Villa De La Palma Project and Affordable Housing FAQ's

Letter Read into Public Record on June 12, 2017

At the Development and Circulation Committee meeting on June 12, 2017, Council Member Gerard Goedhart asked that a letter be read into public comment. The letter, which was concerning the development at 5062 La Palma Avenue, is available here.

Frequently Asked Questions on Affordable Housing

Why is the City required to consider affordable housing opportunities?

State law mandates that the City’s Housing Element identify specific sites appropriate for affordable housing and be zoned for multifamily development by-right (Gov. Code. Sec. 65580 et seq). Assembly Bill 2348, codified as Gov. Code Section 65583.2 also requires the City Housing Element demonstrate that it has adequate sites available without restrictive zoning burdens. Additionally, Senate Bill (SB) 619 (Ducheny: 2003) forbids discrimination against affordable housing developments by local agencies when carrying out their zoning powers.

What is the City’s affordable housing mandate?

The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) under a process known as the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) has assigned to the City of La Palma the goal of six (6) affordable units for the 2014-2021 planning period (2 very-low, 2 low, and 2 moderate rate units). Discussion is included in the City’s Housing Element found here.

Why were 5052 and 5062 La Palma Avenue selected for affordable housing?

The City had identified these two properties as available housing sites dating back to the 1999 General Plan update. The properties were optioned in 2004 along with 5082 La Palma Avenue for a 20 unit townhome complex. In October 2004, 5052, 5062, and 5082 were rezoned from R-1 Single Family to R-3 Multi-family. During the same action the City also changed the R-3 Multi-family development standards to regulate unit density by lot size.

In 2005, AB 1233 amended State housing element law to require cities to rezone their designated available housing sites for Multi-family development within 1 year of plan approval. The Law became effective on January 1, 2006. During the 2007 to 2014 Housing Element Planning period the City of La Palma had to specifically identify two properties and rezone them to a minimum 20 units per acre.

The City reaffirmed 5052 and 5062 as the two properties to be targeted for this mandated up zoning requirement. The properties were selected because they are located off of a major arterial (La Palma Avenue), with public transit and bike lane, adjacent to an elementary school (Los Coyotes), and in walking distance to a neighborhood shopping center for goods and services. In 2010, the State Housing and Community Development (HCD) Department approved La Palma’s Housing Element. On January 17, 2012, the city rezoned the property with its Village Overlay (VO) to allow for the State mandated 20 units per acre development requirement.

What exactly is being proposed at 5062 La Palma Avenue?

The property owner has proposed an eleven (11) unit apartment building and 30 space parking garage. The project proposes (9) two (2) bedroom and two (2) one (1) bedroom units. The two 1-bedroom units are proposed to be made available as affordable units to low income households. The project has been designed to provide maximum on-site parking through the introduction of tandem style parking and draws upon the nearby insurance building for architectural style. The single building features ground level parking and two levels of living space. The design incorporates a mansard roof structure to screen venting systems, A/C units and satellite dishes. All units have their own laundry area for washer and dryer and a personal deck for outdoor living space.

What happens if the City rejects the project?

Misinformation and prejudice can generate fierce opposition to proposed projects with affordable components. Recognizing this, state law prohibits a local agency from disapproving a low income housing development, or imposing conditions that make the development infeasible (Gov. Code Sec. 65589.5) unless they find one of five narrow conditions exist.

Of the five, the first three are the most important: 1) the project would have an unavoidable impact on health and safety which cannot be mitigated; 2) there is no need for the project; or 3) the project is inconsistent with the general plan and the housing element is in compliance with state law. The remaining two conditions are; 4) Project is proposed on land zoned for agriculture or resource preservation; and, 5) denial of the project or imposition of conditions is required in order to comply with specific state or federal law. Further, Gov. Code Sec. 65008 prohibits discrimination against affordable housing developments by local agencies while exercising their zoning powers.

This property was zoned to allow a minimum of 9 units and a maximum of 11 units in 2012. The current property owner purchased the property, and the former property owner sold the property with this knowledge.

A denial of the project would place the City out of compliance with its State approved Housing Plan and out of favor with the property owner who purchased the property with the aforementioned understanding. When the City’s Housing Plan is out of compliance the State deems its entire General Plan out of compliance. When a City’s General Plan is out of compliance other development projects can be challenged and the City could be excluded from certain funding opportunities.

