- The Town Should Focus First On Updating Its Housing Element, Which Will Guide And Shape Any Other Updates To The General Plan.
Unlike the General Plan update, the Town is under a statutory deadline to submit the updated Housing Element to HCD by January 2023. On June 15, 2021, the Town Council retained EMC Planning Group to prepare the Housing Element update. In its Scope of Services, EMC states that it will rely on the Town Council’s Preferred Land Use Alternative C, which proposes residential development of 2,303 additional units to be located primarily in Community Place Districts.
By law, the Housing Element update must include an inventory of land suitable and available for residential development to meet the Town’s regional housing need by income level. (Gov. Code §§ 65583, 65583.2.) “Suitable” means the parcel is zoned appropriately for residential development and has available infrastructure and is not environmentally constrained. (Id.) “Available” means that the site has a likelihood for development during the Housing Element planning period. (Id.) If the housing sites inventory demonstrates that there are insufficient sites to accommodate the housing allocation for each income category, the inventory must identify potential sites for rezoning and a program to effectuate such rezoning early in the 2023-2031 planning period. Per the schedule included in its Scope of Services, EMC stated that the housing sites inventory would be completed by Winter 2021-2022.
The Town must update the Housing Element by January 31, 2023 and submit it to HCD for certification. If the Town does not secure HCD certification of its Housing Element within that required timeframe, it could become ineligible for state and regional funding programs, be placed on an accelerated Housing Element cycle, and/or face legal challenges. (Gov. Code §§ 65585, 65588, and 65889.11.)
The Town’s website devoted to the Housing Element update refers simply to the formation of the Housing Element Advisory Board, with no documents, information on meetings, or updates concerning a critical statutory deadline that is less than 12 months away. Other Bay Area cities have been laser-focused on updating their Housing Elements. For instance, since May 2021, the City of Palo Alto held over a dozen meetings on its Housing Element update, and the Palo Alto City Council recently provided feedback on the housing sites inventory.
The Town should follow both common sense and the lead of other cities and focus now on updating its Housing Element. Doing so will guide and provide critical information for the Proposed Plan. Updating the General Plan prior to and apart from updating the Housing Element is tantamount to putting the cart before the horse.