On April 13, the Villa Park City Council met to discuss potential affordable housing options through zoning and other planning targets with Villa Park. This was a public discussion only, no votes or decisions were made on this very important matter.
The next meeting will be at 5:30 PM Tuesday, May 11, 2021. The City of Villa Park encourages public comments prior to the next public meeting and attendance is strongly encouraged.
Why These City Meetings Matter
State law mandates that the City of Villa Park create a General Plan for 296 affordable housing units (low-income housing). Examples include, accessory dwelling units (ADUs) also known as second residential units, mobile homes or affordable apartments.
About Housing Elements & Affordable Housing
A Housing Element provides an analysis of a city’s housing needs for all income levels, and strategies to respond to those housing needs. It is a key part of the City’s overall General Plan. State Law establishes that each city accommodate its “fair share” of affordable housing as an approach to distributing housing needs throughout the state. By law, the City of Villa Park has no choice but to comply.
Villa Park’s “fair share” has been determined to be 296 affordable housing units over the next eight years (2021-2029)
In the context of Housing Elements, affordable housing generally focuses on housing for extremely low, very low, low and moderate income households, but may also address housing for above moderate income households.
Villa Park is required to update the Housing Element every eight years to support continued progress toward meeting diverse community housing needs and to address regional housing production targets. The current Housing Element update plan will cover the period from 2021 through 2029.
The final goal is to meet the October 15th, 2021 HCD zoning requirement to meet the assigned RENA, or Regional Housing Needs Assessment, number of 296 housing units for the City of Villa Park
Affordable Housing Unit Current Planned Capacity
Villa Park has currently planned for 133 affordable housing units out of the 296 units needed:
|25||11 lots with potential for additional units, if sub-divided|
|28 *||Multi-Family Units (Town Center)|
|80||ADUs (assumes 10 per year)|
* The city rezoned City Hall, the library and office building 5 years ago to meet the Housing Element. These properties are owned by the City of Villa Park. The entire Town Center is owned by ten plus property owners.
Affordable Housing Unit Additional Planned Capacity
Villa Park needs to plan for 163 (296-133=163) additional affordable housing units.
It’s important to note that these are planning targets and they are not a development mandate or a quota. The city is not required to build this housing. It is a planning target. Villa Park must determine the potential capacity for new housing in the city based on current plans and development regulations. Additionally, property owners with land zoned (or rezoned) as high density, low-income housing cannot be forced to re-develop the property for affordable housing units.
These are plans only.
Conversely, once land is rezoned there is the real possibility that a developer will work with a property owner to purchase the land and build affordable housing units. This could include high rises, if such re-zoning was made possible, in order for the city to meet the plans for 296 affordable housing units. Once rezoned it would be very difficult for the city to prevent development. For example, if a rezoned three-acre property were sold to a developer after being rezoned to low income housing high rises.
Plans could become reality.
Options Currently Being Considered in Villa Park
Based on the shortfall of 163 units Villa Park is now discussing the following options for additional units. These options were discussed at the April 13 meeting and discussions will continue at the May 11 meeting.
The 2021-2029 Housing Element Presentation from the April 13 meeting can be found here.
The City Council meeting does not address more obvious resident concerns such as the impact on crime, traffic, parking, taxes, health and education outcomes, public service dependence, small community design and property values. The City Council is made up of Villa Park residents and most likely has some concerns on these topics but is tasked here with complying with California law and the very real consequences for not complying.
Option 1: Rezone City Hall, Library and Office building
Allow a higher density (to 40 units per acre) on the city owned parcels that are already zoned to allow mix use or multi-family residential development. This is in addition to the capacity of about 28 units based on the current zoning that allows 20 units per acre.
None noted in the City Council meeting.
Estimated Additional Units: 28/1.4 acres
Option 2: Rezone Remainder of Town Center
Amend zoning for the entire Town Center to allow 40 units per acre multifamily or mixed use development. The town center is approximately 11.5 acres. This would not mandate that the commercial buildings be redeveloped. It just would be permissive to allow them to develop to that level.
All or parts of the Town Center could turn into affordable housing units. One of the ten plus partial owners in the Town Center could sell their parcel to be developed. A two or four story building could be developed, if the city’s zoning allowed for it and the developer met zoning requirements and code. The city can set height and density requirements but that also can reduce the number of units planned.
