Ron Fink: Is the new 378-unit public housing complex responsible planning? | Opinions

According to a recent Noozhawk report, a new 160-unit project has been “fast-tracked by state law instead of the often frosty local approval process, a new affordable housing project for seniors is growing rapidly in Santa Maria . Officials say a second phase of 218 units has yet to begin the licensing process.

Prior to the passage of SB 35, cities and counties under the “Planning and Zoning: Affordable Housing: Streamlined Approvals Process Act” had the ability to apply zoning standards to all housing projects. But this “bill would prohibit a local government from enacting any requirement that applies to a project solely or partially on the basis that the project receives ministerial or expedited approval under these provisions.”

In other words, local planners and/or the city council or board of supervisors would have no influence on the planning process, other than enforcing state-level building and fire safety standards. . Additionally, they would have to fast-track the project, meaning there would be no public hearings to air issues associated with the project.

For example, this project consists of a five-story building in an area where all the surrounding buildings are on one level. It’s just out of place and incompatible with the types of buildings in the neighborhood.

SB 35 would “limit a local government’s power to impose parking standards or requirements”, so there can only be a limited number of parking spaces on the site. Given the location of this project, there is very little to almost no on-street parking available, and there is over a half-mile walk along a busy street to the nearest retail services.

Considering the new “green energy” initiatives (mandates), one wonders if these units will all be electric even if the city does not require it. And since “the rent estimates, including charges, have been adjusted between 30 and 60% of the median income of the district”, who will pay the difference between the real cost of the electricity consumed and what the tenants pay?

Another question concerns a mandate to convert to all-electric vehicles, will the project eventually include parking lots and charging stations for 378 cars, or will the elderly have to bring their cars to a remote charging point and wait a few hours while the battery is charging?

Even if renters can afford the cheapest electric vehicle, they will still need to charge them regularly. And who will pay to charge all those EVs if it’s a low to moderate income housing project if utilities are included in the rent?

For at least four years, the town of Lompoc has been under similar affordable housing mandates. In August 2018, the city filed an objection to the conversion of a market-rate apartment complex into a so-called tax credit scheme that is a California government shorthand for subsidized housing.

At the time, Lompoc pointed out that 76% of available multifamily housing in the city was already in the low-income category. The state dismissed the complaint and approved the project without allowing any input from city planners or the city council.

This “pack ’em and stack ’em” concept of low-income housing is reminiscent of the federal government’s approach that has resulted in ghetto-like conditions wherever it has been implemented.

In Lompoc’s letter four years ago, the city pointed out that other projects like this “have a history of high code enforcement and public safety calls” and that “projects tax credit programs in our community are falling apart unattended between funding injections.”

In a more recent conversion years ago, the developer claimed it would “clean up the area” and rid the resort of gang violence.

Well, they revamped the complex, but as soon as the units became available for rent, the gangs came back and the police have to intervene in the area for loud parties, drug dealing, overdoses, fights and shootings as frequently as they do. before converting the project.

I’m not saying that the Santa Maria project, which is a newly built complex, would cause worse conditions than exist in other overcrowded areas of their city, but locking people into projects like this can lead to conflict between neighbors and create other unintended consequences. .

Urban planning should be a process controlled by local governments, not by know-it-all politicians in faraway places.

— Ron Fink, resident of Lompoc since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry. He has followed Lompoc politics since 1992 and, after serving 23 years in various Lompoc commissions, retired from public service. The opinions expressed are his own.