LocationAlhambra , CA
The developer of the proposed housing project The Villages at The Alhambra told the city’s Planning Commission this week that meeting the city’s new affordable housing standard would make the project uneconomical although it would help the city meet its target for increasing moderate- and above-moderate-income housing.
At Monday’s Planning Commission meeting, The Ratkovich Company, responding to public criticism, suggested there was some room for negotiation. Megan Moloughney, the project’s senior development manager, said aspects of the project’s design, including the number of units and parking, are negotiable, but “nothing is black and white.”
Hanging over the proposal is Alhambra’s new affordable housing law requiring projects like The Villages to provide 15 percent of its total units to low- and moderate-income households. If a developer does not want to provide the required housing on-site, it has the option to build units elsewhere, pay an in-lieu fee or donate land to the city for future affordable housing.
The Villages at The Alhambra is designed with a total of 1,061 units – 516 for sale at market prices and 545 rentals. As proposed, 55 of the rental units would be designated to moderate-income families.
Moloughney said the project, as currently designed, would not be financially viable if 15 percent of the units were set aside for middle- and low-income households as the new ordinance requires.
Short of a redesign, however, what The Ratkovich Company could do to meet requirements of the city’s new Inclusionary Housing Ordinance when it goes into effect in November with its mandate for rental and sales units for middle- and low-income households was unclear.
Moloughney said that eventually the whole complex of 1,061 units would contribute to meeting a state-mandated goal of constructing 6,808 new housing units by 2029: 2,929 above moderate-income, 1,077 moderate-income, 1,033 low-income and 1,769 very low-income units.
With Moloughney were various engineers and experts who contributed to the evaluation reports addressed residents’ concerns regarding traffic, environmental and pollution issues.
The engineers pointed to specific appendices in the environmental impact report – civil engineering, water supply and school impacts were some of the sections highlighted – and discussed the methodology for the traffic report.
Another issue that arose in the meeting was the coordinated effort in public comments to discredit Planning Commission member Suzi Dunkel-Soto and City Council member Ross Maza, saying conflicts of interest existed because they are real estate brokers and therefore would benefit from recommending the approval of the project.
Dunkel-Soto read a statement in defense of her credibility and service to Alhambra, and Assistant City Attorney Greg Murphy, backed by confirmation with City Attorney Joe Montes, said he would have “pulled her off, literally now at this point, months ago” if there was a conflict of interest.
He argued that if commission members with certain professions could not weigh in because of a possible future engagement with a project site, any commissioner with ties to real estate, construction or restaurants would be in that category.
The Planning Commission will continue its discussion of The Villages project at its next regularly scheduled meeting Oct. 18. The commission has two regularly scheduled meetings before the affordable housing ordinance comes into effect in the second week of November. The commission does, however, have the option to set special meetings for additional deliberations.