A Humboldt County Housing Element meeting was at Redway School on Oct. 23. About 20 people attended and handouts were available about discussions from the previous Housing Element meetings. There was a previous meeting at Redway School on Aug. 28 (see Redwood Times, County planners hear from SoHum regarding AOB, Sept. 3).
Paula Mushrush, member of planning staff, took notes for the planning department and Humboldt County planning department senior planner, Michael Richardson explained that the state requires the Housing Element to be updated every five years. The last update was in 2008 and this one is due in July 2014. The county is in the process of gathering public comments. Then the planning department will write the Housing Element and present it to the planning commission, who will make comments and then it will be submitted to the county board of supervisors for approval.
The Housing Element is one of seven mandated elements of the county's general plan. It must be consistent with the General Plan Update that is in process now.
In an interview before the meeting Richardson said that there was an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prepared for the last Housing Element (2008) and a subsequent EIR for the multi-family rezone project that they did. They will do an Initial Study on this one after the draft housing element is prepared and the results of the IS will determine whether they can supplement the previous EIR with an addendum or whether they will do a supplemental EIR.
”The policies are pretty meaty,” he said. “We're really doing a lot.”
Richardson explained that policies were changing to eliminate permit requirements for second units that meet specific performance standards. They want to encourage second units and in certain areas eliminate some permit requirements, he said. There is a move to find a way to allow composting toilets that may cause properties that were considered undevelopable before to be developed. This could have huge development potential that needs to be disclosed, he said.
Richardson said that this and other implementation measures being contemplated in the new housing element will need environmental assessment. Eliminating permit requirements Richardson said could eliminate any subsequent environmental assessment.
Richardson said that people want to go forward with a program to allow homes that were constructed without permits to benefit from some minimum requirements.
Most of the meeting was taken up with nomadic campgrounds. Some people at the meeting continued to bring up the perceived necessity of providing campgrounds for people to live in recreational vehicles (RVs) permanently.
One suggestion that several people supported was to use migrant farmer camps on agricultural land as models. Richardson said there had been a discussion about this issue at a recent meeting in Eureka. He said specialist Fox Olson, who has immersed herself in these issues, said that such campgrounds need management. These camps cannot just be in far-flung areas and be expected to provide an adequate living environment. Richardson said migratory farm camps are not consistent with Olson's experience of good supportive housing.
One person continued to ask for zoning for nomadic campgrounds. Richardson said they made changes to zoning ordinance to develop special occupancy parks where people can pull their cars in and sleep. They have tried to make it so that where mobile home parks are allowed, special occupancy parks should be allowed.
There was a request that maximum time limits on living at such parks should be removed. Some people wondered if the rules of Housing Community Development, the agency that regulates special occupancy parks, could be overridden.
Some of the discussions at this meeting included living in trailers on private property, living in RVs permanently in campgrounds, finding more places for living in RVs, and zoning for living in RVs. People continued to come back to this one issue throughout the meeting, even during discussion of other topics.
On another issue, one person asked about changing minimum zoning. He said that Agricultural Exclusive property requires a 40-acre minimum for two units. But, he said, some of that is going to be zoned Rural Residential with a 20-acre parcel size minimum. Would that mean that a person would have to subdivide the property in order to build two more units? Richardson agreed that it was a good question.
There was discussion about property zoned commercial in Garberville that a speaker said should be multifamily. Richardson said that Realtors® are against converting commercial property to housing but there is the possibility multi-use zoning.
There was some discussion about water. One person said he is working with supervisor Estelle Fennell to get water storage and rainwater catchment systems permitted for development. He said there are currently rules that make it impossible for people to use rainwater for household use. This speaker said the water he uses for a whole year is only one/one-thousandth of the rainwater that falls on his property in the year.
Richardson said he is not sure how to write that up or how it will affect the building process and the subdivision process. Another speaker stated that he did not think that collected water should be all that is required for development due to variables including drought and climate change.
There is another Housing Element meeting Wednesday, Oct. 30 in Eureka. That will wrap up the meetings, Richardson said, but there is still time to make written comments. The draft Housing Element should be brought to the planning commission in January.
On Nov. 4 there will be another General Plan Update meeting at the board of supervisors in Eureka.
REDWOOD TIMES PHOTO BY SANDY FERETTO
Senior planner Michael Richardson, standing, listens to discussions of issues pertaining to the Housing Element in Redway.