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City staff still struggling with housing element

The city held a public presentation of its draft housing element Monday evening, months after it was sent back from the state for further review.

The meeting, held in the Citrus Room above the city council chamber, was meant to go over the revised housing element and to answer any additional questions about specific parts of the plan.

The housing element is a part of Claremont’s general plan, as well as a state law requirement that outlines city demographics, affordable housing programs and an outline of where the city can put low-income housing if need be. It is not a mandate for Claremont to build low-income housing; it’s more of a way of showing Sacramento that the city has the space and resources available for it.

“We’re not actually required to build the housing, we’re required to plan for it,” Director of Community Development Brian Desatnik said during the meeting.

The housing element is the only part of the general plan that needs to be renewed every five-to-seven years, and the city has been out of compliance since February 2014 for the 2014-2021 period.

Throughout the vetting process, the city wrestled with one major part of the element: the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, or RHNA. Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) tasked the city with placing 373 units of different income levels around the city—157 of which were low, very low or extremely low-income housing.

Claremont eventually settled on two locations, a sliver of land at the intersection of Harrison and Cambridge Avenues, and a small portion of the golf course on Indian Hill Boulevard that belongs to the Claremont University Consortium.

The city sent the draft housing element on November 10, 2016, but it was returned by the state in January for further review.

In a letter addressed to Mr. Desatnik on January 9, Jennifer Seeger, assistant deputy director of the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, outlined several areas of improvement and clarification within the housing element.

“In particular, the element must include a complete site analysis, and programs must demonstrate a beneficial impact within the planning period,” Ms. Seeger said.

In other words, Claremont must show its work when it comes to housing programs in the city.

The presentation Monday evening aimed to do just that. Several slides were devoted to giving more details on how the city is implementing its numerous housing programs.

Ms. Seeger’s letter pointedly addressed specific programs in the element—density bonus programs, marketing of affordable units to local workforces, transitional and supportive housing and permanent supportive housing for veterans—and requested specific timeframes rather than “ongoing” implementation statuses in the original draft.

“While this may be appropriate in some instances, programs with quantified objectives or specific implementation actions must include completion or initiation dates resulting in beneficial impacts within the planning period,” Ms. Seeger wrote.

The draft housing element notes that information on affordable housing units in the upcoming Meadow Park development was sent out to major Claremont employers this month.

Additionally, Mr. Desatnik noted that Claremont has 32 houses that meet the state’s definition of transitional housing—residential homes in any neighborhood that have six beds or fewer that are not subject to special permits from the city. An amendment to the municipal code to clarify that transitional and supportive housing are considered residential uses and only apply to residential restrictions would be processed concurrently with the adoption of the housing element.

As far as veteran services are concerned, the housing element notes that the city is working with Tri-City Mental Health Pomona and Jamboree Housing Corporation—who also worked on Courier Place—to build a 37-unit development on the 900 block of west Base Line Road that would be “permanent supportive housing for veterans and Tri-City Mental Health clients.” The project is slated to take place within the 2014-2021 timeframe.

The state also mandated the city to go into more detail about the chosen sites for the RHNA requirement, in part tasking the city with going into more detail about the suitability of the infrastructure.

In the element, the city outlines the golf course plot as being close to a sewer main at the southwest end of the site, a water main, storm drain and other services. The CUC doesn’t have any long-term plans for developing the site, the city notes, and it’s close to amenities such as Trader Joe’s and Claremont High School.

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