What is the purpose of this project?
California law requires all cities and counties in California to adequately plan and zone for housing to meet the community’s housing needs (Government Code Section 65583(a)(3)). The California Department of Housing and Community Development, in coordination with regional planning bodies, determines how much housing each region must plan for. The regional planning bodies allocate the housing need amongst all of the cities and counties in the region—this figure is known as the Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA). The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) is responsible for calculating the RHNA for Bay Area cities and counties, including Sonoma County.
Local governments show how they are planning to accommodate their “fair share” of the RHNA by zoning sites for housing and reporting the site inventory in their housing elements (an element of the general plan). Adequate sites must be maintained throughout the housing element planning period.
This project will add sites to the County's Housing Element site inventory to comply with new inventory requirements, including additional scrutiny by HCD on sites that are not vacant, replacement of sites that are identified for low-income housing but which are developed with market-rate housing, and more detailed reporting requirements.
This project will also implement current General Plan Housing Element policies and programs including Policy HE-2f, to consider a variety of sites for higher-density and affordable housing, and Housing Element Programs 11 and 20, which encourage the identification of urban sites near jobs and transit that may accommodate additional housing.
Learn more about the Regional Housing Needs Allocation and Housing Elements
What is the project?
To satisfy State requirements to plan and zone for housing sufficient to meet its fair share of RHNA, the County must identify and rezone sites appropriate for housing. This project will identify potential housing sites and analyze the rezoning of those sites under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by preparing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The ultimate site inventory will be determined through the CEQA process. County staff will present the EIR and the proposed zone changes to the Planning Commission for their recommendation. The Board of Supervisors will then consider certification of the EIR and approval of the proposed zone changes. The final number and location of the sites to be recommended for rezoning will not be known until the EIR is near completion.
Why not wait until the next General Plan update?
The County will begin its General Plan update in 2020, but housing elements are on a different schedule for adoption, pursuant to State Law. The County’s next Housing Element must be adopted by the end of 2022, before the broader General Plan update will be complete. Identifying and rezoning sites now is essential for the County to meet its legal obligations under Housing Element law.
Failure to adopt a housing element on schedule and in compliance with Housing Element law can have serious consequences affecting a jurisdiction’s ability to regulate land use and access State funding. A non-compliant Housing Element can put a jurisdiction’s General Plan at risk of being deemed inadequate. A jurisdiction that fails to comply with Housing Element law must prepare updates to its housing element more frequently until they are consistently compliant. The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) may impose fines for violations, and HCD may also refer violations to the Attorney General for prosecution.
Learn more about Accountability and Enforcement from the Department of Housing and Community Development
How long will the process take?
We anticipate selecting a consultant to prepare the EIR and awarding a contract by early 2020. Once a consultant is engaged, a more detailed schedule will be developed.
Where did the list of sites come from?
In late 2018, the County asked for the public’s help in identifying sites, and over 100 sites were nominated. County staff evaluated all nominated sites to determine if they met the basic eligibility criteria. (Learn more about the basic eligibility criteria.) Some sites that will be evaluated were included in a prior housing element, but the County proposes to include them in this analysis so that the potential for cumulative impacts can be analyzed. The environmental review process will further refine the sites to be proposed for rezoning.
How is this project funded?
When does the public get to be involved?
The County issued an request for proposals for consulting services to prepare an EIR as required under CEQA. Once a consultant is engaged, a public scoping meeting will be scheduled. We will have multiple ways for members of the public to learn about the project—in-person public meetings, and using online resources. Please sign up for updates so you are sure to be notified of upcoming public outreach efforts.
Where can I find out more information?