Santa Paula: Planning Commission Approves Housing in Commercial Zoning

By Sheryl Hamlin

In 2017, Governor Brown signed housing legislation that intended to increase housing supplies through reduced zoning restrictions and less regulatory interference in the pursuit of new housing. To read the state’s summary of the 2017 legislation, click here.

In December 2019, Santa Paula hosted a council Study Session on Housing inviting many of the providers and users of housing to discuss services and needs. Read about that Study Session.

The Santa Paula General Plan 2040 which was recently approved recognized the 2017 package of housing legislation. When the General Plan was approved, it was noted that there would be subsequent changes to local ordinances to sync the city’s ordinances to the General Plan.

The Santa Paula Planning Commission meeting of August 25, 2020 was the first of major ordinance changes to focus on expanding housing supply.

Housing in Commercial Zoning

From the staff report, it is important to understand the housing unit quota by income category for Santa Paula:

The 6th Cycle final housing allocation (expected to be adopted by SCAG in February 2021) is anticipated to be approximately 651 total units in the following income levels: 333 Above Moderate Income units; 120 Moderate Income units; 98 Low Income units; 100 Very-low income units. Given that buildout of the Harvest at Limoneira development will satisfy the 333 Above Moderate Income units, demand for the remaining 318 deed restricted affordable units can only be met with infill development within both residential and commercial zoning categories (as demonstrated in the table below). Staff anticipate that the RHNA 6th Cycle (2021-2029) final housing allocation of 651 units for the City of Santa Paula will establish a housing demand that must be met solely through infill development including commercial zones; particularly in the moderate, low and very low categories for this planning period.

From the chart below, the 651 units will be found in existing residential lots (Infill and ADU), commercial and commercial-light industrial zones. Note that his chart does not incude East Area 1 housing which will satisfy the above moderate category.

Summary of New Ordinance

-Reduce/eliminate the requirement to build R4 in Commercial and allow mixed use developments.
-All future housing in these areas would be staff review only but will include a 21 day period for public input.
-Allow housing by “in right” rather than by exception in Commercial zones and remove all “non-compliance” status for existing housing in Commercial zones.
-Create consistent development standards for housing in Commercial zones.

Commission Discussion

The meeting was held via Zoom. Commissioner Fourage was absent. Commission Dunkel asked about the merger of the Commercial Light Industrial with Highway Commercial. This merger occurred because the City felt that Big Box retail was not imminent and the zoning needed to be more flexible. Could housing be located next to a warehouse, Commissioner Dunkel asked? Director Mason said the buyer must due his own research. Commissioner Dunkel said he was excited to see this in other neighborhoods. Commissioner Ikerd said he had concerns about the ordinance but after meeting with staff, his concerns were allayed.

When asked about the possibility of commercial in existing residential, Director Mitchem said “this would be studied with community input to develop options for all land use categories…but would probably be in the “mixed use corridor” centered on Main Street from Hallock to Peck.” (Map needed)

The ordinance passed unanimously.

City News

Director Mason had major news about other City planning. Covid business compliance is encouraging creativity and credited Jeff Mitchem for his work with Main Street merchants to reconfigure their businesses. East Area 1 now has 80 Certificate of Occupancy (CoO) units and 170 permits approved. Limoneira/Lewis is reconsidering the location of the apartments and will be re-purposing the land originally designated for the EA1 school which will not be built. Director Mason noted there will be a detailed EA1 report at a near term council meeting which will include status on the bridge. William Homes Rosebud is sold out. Kmart is under contract, which means there is a buyer with an executed purchase contract who is in the process of due diligence. The city has asked the owner, a New York based REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) , to fence and clean up the property. The next three months should bring 1) Historic Preservation Ordinance, 2) ADU Ordinance and 3) Vacation Rental Ordinance.

To read about the author, click sherylhamlin dot com

To download the material and listen to the meeting, click here

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Gayle Washburn
Gayle Washburn
4 months ago

Great points Marshall. And the 21 days for public input should be 30 or more.
I guess they figure everyone will be working at home now, so no need for commercial sites.
SCAG is an unelected body forcing cities to build high density, low income housing, even when demand is low. Their projections have always been inflated.

Marshall Roath
Marshall Roath
4 months ago

We should never have “staff review only”. That is why we have a Planning Commission.

Marshall Roath
Marshall Roath
4 months ago

If there are 10.9 acres available that are zoned commercial
and we need spaces for 319 units that is 29 units per acre. In a commercial zone that leaves no room for commercial expansion. Is that good?

Sam I Am
Sam I Am
4 months ago

Appreciate the article – thanks

4 months ago

Many thanks for this report!