Santa Paula Council Approves Removal of Apartments from East Area One

By Sheryl Hamlin 

Item D of the Consent Calendar on the October 5, 2015 Santa Paula Council meeting was the second required reading of an amendment to the East Area One Specific Plan.

The history of this amendment started at the August 25, 2015 Santa Paula Planning Commission, where Mike Penrod, Project Manager from the Parkstone Group who has been consulting to Limoneira, said that they “could not make it work” with the setbacks in the approved Specific Plan. To review this meeting, click here.

The Planning Commission approved the changes with two modifications and sent the modified text to council on September 21, 2015 for the first hearing of the amendment to the Specific Plan, which was reviewed here. It was as this meeting that the new development partner, Lewis Group, revealed the concept of Master Planned Community wherein almost all of the project and its amenities belong to the Homeowners Association rather than to the city as public streets and parks.

Two citizens spoke about the removal of the apartments on October 5, 2015, the second reading.

Mary Ann Krause, AICP, made this statement:

“The specific plan amendments that were approved and are up for a second reading tonight allow the planning director to make minor changes administratively. However, the developer mentioned at that meeting that he intends to change all of the apartments and condos to single family detached homes. This change is too significant to be done administratively. Changing housing types and ownership patterns would undermine the walkable village concept which is the very backbone of this neighborhood. In the past planners might have considered such a change minor, but fine-tuning walkable communities has taught us otherwise; even seemingly small changes can be significant. Changing housing types would alter the demographics of who will live in the neighborhood, would have implications for traffic, parking, schools, and recreation, and would increase water demand. All of these issues will have CEQA consequences and will require a separate specific plan update. I urge you not to wait until the developer has done costly engineering, but to call now for a very public review of the developer’s intentions. There are some negative comments circulating in the community; let’s get things back on a positive footing.”

To watch her presentation in its entirety, click here and go to time 34:47.

Ms. Krause also spoke about her own HOA managed community which is powerless to enforce the use of the garage for storage as well as multiple vehicles permanently parked on the streets because the streets are public.

Sheryl Hamlin spoke next suggesting that the removal of the apartments fell into CEQA categories of “change of use” or “change of intensity of use” or “significant new information”, any or all of which can trigger a new EIR. She also discussed the challenge in managing an HOA with 1500 units and said the planning documents lacked an overlay delimiting the HOA areas with the public areas including roles and responsibilities.

Mr. Penrod rose to address these issues saying that this project and amendment had already been approved once at 1500 units, but they did not know the mix. Now they are fine tuning the mix to 1490 “for sell” units versus rentals. He also said that the economics to the city were better with individually owned units rather than apartments. He said that they are not excluding a whole class of people, but are giving an opportunity to people to own homes.

He said that “only two roads are public” in East Area One, Santa Paula and Hallock so that there will not be enforcement problems as described by Mrs. Krause, because her HOA does not own the streets. He said that “we pay for maintenance and police”.

Mr. Crosby added that almost every street is private, so that the HOA can enforce the rules with an enforcement policy that covers parking issues. Saying that he understands there are bad HOA Management companies, but in reality, the larger and better HOA Management companies service the larger HOA’s and not the smaller HOA’s.

Council Member Gherardi asked City Attorney Cotti if an EIR were required. Mr. Cotti replied “No”, saying this project has been analyzed extensively with two EIR’s.

Council Member Crosswhite asked Mr. Crosby to define a Master Planned Community (MCP) and how it integrates into the Community. Mr. Crosby said that Lewis, his company, did not bring the concept of an MCP into the project. Limoneira had already wanted a Master Planned Community. He said that Lewis builds a “sense of place” and not a subdivision with just a map and streets with homes. East Area One will have a school, open space, parks and a protected habitat. He said it is a place where people will want to live, play and enjoy the network of neighborhood parks and paths.

Council Member Crosswhite asked about policing the private streets. Mr. Crosby said that SPPD and SPFD will still be used for general health and safety, but the HOA will be responsible for illegal parking, code enforcement, nuisances and maintenance. The HOA will call owners to a hearing with a fine policy of $50 to $100 a day. In his experience, a strong HOA will help maintain property values.

Council Member Crosswhite asked about how to achieve a more diverse population and what would be the price of an entry level home. Mr. Crosby responded with a value of $300,000 to $400,000, but he couched this by saying that it was two years to deliver buildable lots, so it is all a function of timing.

Council Member Crosswhite said that she understood that rents can be equivalent to mortgage payments, but that it requires a down payment to get into a house, which many young people don’t have. Mr. Crosby said that young people share rent to save and will figure it out if they want to buy a home.

Vice Mayor Hernandez reiterated that the community is passionate about inclusion.

Council Member Tovias mentioned that none of these objections were brought up at the Planning Commission, forgetting that the public comments occur before the applicant speaks, so there is no opportunity to bring up issues based on the applicant’s comments.

Mr. Tovias moved the motion which approved unanimously on a roll-call vote.

Notes to the discussion

As to the use of the term and concept, Master Planned Community, here are a few facts:

  • The term “master plan” was used in a memo between Limoneira and Santa Paula in 2004 as follows:  *Letter of Cooperation between Limoneira and Santa Paula was established to master plan East Area 1 and 2 as a community development project“
  • Sargent Town Planning, who produced the promotional material in 2006, never used the phrase “Master Planned Community. To view their work, click here or here.
  • In 2010, East Area was presented to LafCO as a “Master Planned Community”, according to the 2010 Limoneira Annual Report.
  • The 2015 East Area One Specific Plan SP-3 does not use the phrase “Master Planned Community” nor do either of the EIR’s.
  • The text of the 2008 ballot Measure G read as follows:

Measure G: “Shall an ordinance entitled the “East Area One Project Approval Initiative” be adopted?”

As to the inclusivity of the project to which Vice Mayor Hernandez referred, the East Area One Specific Plan Amendment 2015 says this in Section 1.6 paragraph F. This means that rather than building affordable units within the project, monies will be given to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund in lieu of building these units. Such units will be build outside of East Area One.

 housing

Additionally, Section 8.7 of the 1255 Restated Development Agreement 2015 calls for a Public Benefit Housing Program of 100 Market Rate Units, within the project, as follows. Note that these units will not be spread throughout the project, but be in the more dense areas closer to 126.

public_benefit_housing

So without the rentals, the only “affordable units” will be the 100 units in the Public Benefit Program. There could be rentals if the investors buy blocks of homes to rent, but these will be market rate rentals. Read about such investments here.

Why is parking important? With multi?generational purchases representing about 20% of real estate sales according to a recent NAR report, where are the extra vehicles to park but on the street? There is nothing in the Specific Plan Amendment about a deeded restriction of cars per unit. The Specific Plan Amendment Section 5.5 says “This includes the acknowledgement that on? street parking suffices for guest parking along with the need to minimize curb cuts to maximize on?street spaces”, which means that dangerously, crowded streets will be the norm. Is the HOA experienced in multi-generational situations? Stratis Perros, Assistant Planning Director, seemed to think that the 20 foot driveway associated with each unit would suffice for all parking.

Although his words went by quickly, Mr. Penrod’s statement about single family homes providing more economic benefit to the city were the real basis for the decision, as well as his August 25, 2015 statement that “we can’t make it work” without the setback changes and the mix change from 1250 homes and 250 apartments to 1500 homes. This entire exercise was not about planning, but budgets.

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For more information about the author, visit sheryhamlin.com

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