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Oceanside amends affordable housing density rules

OCEANSIDE — City Council recently adopted a resolution revising affordable housing density regulations to be more consistent with state law.

California’s State Density Bonus Law incentivizes affordable and specialized housing production by requiring local agencies to grant increases to the maximum allowable residential density for those particular development projects, according to a staff report.

The law also requires local agencies to support the development of such projects with other incentives, like reducing the number of parking spaces that may be required for a project or allowing for building height increases.

The density bonus law was first adopted in 1976 to address the state’s affordable housing shortage by encouraging development of low- and moderate-income units.

The law has since been amended multiple times since its adoption in response to changing housing conditions, legal challenges, to clarify text and to incorporate new provisions, such as expanding the law to recognize the need for housing for a wider range of income levels and special needs.

Oceanside last amended its affordable housing density bonus ordinance in 2012.

Since then, several updates have been made to the law at the state level, such as expanding affordability terms to 55 years, requiring affordable unit replacement, requiring local governments to allow for reduced parking requirements, including an option for commercial projects with affordable housing and expanding to include housing for transitional foster youth, disabled veteran and homeless individuals.

The staff-proposed amendments to the city’s ordinance include removing redundant language, adding clarifying language regarding discretionary approvals and only one density bonus per housing development and adding a metric to help make determinations on proportionality with respect to square footage of a proposed income restricted units.

“We recently had a project that came forward with income restricted units and they were found to not be proportional, so in order to remove that subjectivity we’ve included a quantifiable metric so an as proposed income restricted unit would have to be at least 75 percent of the average of all market rate units of a particular project to qualify,” said Senior Planner Sergio Madera.

Madera said the changes also included removing confusing language regarding “vacant units” and added reference to new housing categories that can qualify a project for a density bonus.

City Council approved the ordinance amendment 3-1 with Councilwoman Esther Sanchez opposed. Mayor Peter Weiss was absent from the meeting.

Council modified the amendment to consider the project’s income restricted units to be proportional to square footage if they are at least 80% — rather than the originally proposed 75% — of the average square footage of all market rate units in a development. It also added “with the same bedroom count” back to the amendment language.

Sanchez wanted to change that to 85%, noting she was worried that the original 75% would result in disproportionate unit sizes for low-income households.

“Yes, people are, especially if you’ve been homeless, happy to be in (a home), but in terms of the health and safety of our community and being able to thrive and have the kids be able to thrive, I think that the size of a unit becomes pretty important,” Sanchez said.

Ultimately it was changed to 80% proportionality.

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