Gilroy has updated its draft housing element, a document that describes the city’s housing goals and programs for the next eight years, after a letter from a state agency stated it needed more information to be considered compliant.
The Gilroy Planning Commission on April 20 recommended the council adopt the document and forward it to the California Department of Housing and Community Development for its consideration. The commission voted 6-1 on the recommendation, with Commissioner Adriana Leongardt dissenting.
Cities are required to update their housing elements every eight years. The elements are part of their general plans. The most recent document, covering years 2023-2031, was due on Jan. 31.
The long-term planning document lays out how the city will facilitate the building of at least 1,773 new residential units that are needed in Gilroy from now through 2031, as determined by the state’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation process.
In October 2022, the city submitted its draft document to the state for review, after more than a year of public meetings and deliberations. However, it received a letter on Jan. 27 from Paul McDougall of the HCD, stating it needs to dive deeper in various aspects of its housing policies.
Many cities throughout the state have missed the original deadline to adopt a compliant housing element, according to City Attorney Andy Faber. Those who do not have an approved housing element by May 31 not only risk litigation, but are subject to what is known as the “builder’s remedy,” where the city could be forced to approve housing projects with at least 20% of the units designated for people with lower incomes, regardless of zoning.
Gilroy Customer Service Manager Cindy McCormick said city staff has been meeting with the HCD since January, calling those interactions “very positive.”
“We feel very confident that we’ve been able to address their concerns in the draft,” she said.
Among the additions, city officials included more information to the housing element, such as survey data from farmworkers, youth and seniors about housing issues they face, as well as information on the local unhoused population.
“Based on what’s been happening around the state, it’s quite possible they will ask us for further revisions, but we think those revisions will be relatively minor and easy to fix,” McCormick said. “We anticipate having a certified housing element early this summer.”
Faber noted the housing element is not a guarantee that 1,773 new housing units will be constructed over the next eight years, as it is up to property owners to decide if they want to develop their land for housing. Rather, the city’s role is to point out potential sites for housing and remove as much red tape as it can to encourage development.
If all 1,773 units are not permitted within the next eight years, the remaining units will be added onto the next cycle, he said.
“If we are implementing the programs and doing what we are supposed to do, then hopefully the housing will get built,” Faber said. “But there’s no guarantee and no obligation on the part of the city to make sure it does get built.”
Leongardt said she was concerned about language in the housing element that suggests the city study reducing parking standards for affordable and senior housing projects.
“How is that not discriminatory when you offer sites where you wouldn’t be able to park your car?” she said.
Commissioner Kelly Ramirez said that even though she was “frustrated by a lot of this,” she made a motion to approve the recommendation.
“It appears that this has been vetted, and I appreciate all the work staff put into this,” she said.
The city council is scheduled to consider the housing element on May 1.