Estimated Additional Units: 460 units/11.5 acres
Option 3: Rezone the Tropical Plaza Nursery
Located along the East side of Santiago Boulevard and South of Meats adjacent to Serrano Elementary. The property is about 1.3 acres in size. If that property were rezoned from single-family residential that it is today to multifamily residential at 20 units per acre, then that would generate a potential for an additional 26 units towards the target plan.
This plan may not be feasible due to Southern California Edison restrictions. SCE does not allow for any permanent structures to be built under the power lines or within the easement area. The 26 units in the plan are outside of the easement area otherwise the planned units would be greater.
Estimated Additional Units: 26 units/1.3 acres
Option 4: Reducing the Minimum Lot Size on Vacant or Underutilized Properties
Reduce the minimum lot size to 8,000 square feet on properties that are currently vacant or underutilized. In other words, they are developed at a lower density than what is allowed under the zoning. For example, these vacant and underutilized properties, if they were rezoned to allow 8,000 square foot lots they could then be used for larger lots that the current zoning calls for. There are about 11 lots with homes and two to three with vacant lots. These underutilized lots spread throughout Villa Park. This would generate about 45 additional units if the lot size were reduced to a minimum at 8,000 square feet.
None noted in the City Council meeting.
Estimated Additional Units: 45/11 lots
Option 5: Reducing Minimum Lot Size Requirements on Properties with Small Homes
This option would reduce the minimum lot size on more developed lots in the city. For example, a lot that has a single-family home on it but it’s not so large that it could be subdivided into two or more lots. This type of lot would be rezoned to the minimum lot size to create additional units to be built on those lots. Depending on the minimum lot size selected, it could possibly allow lots to be subdivided to create additional parcels.
The plan has not been fully vetted therefore identifying the number of units is undetermined.
Estimated Additional Units: Unknown
Option 6: Orange Unified School District Property
(Villa Park High School, Cerro Villa Middle School, Serrano Elementary, Villa Park Elementary)
OUSD is the largest land owner in Villa Park with four OUSD schools in Villa Park. If any of those schools were to be closed and declared surplus property by the school district, then it is possible that the city could arrange for, or encourage, those to be developed for additional housing. At this point this option is speculative in order to estimate how many units it would generate. It would depend on which school, whether the entire school site or a portion of the school site were designated for housing and so forth.
The City can zone this property whatever it wants but the City does not own this property thus OUSD can ignore any City zoning. Ultimately, the school district controls the use of their property and unless they agree to declare the property surplus this plan most likely would not be acceptable to the state.
Estimated Additional Units: Unknown
Option 7: Rezone Plots on the East side of Wanda Road between Aberdeen and Collins
The proposed plan is to close off Fitschen Ranch Rd. right after Aberdeen Ln. and have Tacoma Cir., Beckley Cir., Helena Cir. and Portsmouth Cir. directly empty or enter onto Wanda Rd. This would create five plots and approximately two acres of land in between each of these streets where affordable housing units could be built.
The land would extend the same width as the existing lots that are on those cul-de-sac streets. They’re approximately 75 feet wide and about 110 to 115 feet deep. The Wanda Greenbelt would remain except where the four additional streets open up to Wanda Rd.
This option would potentially create 10 to 40 units fronting on the East side of Wanda Road between Aberdeen Ln and Collins Ave., in the Southern portion of the city. The undetermined density and zoning of those five plots is the reason for the wide range of 10 to 40 units.
The Wanda Greenbelt, City Hall and the Library are the only usable properties the City of Villa Park owns and is thus out of options for re-zoning city owned property.
The City would not have to implement this plan, only have it in the General Plan, rezone the land and ensure the plan is feasible. For example, altering and opening up roads to Wanda would not have to be implemented.
There are a lot of external approvals that would need to be obtained and this option is not entirely under the control of the City of Villa Park. For instance, Wanda Rd. is considered a Master Arterial Highway (MAH). Any changes would require OCTA approval and an amendment to the MAH.
There is also a high pressure gas line located under Wanda Rd. which would need to be examined for any planning issues and outside approvals.
