http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2013/04/26/effort-under-way-to-provide-more-affordable-apartment-housing-here


Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - April 26, 2013

Effort under way to provide more affordable apartment housing here

The Pleasanton City Council and the city's Housing Commission will hold a special joint meeting Wednesday to determine how best to provide affordable housing in new high density apartment complexes now that Pleasanton's long-standing inclusionary zoning ordinance has been declared invalid. Until recently, developers were required to provide at least 15% of their apartments at affordable rates ranging from low- to very-low as well as a mix of moderate-priced rentals based on the income of tenants. But a Los Angeles court, in a suit successfully filed by Palmer/Sixth Street Properties, declared a similar ordinance illegal. In a final review, the state Supreme Court agreed, and cities, including Pleasanton, that had similar requirements can no longer enforce them.

The ruling only affects rental units, and Pleasanton inclusionary housing ordinance continues in effect for single family home and condominium projects, although most of the new developments in the city are for apartments. Two weeks ago, the council approved a high density apartment development at California Center, formerly CarrAmerica, an office complex that will now include apartments and a small retail center. The Housing Commission rejected the plan and urged the council to delay action on the proposal until a substitute law could be written and approved to force the inclusion of more affordable apartments. The developer, Pleasant Partners, voluntarily agreed to set aside 16% of the units in the affordable category, but not for low- to very-low income tenants as the commission insisted.

As with other developers, Pleasant Partners also offered to meet the city's insistence that it "contribute" to other municipal and school needs as part of gaining a development agreement. The developer will give $2.5 million to be used toward building out more of the Bernal Community Park and also will pay well above the state's statutory fees to the Pleasanton school district. But with those agreements, Pleasant Partners said the rubber band of contributions had been stretched to its limit, and the council accepted the final agreement.

Wednesday's workshop, to be held starting at 7 p.m. in the city's Operations Center on Busch Road, is open to the public. It's not a regular meeting of either group so no decisions will be made, although both the Housing Commission and council are hoping for a comprehensive plan for consideration this summer. Given the finality of the judicial decision on Palmer vs. the City of Los Angeles, however, Pleasanton's best hope may be in providing incentives to encourage more contributions toward affordable housing. Lower rents offered to low income tenants are paid by those renting market rate apartments, where monthly rentals generally are $2,500-$3,000 for two-three-bedroom units in Pleasanton.

Affordable housing is in woefully short supply in Pleasanton. Unless the state Legislature restores the city's ability to require affordable housing, agreement to move forward in a cooperative way with developers may be the council and Housing Commission's best hope in helping those who work here and want to make Pleasanton their home.

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