YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :
Woodland City Council has provided millions of dollars of developer subsidies at Spring Lake Specific Plan, millions of dollars which would otherwise be required to be spent for affordable homes within the Plan.
These city subsidies, millions of dollars going into developers’ pockets, involve its affordable housing program and inclusionary zoning ordinance.
Alongside these massive and questionable city subsidies, a municipal code section directly related to these matters has mysteriously disappeared; while, transparency is clearly achieved regarding the city’s stark equivocations about the feasibility of affordable homeownership at Spring Lake.
Two Spring Lake Projects’ Inclusionary Zoning Postures
Woodland City Council approved two Spring Lake projects on May 5, 2015.
Spring Lake Central Project is 105 aces, with 375 single-family homes and 232 apartments on 9 acres; Cal West – Optimistic Partners Project is 45 acres, with 225 single-family homes, 190 of which are counted for purposes of the city’s inclusionary zoning law (Municipal Code Chapter 6A-5-20).
Inclusionary zoning, also known as inclusionary housing, is an American term which refers to municipal and county planning ordinances that require a given share of new construction to be affordable by people with low to moderate incomes. Woodland’s ordinance allows the City Council to adopt a proportion of either 10% or 20%; currently, 10% is the law.
With a slight concession, in the midst of receiving immense and unreasonable city largesse, the developers of Spring Lake Central Project accepted that 41 affordable homes must be provided at the revised Project, since it was reducing overall residential densities.
Cal West – Optimistic Partners Project is required to produce 19 affordable homes.
In-Lieu Fees And City Housing Issues
What’s known as “in-lieu fees” can be paid by developers – in lieu of – building affordable homes — if the city “demonstrates” with “substantial evidence that there is no feasible alternative” to using such fees, in other words — that affordable homes are not feasible to construct and sell.
However, the city has not engaged in any such “demonstration” of “no feasible alternative” to these in-lieu fees (Municipal Code, Chapter 6A-5-20(d)). The city has failed to respond to repeated requests by Yolo Sun for whatever material (“substantial,” according to city law) evidence exists to believe the city has made and adopted such a formal “demonstration” of the infeasibility of affordable homes in Spring Lake.
The city has created a sliding-scale formula for assigning in-lieu fees, matched to housing densities, resulting in $1.59 million in funding which the city intends to use for facilitation of rental-housing projects, in direct violation of numerous provisions and regulations of the Spring Lake Housing Element (please see prior Yolo Sun article regarding legal Notice to Woodland City Council).
$1.59 Million For Rentals, Or $8 Million For Affordable Homes
The city’s inclusionary zoning law uses an outdated illustration of its mandate, relating the requirement of spanning the “affordability gap,” then estimated to be ~$100,000, based on a home cost of $250,000. Cost of Spring Lake Central homes will begin around $450,000; so, today’s “affordability gap” would probably be more like $200,000 and up.
41 affordable homes would easily amount to well over $8 million of mandated developer resources required to be used for affordable home construction at Spring Lake Central Project.
Instead, Woodland City Council has chosen to accept only $1.59 million of in-lieu fees from these developers, for illegal use with rental-housing projects, based on obvious, numerous and fundamental violations of city law.
Thus, the city has lost about $6.4 million on this deal, overall, although unlawful prioritization of rental-housing greatly aggravates this situation.
Feasible In One Project, Proven Infeasible In The Other?
Interestingly, the Cal West – Optimistic Partners Project has an “option,” approved by the city council, of either paying in-lieu fees or building affordable homes.
In other words, the city council believes that affordable homes are indeed feasible within a nearby location at Spring Lake — just not in the Spring Lake Central Project — where it must be “demonstrated” as infeasible to lawfully collect $1.59 million of in-lieu fees, which the city desires for its (unlawful) use to promote rental housing.
Well, which is it, feasible or infeasible?
Also, how is it that Cal West – Optimistic Partners Project can ride the legal fence with inclusionary zoning?
City law requires that only it (the city) may initiate use of in-lieu fees and only where affordable homes are proven to be infeasible. Here, the city seems to have (unlawfully) delegated to developers its basic authority, improperly ceding to developers’ “option,” its own role of determining the feasibility of affordable homeownership.
Clearly, legal inconsistency appears in this situation. In-lieu fees being allowed, piecemeal, while the feasibility of affordable homes also exists — directly contradicts the city’s inclusionary zoning law. The city is playing fast and loose with its housing law.
Transparent prevarication by the Woodland City Council is surely revealed by such multiple, bald equivocations about the feasibility of affordable homes at Spring Lake.
City Disappears Key Code Section
Alongside these calamities against public interest, is the fact that a directly relevant municipal code section (to in-lieu fees) has simply disappeared.
The missing code section is: 6A-3-50(B)(2)(a). Inquiry to the city clerk indicates an empty folder, where the paper copy of this section would / should be, and it is not listed within the city’s municipal code.
Yolo Sun has repeatedly requested the city to resolve this strange mystery, to no avail.
This key code section is specifically referred to within the Spring Lake Housing Element as being the basis for city determinations that affordable homes are somehow found “not suitable” in a particular project; but where, “there is certainty 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.” (Spring Lake Specific Plan Housing Element, Regulation 3-6.)
Since the city intends to use this $1.59 million from Spring Lake Central Project for the (clearly unlawful) purpose of facilitating rental housing, such a municipal code provision would be a hard obstacle. Of course, the city has attempted to avoid a dense fabric of other obstacles, by simply ignoring them; perhaps, this one more was too many.
The question is: What actually happened to this key code section?
It has not been repealed and plainly was once on the books. Its disappearance is fairly suspicious, as well as potentially affecting in-lieu fee related housing policy recently adopted by the city council.
It was pivotally referred to in the city staff report relevant to removal of the 50-unit (project) cap from the overall ordinance process for in-lieu fees.
Until June, 2014, city law recognized that use of in-lieu fees within large projects would defeat the basic purpose of inclusionary zoning.
Based on this disappearing code section, city council action erasing this 50-unit cap, if challenged, would likely become null and void.