Facing fall deadline, Orange County towns search for new housing options – Orange County Register
As cities in Orange County try to determine where to allocate the more than 183,000 new homes they are due to accommodate by 2029, officials are asking residents this question.
Cities statewide are now updating the housing section of their general plans, documents indicating where and what types of future development will be allowed and encouraged, expected traffic patterns, and policies that will enable communities to move forward. develop or change the way residents. want to.
Many cities are in the process of collecting feedback and holding public meetings on changes to their housing elements, and while this is normally a boring procedural exercise, residents may want to be there. pay attention this time.
State law requires cities to have a general plan and to allocate their share of regional housing needs – and with California having failed in years to create housing, some cities in Southern California (especially in Orange County) were given their biggest goals.
Even though cities are simply required to plan new homes (it’s up to the private sector to build them), some OC officials fear that meeting their national goals could forever change the look of their communities.
In Newport Beach, residents going through the planning process share this apprehension, Councilor Diane Dixon said. The city previously held public meetings for each municipal district and prepared a draft of its new housing plan.
“When you really connect it to their neighborhood and you live next to a 10-story multi-family building in the middle of their single-family neighborhood, they’re worried,” she said.
Newport is expected to plan for more than 4,800 homes – a big jump from the five homes that were allocated to the city in the last planning cycle – and nearly half of the new total is to be directed to very low and low income families. . City officials will comply with the law, Dixon said, but it’s more difficult because the city is constrained by the ocean, John Wayne Airport, a wildfire restriction zone, and Banning Ranch (where the State Coast Commission in 2016 rejected a proposal comprising nearly 900 houses).
They will plan for affordable housing as needed, Dixon said, but it’s hard to find room for that because the city is being built.
However, officials and residents of other cities seem more optimistic about the task ahead.
Buena Park held a public housing meeting in April and launched a survey of residents, Mayor Connor Traut said, adding that “the community’s feedback has so far seemed favorable, as long as we don’t change plans in some neighborhoods.
Buena Park has a similar population to Newport (around 82,000 and 85,000, respectively) but it has been assigned nearly twice as many homes to plan (over 8,900) – Traut doesn’t think that’s impossible, if officials show evidence of creativity. Some ideas include easing restrictions on second units (also known as Grandma’s apartments) and encouraging the redevelopment of empty big box stores and malls with many vacant stores.
A closed Sears store with ample parking at the local mall is a prime location where the addition of housing “could transform the business community out there and transform the Buena Park Mall,” Traut said.
Some residents of Orange County, particularly in single-family neighborhoods, have traditionally resisted the higher-density urban-style development that may be required to meet the broad goals of the new planning cycle.
In La Habra, a small town that received a more modest planning allowance of 804 new homes, councilor Tim Shaw said he believes attitudes towards more and denser housing are starting to change as older people watch their children and grandchildren leave the region or state because they cannot afford to live here.
As one of the county’s youngest elected officials, Traut, 26, agreed. “I see that the status quo has created significant problems, especially for young people who can afford housing, to be able to live in the city in which they grew up,” he said. declared.
And some cities may be ready for a change. Much of La Habra’s housing stock was built in the 1950s and 1960s and is nearing the end of its useful life, Shaw said.
“I understand that people don’t like drastic changes in their city and I generally agree with that – but it’s not like you can ever just put the city on ice and hope it stays. stagnant and unchanged forever.
But Dixon and a few others fear a change will be forced on them, even if they achieve their current goals. She said Newport officials were closely monitoring state bills that could limit local control over housing and force cities to allow higher density projects, even in single-family areas.
Cities are expected to complete planning for their share of additional housing in the area by mid-October.