Ann Gardner | Via Latina
With its two miles of sandy coastline, beautiful canyons and protective building codes, Del Mar has become an expensive place to buy or rent a home and predictably, an increasingly scarce place for “affordable” housing. Nonetheless state law specifies that all California cities, towns and counties must share the housing needs of all our residents including those with extremely low incomes to above moderate incomes. In June, City Council got preliminary information on our required fair share for 2022-2030: approximately 167 units compared to 76 for the last cycle. More than half are for low cost housing.
Fair share is determined every eight years by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) based on data provided by the State’s Department of Housing and Community Development. Fair share for each city and jurisdiction in the region is then determined based on three weighted factors: availability of transit 65% and jobs 35% with an adjustment based on “equity.” Del Mar’s “equity” adjustment distributed more units in the lower income categories essentially because we have not been doing our fair share compared to other jurisdictions.
Using the preliminary allocation Planning Director Kathy Garcia estimates that more than half of our required affordable housing units will be in the low income categories, starting at $59,950 annually and lower for a single person to $85,600 and lower for a family of four (based on the Low Income limits or 80% of the Area Median Income [AMI] ). These levels of income are consistent with the incomes of, for instance, many local employees including Del Mar and San Dieguito Union High School District teachers and staff, Del Mar City employees such as lifeguards and assistant planners, investment managers, seniors on fixed incomes and service workers.
In fact, according to City Planner Shaun McMahon, census data from 2016 indicates 25% to 30% of our population then was made up of residents whose income level meets the criteria for extremely low, very low and low income levels. However, as smaller homes or multi unit properties are sold they are often replaced with larger more expensive homes. In other words we are losing affordable housing units rather than adding them. As a result the State will not allow us or any jurisdictions to count existing affordable housing as part of our fair share unless it is deed restricted as affordable for 25 - 50 years.
In 2017 the City adopted a 22 (units) in 5 (years) plan to meet its current 2013-2021 goal of 76 low income units. Although none of the units have been built, three are in the works. One dedicated affordable accessory dwelling unit was approved on Luzon Avenue with an F.A.R. bonus via the ADU Pilot Program and two dedicated low income units in the 941 development on Camino Del Mar in exchange for higher density are expected to be completed by 2021. ADUs and density bonuses are only two of the ways the 22 in 5 plan suggested for adding affordable housing. Others include building units on City owned property, converting apartment buildings to condominiums, rezoning commercial zones to accommodate a mix of residential and commercial uses and collaborating with the Agricultural District to convert backstretch facilities to affordable housing units.
With almost no vacant properties and public land where more housing might be built, it will take some commitment on Del Mar’s part to meet the State’s requirements. Councilmember Haviland, who represents Del Mar on the SANDAG board, said she supported City Manager Scott Huth’s statement at the Council meeting: “you can do it!”
The final fair share allotment will be decided by SANDAG’s Board of Directors in October, following a public review period of the Draft RHNA allocation.