After San Carlos officials implement an emergency ordinance to temporarily block newly-authorized state lot divisions, some planning commissioners are encouraging city employees to speed up their outreach process while others stressed the importance of getting community feedback on the controversial law.
“Let’s get in the car, get on the train and start getting there and start figuring out exactly how it might improve the community at the same time. I think the purpose of the state law is that it should continue production and I don’t want to delay that any further,” Planning Commission Vice Chair Kristin Clements said at a meeting. Monday.
Senate Bill 9 went into effect Jan. 1, easing restrictions on lot divisions in hopes of further spurring housing development. In response, the city council approved an emergency ordinance temporarily implementing the greatest restrictions allowed by law. The emergency order has a 45-day expiry period, but staff intend to seek an extension on February 14, which could add another 10 months and 15 days to the timeline.
Meanwhile, planning officer Lisa Porras said staff plan to conduct public awareness activities and meetings with the planning commission and city council to draft a more permanent policy. Council members argued that the city would need ample time to develop a policy that best reflects community interests, but some planning commissioners questioned whether staff would need the full extension to finish the job.
On the commission, Clements was the emergency ordinance’s strongest critic, sharing his disappointment with the city being one of the few Bay Area jurisdictions to pass such a measure and arguing that the staff should look to more housing-friendly jurisdictions for guidance. Clements also noted his opposition to extending the order and urged staff to complete their work within six months.
“I was hoping we could be a bit more…maybe innovative with our thoughts while the engine is running, not stopping the engine and waiting and planning the whole trip,” Clements said.
Chairman David Roof and Commissioner Ellen Garvey were also concerned about the delay and suggested staff try to speed things up.
Noting that most lots in San Carlos are deep, Roof also suggested staff consider relaxing the rules around lot splits that require both units to face the road, essentially prohibiting a split that would place a unit behind another.
“I also think that as a city we should act in good faith in trying to achieve the intent of the law, but I understand the difficulty,” Roof said, likening the effort to building an airplane. in flight.
Alternatively, other commissioners shared their own concerns about shortening the time staff might have to conduct adequate outreach activities. Commissioner Jim Iacaponi agreed with SB 9’s intention to ease the housing crisis by putting ‘more product on the shelf’, he said he was hesitant to tell staff how long their process would take. of writing a permanent prescription should take.
And Commissioner Don Bradley, who argued lawmakers moved the bill forward too quickly without thinking about the traffic implications, noted that extensive public comment was essential. He went on to stress his disappointment with the lack of attendance at meetings where the issue was discussed.
“So far, I’m amazed we haven’t heard from more people. Certainly, we do when someone wants to build a second story,” Bradley said. “It’s more consequential.”
Of the city’s 8,100 zoned single-family lots, about 6,400 would qualify for an SB 9 subdivision, according to a study by the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley. But staff previously noted that very few inquiries related to the issue have come to the city so far. Legislation could potentially allow up to four units on formerly single-family lots.
Eugene Sakai, a member of the city’s residential design and review committee, said he was still formulating his opinion on the emergency ordinance, but argued the law discouraged development by limiting additions to 800 square feet.
Still, he shared hope that time would allow staff to facilitate enough community input that could contribute to a widely accepted order.
“It’s a very difficult balance to strike and it would be amazing to achieve it in a year to be perfectly honest,” Sakai said. “I think the real work is in the next few months to come up with something that honors the intent of SB 9, incentivizes developers to create SB 9 units, and is something the community can finally accept, perhaps grudgingly. .”
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