Does the City have the legal right to limit the total number of units, or does the developer have control?

The City is required to demonstrate it has adequate sites to accommodate the development of affordable units assigned to it under the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) for the current planning period.

The City did identify 5052-62 La Palma Avenue on La Palma Avenue as the preferred location for housing opportunities dating back to the 1999 General Plan. The State, finding that just identifying locations was not sufficient for encouraging redevelopment of affordable units, adopted a law requiring that cities identify sites to be rezoned to a minimum density of 20 units per acre by-right. In La Palma’s case the community needed to identify two parcels to be up zoned. The City conducted several meetings and workshops between 2007 and 2010 to specifically identify 5052-62 La Palma Avenue to meet the “adequate sites” requirement. The State approved the City’s Housing Element for the 2007-2014 planning period in 2010 (after years of rejections) based on the commitment contained in the plan to rezone these two parcels within one year of the housing plans adoption. In 2012, both 5052-62 La Palma Avenue were rezoned to add the City’s Village Overlay (VO) designation to their existing Multi-Family Residential (R-3) designation.

The allowable density for these two properties under VO would permit up to 11 units on each property (22 units total) if the properties remain separate, or 23 units total if the properties are consolidated, excluding any potential density bonus units. The Housing Element projects, however, that both sites would develop at 80% of those unit counts, or 9 units on each property. Per State law, the City may not permit development of either of the properties below the 9-unit projection set forth in the Housing Element. In other words, the minimum number of residential units that may be developed on each property is 9 (for a total of 18 units combined), and the maximum number of units is 11 (for a total of 22 units combined) excluding any potential density bonus units.

The City was also mandated to adopt an ordinance consistent with state Density Bonus law (found in Government Code Sections 65915 – 65918). This law essentially allows a Developer to build up to 35% more units than the zoning provides for, if they provide a certain percentage of the units restricted to low and very low income.

Can the City restrict the number of units to a lower number, but increase the number of affordable units?

Per State law, the City may not permit development of either of the properties below the 9-unit projection set forth in the Housing Element. Additional income restricted (affordable) units could be secured through financial incentives. Unfortunately, with the abolishment of Redevelopment the City has negligible low and moderate income housing funds (LMIHF). Also, the use of LMIHF triggers prevailing wage requirements which increases project costs 15-25%.

Why apartments and not condominiums?

The choice between developing rental or a fee ownership multi-family project is the property owners choosing. Many factors go into making this decision. The size of the project can have influence on whether to pursue apartments or condominiums due to economies of scale and expenses with developing fee ownership units. We also note that, developing condominiums is not a guarantee against rental property, as owners of condominiums are free to rent their units. Purchasing condominiums for income property purposes creates an absentee ownership situation versus having oversight of rental unit’s by professional property management.

Is the City only approving this development for the money?

No. As discussed above, the city is mandated by the State to plan for and accommodate development to achieve the affordable housing goals assigned to the city. The City does collect development impact fees for parks, roads, and building permit fees. Permit fees are collected to recover expenses associated with plan check, permitting, and inspection of new construction for compliance with State Building and Fire Codes. The City will also receive new property tax increment from the reassessed new construction. The City receives approximately 11% of the 1% property tax levy. The proposed project would be anticipated to generate new property tax increment to the City around $2,625, a onetime development impact fee for roads of $2,750 and a park in-lieu fee of $8,678.

Are there any other buildings with a height of 36'6" and 19'6" from the curb?

The proposed Project has a 19’-6” setback from the back of the sidewalk. The curb and sidewalk have an approximate width of 7’-6” in front of the subject property. So the proposed building is 27’ from the curb.

There are not many existing examples of this construction type in La Palma because no other properties have had to be up zoned to meet the State mandate of 20 units to the acre. That being said, some examples of building heights in town that are similar to the 36’-6” and have 19’-6” setbacks from the back of sidewalk are:

La Palma Medical Office Building……..65 feet high

La Palma Christian Center Sanctuary..50 feet high

Kennedy Performing Arts Building……44 feet high

Montecito Condominiums……………..35 feet high (from garage floor)

Russell Estates setback from back of sidewalk……..………17 feet

SunTree Apt.’s setback from back of sidewalk……..……….10 feet

Brentwood Apt.’s setback from back of sidewalk…..……….10 feet  

Chase Bank setback from back of sidewalk…..………………5 feet

SFD’s along La Palma Ave setback from back of sidewalk....5 feet

Is an easement being sought on the school property to ultimately put in a driveway to the west?

