LAFAYETTE — The city recently released an updated housing plan, responding to the state's request for better analysis of potential affordable housing sites.

But affordable housing advocates, who have criticized the city's policies in recent months, say the revisions don't change their belief those sites are insufficient to accommodate Lafayette's fair share of low- and moderate-income housing.

"It looks like they're working around the edges but they aren't addressing some of the core concerns that we have," said Craig Castellanet, an attorney for the Public Interest Law Project.

This "housing element" of the city's general plan, which outlines a city's housing policies, is submitted to the state Department of Housing and Community Development every few years for certification. It includes an inventory of sites the city believes can accommodate projected population growth, including affordable housing projects.

Lafayette has concentrated its inventory in the downtown, and plans to allow multifamily housing projects in commercial zones without a permit.

But many of these sites either comprise parcels owned by multiple owners, ones already being used, or both, making housing plans more complicated. Given those constraints, the state asked in an April 12 letter that the city explain the feasibility of developing affordable housing on those sites.


Advertisement

The updated housing element includes additional analysis of each site. For example, the document states that consolidating four parcels on a quarter-acre site on the south side of Golden Gate Way at 2nd Street is challenging because each parcel has a different owner. But it is feasible, the document says, given its desirable location near the new library.

Businesses now operating on those parcels could be accommodated on the ground floor of a new mixed-use development, according to the housing element.

The city's planning department referred questions about the housing plan to Senior Planner Greg Wolff, who did not return phone messages last week.

Affordable housing advocates say the revisions are not enough. Their concerns include the city's reliance on downtown parcels in its land inventory. Even if parcels are consolidated and existing businesses relocated, the sites are still within a commercial zone, meaning the likeliest development will be commercial uses, Castellanet said.

In a June 10 letter, Castellanet and Bay Area Legal Aid attorney David Levin asked the city to "reverse its long-standing hostility to local affordable housing production" and get its housing element approved by the state within 60 days.

The city is only required to show it has land that can accommodate the projected growth, and approval of the housing element does not mean projects will actually be built on the listed sites.

Lafayette's situation is not unique, said HCD Deputy Director Cathy Creswell, and the state often asks cities to revise their land inventories.

The allegation that Lafayette is deliberately avoiding its housing obligations is false, said Mayor Brandt Andersson, who added the city has supported, in some cases financially, affordable housing projects.

And projects the city has approved have not gotten off the ground because of the struggling economy, not city policies, said Councilman Don Tatzin.

"(Critics are) certainly welcome to comment," he said. "HCD makes the final decision. We're responding to HCD's comments."

Online
Lafayette's housing element is online at http://ci.lafayette.ca.us under "Quick Links."