Taking Steps Towards Solving California’s Housing Crisis
It is no small secret that California has been suffering an extended and increasing housing shortage for the last several decades. Bringing an end of this crisis involves the coordination of numerous public agencies and private organizations, and it begins with a plan. RRM’s Community and Urban Design group is proud to share news of the adoption of several new city-wide housing-related documents, all of which play a crucial part in the process of building sufficient housing across California.
With that in mind, RRM’s Community and Urban Design Group is happy to share that seven out of seven city planning documents in recent months have successfully been adopted by their respective city councils. Why is this big news? Because this is how more housing in California is planned for and built.
Adopted and Up-for-Adoption Housing Documents
City of Cerritos Housing Element Update
Adopted by Cerritos City Council on January 27, 2022
The City of Cerritos hired RRM to complete their 2021-2029 Housing Element Update. The city was assigned a Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) allocation of 1,908 units by SCAG. The 2021-2029 Housing Element features programs and strategies to accommodate the units including development of government-owned property for lower-income housing, and the redevelopment of the former Sears site at the Cerritos Town Center into a 100% residential project, among others. The Housing Element team held several community outreach events including an in-person community workshop, stakeholder interviews, an online housing needs survey, and multiple study sessions with city decision-makers. Additionally, in collaboration with city staff, we also developed conceptual site plans and architectural renderings to show how selected sites could be developed to accommodate the capacity assumptions made in the housing element.
City of El Monte Housing Element Update
Adopted by El Monte City Council on February 1, 2022
The City of El Monte is home a large culturally and ethically mixed community located in the center of the San Gabriel Valley (SGV). RRM was hired to update the city’s 2021-2029 Housing Element to identify and address resource and housing needs of all residents as well as ensure compliance with state housing requirements including satisfying El Monte’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) allocation of 8,502 units in one of the densest cities in the SGV region. A key focus of the housing element update were programs to significantly expand housing opportunities and affirmatively further fair housing to address issues such overpayment, overcrowding, concentrations of poverty, and housing discrimination in a city that consist of 66% Hispanic/Latino residents and 29% Asian residents. The 2021-2029 Housing Element included policies, programs, and strategies to accommodate the RHNA, including the creation of new Urban Housing and Flex Housing Zones allowing by-right approval of multiple-family residential projects up to 50 units/acre with reduce parking and open space requirements and increased floor area standards, establishment of several new residential and mixed-use Specific Plans along major corridors in the city, adoption of an Inclusionary Housing Ordinance with incentives to encourage the on-site construction of affordable housing units at various income levels, and re-establishing “One Stop Housing Clinics” with the Housing Rights Center (HRC) to continue to provide multi-lingual fair housing resources for residents, apartment owners and property managers, among others. RRM and city staff conducted public outreach with residents, stakeholders, service providers, and decision-makers using various tools to reach a broad spectrum of community including virtual and in-person workshops where Spanish and Mandarin interpretation was provided, surveys/polls, study sessions, and ad hoc committee meetings. Our team also prepared the required environmental clearance under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which consisted of an Initial Study and Negative Declaration.
City of La Puente Housing Element Update
Adopted by La Puente City Council on February 22, 2022
The RRM team was selected by the City of La Puente to revise the city’s 2014-2021 (5th Cycle) Housing Element which was out of compliance with HCD for several years, causing the city to lose out on critical funding opportunities due to the 5th Cycle Housing Element’s non-compliant status. Through RRM’s effort and collaboration with HCD, our team was able to revise La Puente’s 5th Cycle Housing Element and obtain certification by the State in July 2021. In addition, RRM was selected to complete the city’s 2021-2029 (6th Cycle) Housing Element. The city was assigned a RHNA allocation of 1,929 units in a community with very little vacant land available for new residential development. The 2021-2029 Housing Element outlines development feasibility, policies and, strategies to accommodate those units including Zoning Code amendments to allow residential uses on existing commercial sites and updates to the Downtown Business District Specific Plan to address additional housing capacity. RRM’s multi-disciplinary team of planners and architects also produced concept yield studies and renderings to illustrate potential residential mixed-use development on underutilized commercial sites identified for rezoning. Our team along with city staff conducted a series of community outreach events with residents, stakeholders, service providers, and decision-makers, all of whom informed the policy direction and programs within the housing element.