Nobody is seeking an easement on the school property. What has been requested of the Developer is to design his building with a header in the south facing wall to easily accommodate a rear exit should access from the south side ever become available in the future. Responsibly planning for a future exit in the building design during construction would save expenses later should future ingress/egress to Moody Street be a possibility.

The genesis for this idea stems from the Denni/Montecito Project where provisions to plan for the future access of Phase II project, now known as Tapestry Walk, was not secured.. The Montecito’s Homeowners Association refused to allow access to the Phase II parcel at 4611 La Palma Avenue. The Tapestry Walk project had to take direct access from La Palma Avenue. Not wanting to leave a similar legacy situation for future administrations the Community Development Department planned for various future options. In the case of Tapestry Walk, their project has been designed and conditioned to take access from Steve Luther School out to the signalized intersection of Redford Lane and La Palma. Should that become a possibility in the future, this would allow the City to close the La Palma Drive access.

In the case of Villa De La Palma, we are laying the ground work for the future in case access to Moody Street can be made available from the south side of this property. This would assist residents leaving the project and wishing to travel westbound on La Palma Avenue to be able to make that turning movement with the safety of a signalized intersection.

How wide are the parking spaces and what are is the width of the aisle between the parking spaces? Do these widths meet city code?

The parking stalls are 9’-0” wide by 20’-0” deep. The drive aisle is 25’-0” wide. These parking dimensions are consistent with La Palma City Code Section 44-361 We have met with the Owner’s Architect to discuss increasing the spacing of support columns from 25’-0” wide to 30’-0” wide. This would provide an additional 2.5 feet of turning radius room on each side of the drive aisle to access parking stalls.

Are there any examples of tandem parking in town and why is tandem parking being considered?

There may previous developments with tandem parking, but the most recent is in the Ozawa development off of Walker Street. There were two models proposed. One model has a three car option where the third car space is a tandem stall. This is common in newer single family development as it eliminates the need for a second single garage door to accommodate the third parking space. The proposed tandem parking in the Villa De La Palma project was at the direction of the Traffic Safety Committee listening to concerns regarding potential overflow parking from nearby residents. The project initially proposed 22 parking spaces on the property. The layout resulted in some surplus area within the garage. The Traffic Safety Committee opted to reduce the west-side side yard setback by five feet in order to create an additional eight (8) parking spaces on-site. That brought the total on-site parking count to 30 spaces or 2.94 spaces per unit.

What is the permitting process for the City of La Palma?

A Precise Plan (PP) shall be obtained for all proposed construction or other development in the City. This is a discretionary review application and the first big step in the permitting process. Once this process is completed then a proposed development goes into the Building Division for review and issuance of building permit(s). Once the precise plan is completed and building permits approved construction permits can be pulled and work can begin.

At what stage is the proposed development in the permitting process?

The proposed Villa De La Palma development is in the Precise Plan stage of the permitting process. The City Council is the ultimate approval authority for all Precise Plan applications. The Development and Circulation Committee is a recommending body to the City Council. Should the City Council approve the project it would then proceed to building plan check and permitting process.

How long does it typically take to secure permit for a project like this?

The timing for approval of the planning and zoning entitlements typically takes between 90-120 days. The building plan check and permitting process can take weeks to months depending upon the applicant’s responsiveness. In the case of projects where affordable units are planned, the entitlements can take no longer than 90 days or the project is deemed approved.

Where is the closest Major Transit Stop?

La Palma Avenue is considered a Primary Arterial in the Master Plan of Arterial Highways (MPAH). Regular public bus service is provided along this arterial. There are bus stops located along the north and south sides of the La Palma Avenue. The nearest bus stop to the proposed development is just west of the site located in front of the Carl’s Jr. Restaurant.

Has a traffic study been prepared and approved for this planned development?

The State of California provides exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) specifically for urban infill developments, and urban infill developments with low income affordable units. The State exempts those types of project because there is no reasonable possibility that they would have a significant effect on the environment.