Council Directs City Staff To Develop "Affordable Housing" Measures For Further Considertion/Possible Action That Include Property Tax-Increase Debt Bond, Less Required Parking And Fewer Opportunities to Challenge EIRs

Multiple public speakers urge rent control, unjust eviction ordinance; Mayor Garcia [entering 2018 election cycle] and Councilmembers remain non-committal on those issues, Garcia says he's awaiting data from city staff on rent levels is reader and advertiser supported. Support independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.
(May 3, 2017, 8:55 a.m.) -- As seen LIVE on, the LB City Council voted 8-0 (Mungo absent, motion by Pearce, seconded by Gonzalez) on May 2 to direct city staff to develop, initiate and in some cases bring back to the Council for further consideration/possible action multiple measures to promote "affordable housing." These include a property tax-increase debt bond ballot measure, reducing city parking requirements for affordable housing projects and urging Sacramento to change state law to make it more harder for the public to challenge EIRs ("CEQA reform") for such projects.

[Scroll down for further.]

City staff recommended roughly 30 measures in a report visible at this link. The recommendations include "Encourage adoption of regulations to allow and incentivize the use of shipping container construction for housing" and "Develop a plan to include micro-units as a method for encouraging housing production." (An accompanying city staff report states:

Although a micro-unit has no standard definition, a working definition is a small studio apartment, typically less than 350 square feet, with a fully functioning and accessibility compliant kitchen and bathroom. Under this definition, a 160-square-foot single-room occupancy (SRO) unit that relies upon communal kitchen or bathroom facilities does not qualify as a true micro-unit. Micro-units are typically purpose-built, using efficient design to appear larger than their square footage, which are typically 20% to 30% smaller than conventional studios in a given market.

Mayor Garcia stated publicly during the May 2 Council meeting that he supports staff's recommendations including allowing "micro-units."

The City Council adopted these and all but one of the recommedndations (which it didn't oppose but sought further data and more discussion, see below.)

During the nearly three-hour Council item, speakers from LiBRE, Housing LB and others said affordable housing measures aren't enough and pressed the Council to enact rent control and an "unjust eviction" ordinance (forbidding evictions for reasons other than those allowed by a future Council ordinance.), calling these measures and other renter protections are part of affordable housing. Multiple speakers cited significant rent increases; others described abusive landlord practices. Speakers supporting these positions predominated at the Council podium.

A woman who said she represented a group of landlords interested in affordable housing but opposed rent control, said modest rent increases are necessary after a long recessionary period to maintain and upgrade their properties (amid property tax and minimum wage increases.) A representative of the Apartment Association of CA Southern Cities said LB rents aren't as high as claimed by others. Robert Fox, Exec. Dir of the recently resurrected Council of Neighborhood Organizations (CONO) differed on only one issue; he urged allowing conversion of own-your-own units into condos.



Mayor Garcia supported all of management's recommended actions and stayed publicly non-committal [entering the 2018 election cycle] on rent control and unjust evictions, responding to public speakers by saying he was awaiting data from city staff on LB rental costs (figures on LB rents differ depending on the data source.) Councilmembers likewise avoided voicing a position on the two polarizing issues; Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce (elected June 2016) left the door open, saying the item before the Council was affordable housing, not renter protections.


Sponsor: Computer Repair Long Beach

Much of the Council discussion focused on a city staff recommendation to modify City Hall's definition of "moderate-income" from 80% to 120% of area median income (AMI) to 80%-150%; the Council-enacted motion asks staff to return with further information for future Council discussion.

No Councilmember(s) or the Mayor voiced opposition to a future City Hall ballot measure for a debt-bond (property tax increase) or special tax ballot measure for "affordable housing". Vice Mayor Rex Richardson explicitly said he supports new local revenue sources [such as a debt-bond ballot measure] that the Council could use to provide first time home buyer assistance and the like.

Councilman Roberto Uranga initially voiced resistance ("if it ain't broke, don't fix it") to a city-staff recommendation to "Support California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) reform through City's legislative actions that encourages the production of affordable and workforce housing" [changing parts of CEQA to make it easier for housing developers to gain swifter City approval for their desired projects and make it harder for residents to mount challenges and appeals]. Mayor Garcia interjected that the Council had voted months earlier (in approving the City's annual "state legislative agenda") to support Sacramento actions that would make such changes to parts of CEQA.

Councilman Al Austin (who chairs the Council's Mayor-chosen State Legislation Committee) said such CEQA changes were appropriate, noting that some residents had challenged and slowed a housing development in his district [Riverwalk] -- calling the residents' challenge without merit. [Multiple residents urged the Council to make changes to the project; Councilman Austin and the Council declined to do so; the residents hired a lawyer, filed suit and reached a settlement with the developer that resulted in some changes to the development. coverage here.]



During Council discussion, City Hall's Development Services Director Amy Bodek said one way the Council could promote affordable housing is by increasing allowable density as part of staff's now-advancing Land Use Element rewrite, which she revealed will return to LB's Planning Commission for a study session on staff-recommended locations for increased density in June. To hear the exchange between Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez and Ms. Bodek, click here.

Also during the Council item, Ms. Bodek noted that data now shows that LB's population is now comprised of nearly 60% renters.

The Council's May 2 actions stem from Mayor Garcia's Jan. 2016 support for more affordable and workforce housing, which begat a City Hall-selected group of affordable housing advocates and housing stakeholders who met for roughly a year and worked with city staff to produce a draft report presented at a Feb. 21, 2017 Council study session ( coverage here.).

At the Feb. 21 study session, retired Assemblywoman/retired Vice Mayor Lowenthal (who chaired the "Affordable Workforce Housing Study Group") acknowledged that the draft report wasn't able to discuss the issue of renters' rights but said "that's a separate issue, that has to be discussed at length, at length, at a separate time."


Sound clip of May 2 Q & A between Councilwoman Gonzalez and Ms. Bodek added on May 8.


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