City opposes Senate housing plans

Council sends letter of opposition to regional representatives

Morgan Hill city leaders have long prided themselves on the city’s growth plan and related housing requirements—with growth measures in place since the 1970s and policies requiring residential developments to include below-market-rate homes in their plans.

Now the city fears its careful planning could be put to an end if the state Housing Crisis Act of 2019 passes in the California Assembly and moves back to the Senate. The bill, introduced by state Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), would suspend local housing regulations for 10 years and create time limits for processing housing permits.

The bill’s introduction was the majority party’s response to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call in his February State of the State address for municipalities to build more affordable housing options. However, city officials in Morgan Hill worry that the Housing Crisis Act as written would cause a strain on infrastructure and put an end to years of community planning, including local voter-approved Measure S growth control restrictions.

SB 330 began as a senate bill in the California Senate and has now moved to the State Assembly. There have been amendments made to the bill in the assembly, so if it’s passed in the assembly it will go back to the senate for another vote.

Mayor Rich Constantine sent a letter on behalf of the city to Skinner along with copies to the  Assemblymember for the 30th District, Robert Rivas and District 17 State Sen. Bill Monning.

“Morgan Hill is committed to quality market-rate and affordable housing and believes that the general concepts in the bill are worthy, although under the proposed legislation, the city would no longer be able to enforce its voter-approved growth control measure. This very measure is responsible for achieving one of every eight units in town, as permanent deed-restricted housing. Unlimited growth in Morgan Hill, which is still a developing city, places a great strain on the City’s infrastructure,” read the letter.

“While we recognize the need to produce housing more quickly than what may be allowed under our current residential development control system, we are concerned about maintaining even minimal public health and safety standards if our regulatory authority (and funds to finance infrastructure improvements) is reduced,” Constantine’s letter continued. “As such, the city must find a way to finance an expansion to its sewer plant to support growth. This is a $60 million project, which becomes even more difficult to fund with restrictions placed on fees.”

The city is currently operating under a 2017 sewer master plan, which calls for major improvements to Morgan Hill’s sewage lines, a majority of which would be paid for by development impact fees.

The city’s growth control measure—known as Measure S—was passed with 77 percent of the vote back in 2016 and extended Morgan Hill’s Residential Development Control System to 2035. Measure S establishes an annual maximum of 215 housing allotments, and allows the council to set that number even lower at the beginning of each year’s competition for allotments.

The city has enforced similar growth control ordinances in its efforts to keep Morgan Hill’s population manageable since the 1970s.

Monning has expressed his support for Skinner’s bill, while Rivas said he has not yet made up his mind. The assembly committee hearings on the Housing Crisis Act of 2019 were scheduled for June 19 and July 10. If the committees endorse the bill on July 10, there will be a floor vote on Aug. 11. If the bill is passed through the assembly, then the amended version will go back to the senate for another vote.

The bill is currently in the assembly’s Housing and Community Development Committee and is then scheduled to go to the Local Government Committee.

In an emailed statement Monning told the Times, “While I appreciate and respect the City of Morgan Hill’s opposition to Senator Skinner’s Senate Bill (SB) 330, I joined with the region’s legislative delegation in supporting the bill because the state is in the midst of a historic housing crisis. Low- and middle-income families throughout California are not able to find affordable housing, and SB 330 is a proposal that will remove barriers to constructing housing stock we so desperately need.”

Rivas said he’s listening to constituent concerns when it comes to the bill, and said he is set to review it in the Local Government Committee of the Assembly.

In a press release from Skinner’s office, Skinner said the bill is necessary. “California’s housing crisis has reached historic levels. The state ranks 49th in the nation when it comes to housing units per capita, and the housing crisis is estimated to cost the state $140 billion a year in lost economic output,” Sen. Skinner said. “The acute shortage of housing also has sent prices skyrocketing, displacing residents from their homes and deepening the state’s poverty and homelessness crises.”

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