City of Buena Park Housing Element Update
Adopted by Buena Park City Council on January 25, 2022
Buena Park, home to country’s first theme park, Knott’s Berry Farm and Orange County’s first regional mall, Buena Park Mall, is a built-out community of 10 square miles that consist primarily of low-profile single- and multi-family residences. Buena Park received a challenging RHNA allocation of 8,919 units for the 2021-2029 Housing Element which was 26 times higher than the city’s previous allocation in this largely built-out community. RRM was selected by the city to complete their Housing Element update which included an assessment of housing needs; analysis of government and market constraints; identification of housing resources and over 400 possible sites for housing development; evaluation of existing housing programs; and updates to housing goals, policies, programs; and quantified objectives updates. The housing element update process included a robust public outreach program with several in-person and virtual community workshops featuring Korean and Spanish interpretation, interviews with stakeholders, service providers, and decision-makers, and use of multi-lingual surveys and polls for the preparation of the housing element update. Based on input from the community, the Housing Element outlined development feasibility, policies and, strategies to accommodate the RHNA allocation, including increasing density up to 100 units per acre in certain locations, expanding housing opportunities through hotel conversions and on religious and fraternal sites, facilitating ADU construction via pre-approved plans for streamlined approval, and creating new mixed-use zoning overlays with incentives to develop units for extremely low-and very low-income households. RRM also developed environmental justice policies for the city’s new Environment Justice Element of their General Plan, in compliance with state law (Senate Bill 1000).
City of Encinitas Objective Design and Development Standards
Adopted by Encinitas City Council on February 9, 2022
The City of Encinitas retained RRM Design Group to create objective design standards and an expedited permitting program to facilitate the development of additional multifamily and mixed-use housing. The objective design standards are clear and measurable, comply with state housing laws, and ensure design compatibility within existing Encinitas neighborhoods. The project includes easy-to-use and easy-to-administer standards augmented within the City’s amended Design Guidelines document to provide direction for the design of new housing that will shape site planning and building design. RRM developed an effective community outreach program employing a variety of public engagement tools, including stakeholder interviews, online survey, a project website, and digital media. In addition, RRM is working with City staff to develop an expedited permit process program that will result in an objectified project review process that will result in reduced processing time for applications, thus making the delivery of housing that supports the character of Encinitas more efficient.
City of Dublin Multifamily Design Standards
Adopted by Dublin City Council on March 1, 2022
The City of Dublin hired RRM Design Group to develop clearly defined objective design standards, endorsed by the community and decision-makers, that can be applied to multifamily and mixed-use residential projects. The intent of the project is to ensure that new residential development is compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods, quality materials are used, building form and scale are appropriate to the site, and that development complies with the intent of SB35 laws to facilitate and expedite construction of more housing. The final product includes clearly written objective standards with topics including building placement, outdoor space, building form and massing, façade articulation, roof forms, building and unit entries, fenestration, building materials and colors, lighting, ancillary structures, and utilities and the document includes photographs and diagrams to further describe and reinforce the standards. The City is also promoting the development of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) that comply with State housing laws to provide additional affordable housing options within the City. To assist in this effort, RRM has developed an easy-to-use ADU Manual and ADU prototype plans. These tools will save property owners money, expedite the permit process, and help ensure well-designed ADUs are built.
City of Rosemead Housing Element Update
Adopted by Rosemead City Council on January 11, 2022
RM was selected by the City of Rosemead to complete their 2021-2029 Housing Element Update for compliance with state law. We prepared an assessment of housing conditions and demographic data, an analysis of constraints on housing production, identification of housing resources and services, and an assessment of fair housing. Our team along with city staff conducted a comprehensive public outreach program that included several in-person and virtual community workshops with Mandarin, Spanish, and Vietnamese interpretation, interviews with stakeholders, service providers, and decision-makers, and use of multi-lingual surveys and polls. The 2021-2029 Housing Element outlines policies and programs to accommodate Rosemead’s RHNA allocation of 4,612 units. The meet the city’s RHNA allocation, RRM assisted the city in developing strategies including infill housing development, site recycling, and increased density allowances, which were key tenets of the Rosemead Freeway Corridor Mixed-Use Overlay Zone our firm developed for the city. Furthermore, RRM prepared a companion Public Safety Element update and the development of environmental justice policies consistent with recently enacted state laws (Senate Bill 379 and Senate Bill 1000.