Redwood City is seeking feedback on an updated draft of its housing element, an eight-year housing plan that was first rejected by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) in July, three months after it was first submitted.
The revised draft, which was made public on Sept. 9, addresses feedback from HCD that asked the city for more specific data and analysis of anticipated constraints to housing development as well as greater detail and clearer implementation timelines for new goals, policies and programs.
In a nearly 200-page spreadsheet, the city outlined all changes to the draft made in response to HCD’s comments. Among the revisions are in-depth inventories of existing and potential housing sites and specific plans for housing special needs groups, including seniors and people with disabilities.
Looking at areas of substandard housing and homelessness, the city described a significant housing cost burden experienced by Redwood City’s renters. This burden is most pronounced among those living in the Central and Downtown neighborhoods, according to the housing element, where overcrowding is the highest and “40 to over 80 percent of households pay more than 30 percent of their income toward housing costs.”
The city also analyzed disparities in access to resources among Redwood City residents and identified specific populations suffering from low economic, educational and health opportunities. Citywide, the element reports, “racial and ethnic minority populations are disproportionately impacted by poverty, low household incomes, overcrowding, and homelessness compared to the non-Hispanic White population.”
Residents are invited to review and provide feedback on the new housing element through Sept. 26.
Apollo Rojas, a senior city planner and project manager for the housing element, said that the update primarily clarifies and expands upon what was already in the original draft.
“We certainly provided clearer timelines down to the month and date,” he said.
In an email announcement, the city named several other key additions to the new draft, including more specificity to the city’s affirmatively furthering fair housing goals, revisions to the zoning ordinance to streamline affordable housing and plans to analyze a parking reduction and new parking technologies.
“I think that there’s a lot to like in the new draft, even if there’s still some potential gaps,” said Jeremy Levine, policy manager for San Mateo County’s Housing Leadership Council (HLC).
Levine said one of his main concerns was the slow processing of new affordable housing projects, lamenting “a number of approved developments that are in the pipeline and have been for a while.”
He said he’d like to see the city more clearly acknowledge this constraint and work on actions “that are directed at permitting and entitlement and building approvals and ultimately making that whole process faster."
Though there aren’t steps addressing the permit or entitlement process, Rojas said the city did add specific plans for streamlining affordable housing, which included removing a public hearing requirement for affordable housing projects.
“Removing that requirement is a significant reduction in the timeframe that it takes to review these types of projects,” he said.
As part of the current review period, the city is reaching out to local organizations and other stakeholders for feedback. In 2021, Redwood City participated in countywide stakeholder listening sessions hosted by 21 Elements, a collaboration of San Mateo County agencies and organizations that support jurisdictions in planning for new housing policies and programs.
The city’s strategy, Rojas said, is to reconnect with those participating groups to let them know that “we’re available to discuss the housing element.”
Levine, who previously expressed frustration with the city’s lack of communication, said he had since met with planning staff for “constructive” conversations.
During the public comment period, anyone can provide feedback through a Google form or by directly emailing email@example.com. There will also be a virtual and in-person listening session at city hall on Thursday, Sept. 22 from 1-5 p.m..
City staff will highlight any additional changes made based on public comment before submitting an updated housing element to the state. HCD will then have 60 days to review the second draft for approval or additional revisions.
As required by California law, cities must write and adopt a housing element, a comprehensive eight-year plan for meeting citywide housing needs at all income levels. In addition to identifying potential sites and goals for new housing developments, the city’s element also lays out the strategic policies and programs to achieve those targets. It represents the most significant piece of the city’s General Plan, an overall blueprint for growth and development in all key areas, including land use, transportation, safety, environmental justice and housing.