Increased traffic safety issues are another concern. This would create four new entry points onto Wanda Rd. with no traffic lights, most likely stop signs. Pedestrians would need to navigate crossing four additional streets while walking along the Wanda Greenbelt which leads to the Santiago Creek Trail one way and the Town Center the other.
There have also been issues of crime for residents in that area. This is one reason the gate leading into Villa Park at Collins and Wanda Rd. is locked. Opening up these streets would re-expose the residents in that area.
Estimated Additional Units: 10 to 40/10 lots/2 acres
Option 8: Rezone OCWD Property Between Patrician Dr. & Villa Park Rd.
There are two properties, also known as Smith basin, that are owned by the Orange County Water District (OCWD) within the Villa Park City limits. These properties are located along the North side Villa Park Rd., which is adjacent to Santiago Creek. These properties are part of the Santiago Creek Recharge Basins. There are in fact three basins comprised of Blue Diamond Basin (Orange), Bond basin (Orange), and Smith basin (Villa Park).
The City of Villa Park could rezone those properties and coordinate with a developer to build affordable housing units assuming that OCWD would be willing to sell the unused property.
As it exists today the land is a fenced-in area and is not a usable area for trails and recreation. In the late seventies it was an active sand and gravel operation and what’s left are unsightly pits. It’s not an open public park or an open space. It is a wild area where trees amongst rubble exist.
These two adjacent properties total about 22 acres. Depending on the portion of those properties that is usable for development it is estimated that there could be anywhere between 120 and 900 units on those properties. The range is wide because given the topography, it is not known how much of the land is usable. Additionally, it would not all be housing. Streets, open space and more would have to be planned for as part of the development.
The land would need to be filled but fortunately there’s a surprising amount of dirt that needs to be disposed of from various development projects in the county. Developers pay tipping fees to bring in clean fill and dump it elsewhere. This creates a revenue opportunity where the money could be used to help pay for any other infrastructure improvements and also to ensure the proper compaction.
Villa Park Road is at a much lower grade than the houses that are above on Patrician Dr. A multi-story building could potentially be built there while also protecting the views for those residences. The pit would have to be elevated and filled up to at least the level of Villa Park Rd.
This option presents a wide range of uncertainty and more specific studies would need to be done in order to determine exactly what could be developed on these properties.
- Flood Control: Flooding is a real possibility in this area and more research would have to be done. There is state and federal flood control money out there that could potentially be used to address any issues found.
- Waterway: There is a creek in the basin which could entail federal permits if any alterations to the waterway are necessary.
- Environmental Issues: There could be protected species in this area and that would need to be examined. The uplands (higher ground) around Smith Basin are occupied by threatened California Gnatcatchers, the riparian habitat near the water has a few endangered Least Bell’s Vireos that nest there annually. Given the history as a sand and gravel operation this is a highly disturbed site and there could be environmental issues identified. The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) may take issue with taking away open space but may also favorably take into account the current condition and past history of the site.
- OCWD Owned: OCWD would have to be willing to sell the land. There is incentive for them to sell as the land is not in use, there is liability in owning the land plus the revenue from selling.
- Engineering: Given the history and current state of the sites detailed analysis of the feasibility of developing would need to be explored.
- Traffic: Traffic could significantly increase, not only Villa Park Rd., but Center Dr. and Wanda Rd. to gain access to the Town Center
- Project Length: The Housing Element plan is for eight years. This project may be deemed to take longer than eight years to complete.
- US Army Corps of Engineers Study: There is a more long-term study for flood control by the US Army Corps of Engineers that could put Smith Basin in County ownership.
Estimated Additional Units: 120 and 900 units/22 acres
Option 9: Encourage More ADUs on Existing Properties
The Housing Element already estimates 10 additional ADU Accessory Dwelling Units per year or 80 ADUs over eight years. This option would call for relaxing development standards to allow for even more ADUs. For example, allowing more than a one ADU plus one junior ADU per lot, then that could generate more than the 80 units already planned for. Another possibility would be to relax the standards over a certain acreage.
The city would have to decide which development standards to change prior to determining any estimate.
No potential issues were discussed.
Estimated Additional Units: Unknown.
Housing Element Plan Timeline
- Next Steps: Once the City Council reviews the revised Housing Element, the City will be required to submit it back up to HCD for a second round of comments and then the City will receive another comment letter from HCD. Following the second comment letter from HCD, the City will hold a public hearing for the City Council to consider the adoption of the Housing Element.
