demonstrated based on substantial evidence that there is no feasible alternative[,]” (emphasis added), such approval clearly violates SLSP Housing Element Regulation 3.11.

In addition, SLSP Housing Element Regulation 3.14 is violated by Woodland City Council approval of Spring Lake Central Project: “Affordable units shall be the same ownership-type as the base units that generate the need (e.g., for-sale for for-sale, rental for rental).”

Woodland City Council obviously contemplates using in-lieu fee money, derived from for-sale units, for application to rental units, by approving a particular formula for this purpose, plainly abridging the requirement of Regulation 3.14, about no mixing of “base units” (for-sale / rental units).

Such an unlawful purpose of in-lieu fee diversion displays a prominent motivation: Establishment of an unlawful ‘slush-fund,’ to be used at the utter discretion of Woodland City Council, for the purpose of fiscal support for various rental housing projects, under influence of meeting its regional housing allocations under adverse circumstances created by the State of California’s repeal of redevelopment authority.

Notice to Woodland City Council

September 8, 2015

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Spring Lake Central Project starkly fails to embody the bedrock objectives of SLSP Housing Element — (H-1)  “Offer housing for all segments of the population;  (H-2)  Offer a true mix of types of housing product and density of housing.”

SLSP Objective (H-2) — emphasizes — that there must be a “true” mix of housing product and densities, not the inadequate mix of expensive homes and “garden apartments,” approved within Spring Lake Central Project.

Fundamentally creating and controlling these multiple violations, of the SLSP Housing Element and of Woodland Municipal Code, Chapter 6A-5-20(d)(1)) is: Deficiency (a), above: Imposition of planning design criteria (Government Code, Section 66418(5, 9)) for purpose of “rendering infeasible” development of proper dwellings for economic segments of this community requiring / desiring affordable homeownership (Government Code, Section 65913.2(a)).

Lot and unit size and configurations are, of course, paramount to providing affordable housing. Minimum lot sizes within SLSP are 2904 square feet (R-15) and 2178 square feet (R-20/R-25) (minimum lot widths of 30 and 40 feet). By the city’s “small lot development” regulations, however, these apparently minimum lot sizes seem limited to only “small lot subdivisions,” likely not useful for dispersing smaller units into a “true mix” of housing products, as intended by SLSP Housing Element (Objective H-2). Minimum unit size is 850 square feet. Maximum lot coverage is 50%.

Contrast these SLSP requirements with the minimum lot size under Los Angeles’ Small-Lot Development Ordinance: 600 square feet, with a 16 foot widthMaximum lot coverage is 80%. Such pivotal innovations are implied by the Housing Element — in its rhetoric, but missing in its process.

It is indisputably evident that City of Woodland has imposed design criteria, “render[ing] infeasible” all reasonable ability for development of affordable homeownership in Spring Lake Specific Plan and its (SL) Central Project. Affordability is, at its root, governed by lot size and coverage and unit size.

Notice to Woodland City Council

September 8, 2015

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The SLSP Housing Element (p. 3-6) outlines a “wide range” of zoning, from three to twenty-five units to an acre, which “will enable a variety of housing products.”  However, within all zoning categories reasonable for affordable homeownership, such products are limited by design criteria (lot size and coverage and dwelling size), unlawfully “rendering infeasible” this provision of the Housing Element (Government Code, Section 65913.2(a)), directed to ensuring all economic sectors / interests of the community have access.

SLSP already deviates from the citywide goal of 35% (lowered to 29%, to accommodate added “estate-style” homes) of units being within the “multi-family” categories (15 -25 units to an acre), the only residential zoning categories reasonably accessible for affordable homeownership.

This deviation is accomplished by use of a fee-based fund on housing projects, resulting in the creation of 74 “off-site” rental units. (SLSP Housing Element, pp. 3-2, 3-3, 3-5, 3-8, 3-10.)  In this regard, a broader platform of inclusionary zoning at SLSP has already been significantly compromised, (pre)-shifted toward lower densities, with less room for affordable homes.

Spring Lake Central Project represents a total abandonment of affordable homeownership, predicated on violations of city law and policies related to the key concept of “feasibility,” by unlawful imposition of design criteria.

