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Four OC cities fail in bid to increase Santa Ana’s future housing requirement

Four Orange County cities lost appeals Friday, Jan. 15, seeking to increase the number of homes Santa Ana must plan to build in the coming decade.

The cities of Garden Grove, Irvine, Newport Beach and Yorba Linda lost their appeals during a hearing held by the Southern California Association of Governments.

The board nixed the four cities’ appeals, which asked the state to increase the number of homes allocated to neighboring Santa Ana; they are also asking to decrease their own numbers. Officials from the cities asked Southern California’s regional planning agency to, among other things, take into account the number of Santa Ana apartments already planned for construction as meeting future housing needs.

Santa Ana Councilman Phil Bacerra, who said his city has long championed affordable housing, was pleased with the outcome.

“We’ve demonstrated a commitment to doing our part in addressing California’s housing crisis by efficiently using our land for housing purposes,” Bacerra said. “It’s about time other cities take the same approach and do the same.”

State law requires all California municipalities to revise their housing plans every five to eight years to accommodate future housing needs, as determined by the state Housing and Community Development Department.

State officials determined the region must plan for construction of 1.34 million new homes from October 2021 through October 2029 — triple the current goal for a planning period that ends this year.

Cities now are appealing to reduce their share of that regionwide allocation.

However, the appeals involving Santa Ana are the only ones seeking an increased allocation for a Southern California city, and the only ones in which one city sought to change a neighbor’s numbers.

Garden Grove Councilwoman Kim Nguyen argued that it’s not Santa Ana that is getting dumped on but the surrounding cities.

Santa Ana and four other cities – Anaheim, La Habra, Orange and Stanton – were able to reduce their required new housing numbers because they qualified as having “disadvantaged communities.” That led to a redistribution of 44,514 housing units to surrounding cities, Garden Grove officials wrote in their appeal.

“Garden Grove received over 4,000 from that bucket,” Nguyen said.

“The methodology used for the allocation goes against their intended priority for housing as well as disproportionately affects cities like Garden Grove, which (also) has a high number of residents living in disadvantaged communities,” she said.

Garden Grove, meanwhile, is considered 48% disadvantaged, just 2% shy of what would have qualified it for a reduction in its housing allotment, Nguyen said.

Garden Grove is expected to plan for construction of 19,122 housing units over the next eight years. Irvine’s housing goal is 23,554; Newport Beach’s target is 4,834 and Yorba Linda’s goal is 2,411. Santa Ana, meanwhile, was allocated 3,087 units as its goal by SCAG. (Garden Grove’s appeal of its own number will be heard Jan. 22.)

Officials from the other four cities wanted SCAG to consider that Santa Ana has some 10,000 housing units in some phase of planning or development.  Bacerra, the Santa Ana councilman, said they’re trying to include homes that have not yet been built.

“We haven’t even taken our general plan to the planning commission, so for anyone to hang their hat on our plan, in draft mode, is wrong,” Bacerra said. “It doesn’t guarantee they will be all built or approved.”

Santa Ana also is one of the densest cities not only in the state but in the nation, Bacerra said, arguing that his city already has done its share to build housing for different income levels.

Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento said his city “will continue to do the right thing” by building much-needed affordable housing. But, he added, “every Orange County city must do its part.”

This year, 17 Orange County cities asked to have their numbers reduced.  The four cities that hoped to increase Santa Ana’s share have their own appeals scheduled, including Yorba Linda, which lost its appeal on Friday.

The next scheduled hearing is Tuesday for Fullerton, Laguna Hills, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, La Palma, Rancho Santa Margarita, Tustin, and Newport Beach.

Source: Orange County Register

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