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San Benito
May 28, 2024

Hollister planning officials say state concerned about process, not growth cap

Hollister planning officials responded to state concerns over the city’s proposed plan for an annual housing cap and explained that the primary issue is a “timing constraint” factor when developers are applying for allocations, not a restraint on the number of homes.

Hollister Development Services Director Bryan Swanson and Planning Manager Abraham Prado spoke to San Benito Live by phone Monday and explained the city’s situation hours before a special city council meeting where officials were set to discuss it.

The two officials said the city’s proposed growth management ordinance stipulation for 244 units per year is OK with the state. The problem in the draft plan, recently sent to the state for review, is a provision that lays out the process for applicants. That process includes a period of three months each year for review of interested applications.

“They felt that was a timing constraint,” Prado said.

That three-month period, along with an additional “entitlement” process after it, is what could lead to non-certification of the growth management ordinance if the city doesn’t make adjustments to its proposed process. That outcome, a non-certification, would hinder the city’s ability to pursue grants, officials said, but city leaders are keen on making necessary adjustments to prevent such a fate.

The local consideration comes after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office last week announced he may pursue legal action against cities that don’t comply with the state housing law. Hollister was on a list of cities that are on the edge toward non-compliance, and San Juan Bautista made the list of those out of compliance when it comes to providing a proper structure for growth and affordable housing.

As things stand now, while Hollister makes adjustments to its proposed growth management plan, the city’s 2015-2023 housing element is currently certified by the state. Basically, the city’s current housing plans can accommodate the state’s desire for 1,316 units during that time frame.

The city hasn’t had an active growth management ordinance since the last one expired in 2012. That growth management ordinance was prompted by the voter-approved Measure U from 2002 that limited growth to 244 units per year.

The city wants to reintroduce the ordinance limiting growth to 244 units and sent a draft to the state to get it checked out, which prompted the state to flag the plan. This time around, affordable units would be exempt from the limits, whereas they were included in the cap last time around, officials said.

Swanson and Prado, meanwhile, emphasized that the state’s concern wasn’t related to the 244-unit growth cap or affordable housing issues. And although Hollister has had a relatively low number of affordable units built in recent years – including 0 in 2018 – there are several projects on the books that should ease that burden going forward.

Planning officials hope to have 49 units on Line Street and another 80 units off Miller Road built and occupied in 2019. For the previous housing cycle from 2009-2014, there were 159 units built that fit into various affordable housing categories, Prado said.

“From a regulatory perspective, the City of Hollister has done a very good job ensuring we have a variety of different housing types under construction in the community,” Swanson said.

Mayor Ignacio Velazquez, meanwhile, has been perhaps the most outspoken critic of the city’s growth in recent years. He believes development of single-family homes has not kept pace with infrastructure needs, while the city hasn’t built enough affordable units, either. He said he’s against in-lieu of fees that allow developers to pay the city in order to skip out on building affordable units.

“I’m absolutely against it,” said Velazquez, who wants to require affordable units with market-rate construction. “I keep saying, we need to force these guys to build this stuff within the project.”

Newly elected City Councilman Marty Richman was generally in agreement with the mayor on that approach.

“I believe the best solution for us is an inclusionary housing ordinance that works,” Richman said. “Make an inclusionary housing ordinance that actually works and does not include an in-lieu of fee.”