Also, “Because of the features built into the Plan to increase affordability “by design” [  ] the City has concluded that the market will result in moderate income units without the need for specific requirements in the Plan. As such, Plan achieves consistency with the General Plan with regard to moderate units through development regulations and site-design requirements.” (SLSP Housing Element, pp. 3-3, 3-5, 3-6.)  References here appear related to rental housing, not to affordable homeownership.

Apparently, homeownership for anyone not within upper-income economic classes, has become infeasible; while ironically, the city purports that its “design” criteria will somehow “increase [ ] affordability.” Design criteria and feasibility are inextricably relevant to affordable homeownership, of course.

Notice to Woodland City Council

September 8, 2015

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Here involved, is the fact of the city’s relevantly fundamental design criteria: (a) minimum lot size, (b) maximum lot coverage, (c) minimum unit size, all adversely contributing to thus unavoidable practical circumstances, wherein affordable homeownership has been “render[ed] infeasible,” obviously contrary to the intent of Government Code, Section 65913.2(a).

Such “infeasibility” of affordable homeownership, though, while thus caused by the city — also has been unlawfully assumed by the city — with its blunt abridgement of its municipal code (Chapter 6A, noted above).

The city is “rendering infeasible” affordable homeownership at Spring Lake Central Project, through its imposition of unreasonable design criteria in violation of state law, in a way which also violates the city’s bedrock housing law and policies relevant to “feasibility” of development of affordable homeownership.  One may even reverse the arbitrary (and capricious) order of these tightly interwoven legal calamities.

It appears that: If Woodland City Council had ever actually undertaken, in earnest, to provide the nature of formal City “demonstrat[ion],” demanded by its own housing ordinance, such an exercise would tend to reveal the profound failure of its essential design criteria to perform toward facilitating affordable homeownership, and such a paradigm shift of understanding may have predicated reform, as moved within instant causes of action.

Feasibility of local homeownership and governmental accountability merge as goals of instant causes of action, in harmony with state law.

Additionally, another compound state law – city law violation exists, in that Government Code Sections: 65864(b), 65866 and 65867.5(b), which govern city development agreements, require that such agreements be consistent with local law / ordinances. Since the city has violated its municipal code (Chapter 6A), through its Spring Lake Central Project Development Agreement (by unlawfully invoking collection of in-lieu fees), as well as violating its housing policies and regulations, directly relevant violations of state law accrue in conjunction with instant causes of action.

Notice to Woodland City Council

September 8, 2015

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Acceding to development agreements which violate city policies and state law likely involves multiple motivations for the city – (a) establishment of a ‘slush-fund’ for use in meeting its regional housing allocations with respect to rental housing; (b) accelerated collection of SLSP development fees connected to overleveraged debt, presently paid by annually using about $2 million (a third) of city sales-tax revenue; (c) general and various local pressures to best accelerate long-overdue SLSP development, in order to eventually move forward subsequent city developmental plans / intentions.

However, although thus motivated to accelerate SLSP development, according to senior city officials, altering zoning from 15 to 8 units an acres, as occurred within this adverse revision of Spring Lake Central Project, actually loses the city about $100,000 per acre in development fees.

Both the city and Spring Lake Central Project Developers have distinct motivations related to using design criteria for “rendering infeasible” development of affordable homeownership. Although SLSP’s Housing Element declares that the concept of “life-cycle housing makes good business sense,” these developers are strongly wedded to out dated, traditional, cookie-cutter, subdivision formats and strongly disinclined to productively receive purported “encouragement” from the city toward up-dating their views — especially when city rhetoric is gravely undermined by imposition of design criteria “rendering infeasible” such very development.

Conflict over such relevant design criteria, between the city and Spring Lake Central Project developers, is thus no (essential) ingredient of the city’s violation of Government Code Sections 65913(a)(2, 3), 65913.2(a). Imposition of unreasonable (and unlawful) design criteria by the city, in the context of development of affordable homeownership, with assent and collusion of relevant developers, might even be of a more common mold, than that of city – developer conflict.  Either way, it injures public interest.

Inclusionary zoning is a valuable tool for civic equity and social cohesion of communities; it is not a convenient fount of funds to further what is fast evolving into a fundamentally, structurally reinforced, economic chasm within our community.

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