The State of California has told the local officials to expect a response by October 11 to the City of San Marino’s proposed housing element that was submitted last month.
Amanda Merlo, Associate Planner for the City of San Marino, told The Tribune that part of the proposal was a requirement by the state that the city remove barriers to producing a mandated total of seventeen low-income housing units.
“It’s a complicated system,” Merlo said. “The state, through the Southern California Association of Governments, breaks it down city by city. That is where that  number comes from. It’s the number we had the last cycle plus this cycle.”
Merlo explained that the city is not required to construct the necessary number of units.
“The only thing we must do is change the things we are in charge of, which is codes and regulations,” Merlo said. “San Marino must take a look at existing policies. Are there barriers to producing these units? San Marino has no multiple family allowance. That makes it hard to produce these units.”
Some residents feel, however, that the housing element – which was prepared by a consultant named Victoria Tam – dismisses the city’s traditional approach to meeting the state’s low income housing requirement by allowing for the construction of second units on larger residential properties.
The housing element states that “the interest [to the development of a second dwelling unit] is still low.” Several residents who attended the Wednesday, September 11 meeting of the San Marino City Council felt otherwise, claiming they could rustle up the required number of candidates in a heartbeat. Even former City Councilman and Mayor Eugene Dryden showed up to tell the council that second unit residences were “the way we have always done this.” Merlo said that the housing element “is currently not on any agenda. The draft was developed and went before the Planning Commission at the end of July. “We tried to invite people for public comment,” Merlo said. “The housing element has been sent to the state. When we receive the comments back from the state, we will share thiose comments with the Planning Commission and City Council.” Other objection to the housing element was voiced against the consultants inclusion of mixed-use development “potentially developable sites” that would include twenty units per acre, according to the report. Opponents to the wording say that the state’s approval of the document could adopt the housing element into law, an unnecessary development when second unit housing could solve the problem. before it occurred. “If the concern is getting sued, then we should be at least as worried that our adopted plan will be used as the basis of lawsuits by housing advocates and developers to get their particular properties rezoned and projects approved as outlined in the plan,” said San Marino resident Justin Feffer, who spoke against the document at the September 11 meeting. “This would mean 20+ units per acre by right without conditional use permit, discretionary local government review, or other approvals.”
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