From the Dec. 5, 2012 edition
By Jack Durham
McKinleyville is entering into a bureaucratic thicket – and potential political brawl – which may play a role in determining how many apartments and low-income dwellings are constructed in town.
The McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee (McKMAC) discussed something called the “Regional Housing Needs Allocation” at its Nov. 28 meeting. The McKMAC is tentatively scheduled to hold another meeting on the topic Dec. 19 and take a position on the methods used for determining how many homes should be mandated for McKinleyville.
County Director of Planning and Building Kevin Hamblin explained to the McKMAC that the process of allocating state-mandated housing numbers to individual communities is “an exercise.”
Although the issue is heavy with bureaucratic gobbledygook, it could ultimately affect local zoning, as McKinleyville discovered last year when the county rezoned some properties in town for multi-family housing in order to make its Housing Element comply with the state mandate. The zoning changes resulted in the McKinleyville Community Services District filing a lawsuit against the county. The lawsuit is still active.
Every five years the California Department of Housing and Community Development comes up with a number of new dwellings that counties must zone land for to provide housing for mostly low and moderate income residents.
After reviewing 2010 U.S. Census data and other information, the state determined in June that the Humboldt County Association of Governments (HCAOG) needs to “provide” 2,060 units of housing between 2014 and 2019. By “provide” the state actually means that the members of HCAOG need to designate areas where the housing can be placed should developers decide to build them. There’s no guarantee that the houses will actually be built, but the land is designated for housing on paper.
The members of HCAOG include the cities of Arcata, Eureka, Blue Lake, Trinidad, Fortuna, Ferndale, Rio Dell and the County of Humboldt. Each member gets one seat on the HCAOG Board of Directors, which gets to decide how these housing numbers are divvied up between its members.
Using formulas involving the size of the communities and the availability of jobs, HCAOG has come up with various options for how many housing units each member must provide,
The County of Humboldt could be responsible for providing from about 39 to 44 percent of the homes, based on a draft proposal from HCAOG. That’s 811 to 906 homes, depending on which option is ultimately chosen.
The County of Humboldt is made up of all the unincorporated areas and does not include the cities. The only two major areas with buildable areas and sewer and water service are McKinleyville and the Cutten area outside Eureka.
That means that McKinleyville is bound to get a major chunk of that housing. How much of the housing, however, is unclear.
Also, with slow growth rates over the last several years, it’s possible that the properties identified for low and moderate income housing in past years could still be considered eligible for helping communities meet their housing goals in the future.
Fifth District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg pointed out that although the unincorporated area of the county may have to provide almost half of the mandated housing, the county only has a single seat on the eight-member HCAOG Board of Directors. The county’s representative is the chair of the Board of Supervisors, Virginia Bass.
MCSD Director John Corbett spoke about the issue at the McKMAC meeting.
He made it clear that he’s not against low income housing, and pointed out that he was involved in the development of low-income homes.
But, he said, “we need a fair and more balanced allocation than the past.”
One of the problems is that if one community wants its share of housing lowered, then the other communities have to pick up the slack. Fewer housing units doled out to McKinleyville would result in more housing units placed in Eureka or another HCAOG member community.
“So we’re at each other’s throats because of these numbers,” said Hamblin, the who was recently hired by the county and replaces controversial Planning Director Kirk Girard, who took a job in the San Francisco Bay area.