- May 11, 2021: A fourth public meeting for the Council and the community to weigh in on the update to the Housing Element.
- April 13, 2021: Third public meeting to discuss the draft Housing Element.
- February 2021: The City received a letter from state HCD itemizing several changes that the state will require in order for the city’s Housing Element to be approved by the state.
- March 9, 20201: A public meeting was held.
- December 2020: The City Council reviewed a draft Housing Element and authorized the staff to submit that draft Housing Element up to state HCD, Housing and Community Development.
Housing Element Certification
The State Legislature has delegated to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (“HCD”) the authority to review Housing Elements and issue findings regarding the elements’ compliance with the law. When HCD issues a letter finding that the Housing Element is in substantial compliance with State law it is referred to as “certification” of the Housing Element.
- Metropolitan jurisdictions (Orange County) need to be at least 30 dwelling units/acre to receive credit for lower income sites.
- A parcel smaller than one half acre or over 10 acres is generally considered inadequate to accommodate housing affordable to lower income households.
- Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) qualify towards the RHNA allocation.
Achieving Housing Element certification is a very important objective for all cities in California.
Repercussions For Not Achieving Certification
- Limited access to State Funding.
- Lawsuits. Developers and advocates may sue jurisdictions if their Housing Element is not compliant with State Law. State law may also authorize the Attorney General to bring lawsuits against cities that do not have a certified Housing Element. There are several potential consequences of being sued, including:
- Mandatory compliance – The court may order the community to bring the Element into compliance within 120 days.
- Suspension of local control on building matters – The court may suspend the locality’s authority to issue building permits or grant zoning changes, variances or subdivision map approvals. The state can order zoning changes, it can order projects approved, basically usurping the authority of the City Council with regard to land use.
- Court approval of housing developments – The court may step in and approve housing projects, including large projects that may not be wanted by the local community.
- Fees – If a jurisdiction faces a court action stemming from its lack of compliance and either loses or settles the case, it often must pay substantial attorney fees to the plaintiff’s attorneys in addition to the fees paid to its own attorneys. These fees can easily exceed $100,000.
Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs): Known by many names: granny flats, in-law units, backyard cottages, secondary units and more. ADUs qualify towards the RHNA allocation.
Affordable Housing: Housing that costs 30% or less of a household’s gross monthly income. Housing costs include rent, principal and interest, utilities, homeowner insurance, and assessments. Although many pay a higher percentage of their income towards housing cost, this is the standard definition. In the context of Housing Elements, affordable housing focuses on housing for extremely low, very low, low and moderate income households.
General Plan: General Plan is a broad, long-range policy document that guides future development, conservation, and is a comprehensive collection of goals and policies related to a multitude of aspects of community life. In California, cities and counties are required by State law to have a General Plan.
Housing Element: One of seven mandatory elements which must be included in a jurisdiction’s General Plan. General Plans are more comprehensive than Housing Elements and must include Land Use, Circulation, Housing, Open Space, Noise, Safety and Conservation. State law requires California cities and counties to plan for the housing needs of residents of all incomes.
Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADUs): Units created within the walls of a proposed or existing single-family residence and contain no more than 500 square feet. JADUs qualify towards the RHNA allocation.
Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA): This is the “fair share” of the regional housing need for all economic segments of the community. Each city and county in a region receives its allocation of the regional housing need from the council of governments for that region. SCAG for Orange County and Villa Park.
Orange County & Villa Park Regional Housing Needs Allocation (pending HCD approval)
(AMI = Area median Income*)
|Max HHLD Income||Affordable Rent||Villa Park Units||OC Units|
|Very-Low Income (<50% of AMI)||$38,450||$961||93||46,416|
|Low Income (50-80% of AMI)||$64,050||$1,601||60||29,242|
|Moderate Income (80-120% of AMI)||$102,450||$2,562||61||32,546|
|Above Moderate Income (>120% of AMI)||$123,600||$3,090||82||75,657|
*Orange County’s current AMI for a family of four is $103,000
SCAG: The SCAG region encompasses six counties (Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura) and 191 cities in an area covering more than 38,000 square miles. SCAG is tasked with the RHNA allocation to each city/area within it’s region.