July 16, 2024
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SLO County formulating plan to encourage affordable housing


Alex Kacik

Alex Kacik

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors is moving forward with a plan that aims to facilitate more affordable housing development.

Policy recommendations included streamlining the permitting process, expanding multifamily residential zoning, reducing fees for affordable housing developments and scaling them to unit sizes rather than number of units, allowing secondary dwelling units in more zones, and easing farmworker housing limitations.

County staff will also review the Golden State Financing Authority and the Napa County Proximity Housing Homebuyers Assistance Program Authority models that help people secure housing financing. Staff will return to the board with an implementation plan.

One of the main goals is to make the development review process more consistent and predictable. The unpredictable nature of the review process and likelihood of a legal challenge often dissuade developers from pursuing controversial projects and ultimately thwart economic development.

Possibly the biggest challenge facing SLO County employers is being able to attract and retain talented workers, said Melissa James of the Economic Vitality Corp. of San Luis Obispo County, which helped craft the recommendations.

“It is a systemic problem across all industry sectors,” she said. “We organized the six biggest clusters by industry and a steering committee identified housing as the biggest challenge to have a healthy, sustainable economy. If we don’t provide a place to recruit teachers and nurses, they will move somewhere else where they don’t have to spend 90 percent of their income on housing.”

Only 26 percent of SLO County residents can afford the median home price, compared to 34 percent statewide, according to the California Association of Realtors Housing Affordability Index.

A recent report from MagnifyMoney found that Santa Barbara and SLO counties had some of the least affordable housing markets in the entire country. For residents ages 25 to 44, Santa Barbara was ranked the second most difficult place to afford a home out of 380 surveyed regions while SLO was ranked sixth.

“We need to take a look at all the barriers to creating a housing stock that is affordable to our workforce and what we can change to facilitate the housing stock we need,” James said.

Breaking ground in Goleta

Peoples’ Self-Help Housing will celebrate the groundbreaking of a 70-unit affordable housing development at the Village at Los Carneos in Goleta on Oct. 12.

The one- to three-bedroom units of up to 1,075 square feet will be available to households earning 60 percent of the area median income or less.

The development will feature a community center, multi-purpose room, youth education center, two onsite laundry facilities, outdoor recreation space and a half basketball court.

Laetitia homes denied

The San Luis Obispo County Supervisors denied a proposal to build 102 luxury homes on the Laetitia Vineyard & Winery property near Arroyo Grande.

Supervisors emphasized the prolonged drought that has squeezed regional water resources as the main reason behind their denial. The project would’ve created 102 1-acre parcels and preserved about 1,800 acres of open space out of 1,910 total acres.

Santa Barbara Ralphs closing

The Ralphs at 2840 De La Vina St. will close in early November.

It will be replaced in the spring by Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, a supermarket chain based in Berkeley.

“This store has been underperforming and we reached the end of our lease, so we had to make the difficult decision to close the store,” Kendra Doyel of the parent company Kroger Co. said in a statement. “Closing a store is always a last resort for us as we never like to take that step but we were unable to make that location viable.”

The family-owned discount chain Grocery Outlet operates more than 250 stores in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington.

The company is planning some aesthetic improvements but is not planning to add new floor area, according to the city of Santa Barbara Architecture Design and Review Board.

“This location is a great fit for our model and we look forward to being a part of the community,” Grocery Outlet spokesman Brendan Wonnacott said in a statement.

• Contact Alex Kacik at akacik@pacbiztimes.com.