Santa Clarita: Restricting local land use authority does not solve housing crisis

Villa Metro, The New Home Company's news housing development project along Soledad Canyon Road, across from the Metrolink Station, in 2013. Signal archive photo

California needs 3.5 million homes to close the housing gap. While state lawmakers work on multiple bills aimed at tackling the crisis, Santa Clarita officials say restricting local land-use authority is not the answer.

More than 50% of the state’s households can’t afford the cost of housing as real estate prices increase three times faster than household incomes, according to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute. 

“The state now has a $50 billion to $60 billion annual housing affordability gap,” the report reads. “Nearly 70% of these households would have to spend more than half of their income to afford the local cost of housing.” 

But there are ways to address the crisis, lawmakers believe. Some proposed pieces of legislation for review include Senate Bill 50, which would mandate increased housing densities closer to public transit centers and “job-rich” areas by requiring cities to allow the building of multifamily units up to five stories. Bill proponents said it would help reduce traffic congestion. 

The City Council voted unanimously in opposition of the bill in February and voiced its position via a letter to SB 50’s author Sen. Scott Weiner, D-San Francisco, soon after. 

“While we appreciate your goal to create new housing throughout California, SB 50 appears to be a punitive measure that pre-empts local land use authority,” the letter reads. “Provisions which provide incentives leading to the construction of housing while preserving local land use authority, in our view, will facilitate meeting the challenges facing California.”

The letter also stated that the full impact SB 50 would have on Santa Clarita is uncertain because of “the bill’s absence in defining a ‘job-rich’ area … which could pose unknown and potentially unintended consequences to cities.” 

Supporters and opponents have expressed mixed feelings about the bill, including favorable views toward flexibility on regulations but disliking potential growth for dense urbanism while also appealing to values of inclusion. 

In Santa Clarita, there are currently 10,452 residential units, including homes, townhomes, condos and apartments that are either in the construction process or the housing development process, according to Jason Crawford, city planning and economic development manager. In 2019, the city expects to issue about 1,200 to 1,500 building permits for residential units. 

“(SB 50) poses concerns over lack of control,” said Crawford. “At the local level, we’re able to see that parking spots are accurate and what looks good and what fits in our community.” 

The bill was tabled until the 2020 legislative session, but the City Council already has its eye on a similar piece of legislation: Senate Bill 330.  

The bill would declare a statewide housing crisis until Jan. 1, 2025, and prohibit cities from imposing impact fees and parking requirements for affordable housing developments. 

The City Council is expected Tuesday to oppose SB 330 at its upcoming regular meeting, primarily for its ability to preempt local land use authority. Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, has voted in support and Sen. Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park, did not record a vote on the Senate floor when the bill passed on May 29. The bill is scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Committee on Local Government on Wednesday, July 10. 

Should the bill pass, certain parking standards in the city’s unified development code would no longer apply to residential developments built within the prescribed distance of major transit stops in Santa Clarita, according to a city staff report. 

Those standards include: one enclosed parking space per unit for studio units, two enclosed parking spaces per unit for one- and two-bedroom units, and one parking space per every two units for guest parking. 

“The bill’s creation of a preliminary application, and subsequently a freeze on any standards upon the submittal of a preliminary application, preempts the city’s authority to apply updated standards to a project that may reflect a better use of land and architectural design,” the agenda report read. 

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS