Signal Hill planners say a move by the City Council to change zoning in order to expand a proposed affordable-housing project by adding a site with an old, metal Quonset hut will possibly encourage a developer to take over the project and get the City one step closer to meeting state-mandated housing requirements.
The Signal Hill City Council voted 5-0 at its Nov. 19 meeting to switch the land-use designation of a .2-acre site (more than 8,700 square feet) at 2170 Gundry Ave., which includes a Quonset hut that was once used for storage, from “light industrial” to “Special Purpose Housing Specific Plan” Area 6.
The project, which has been in the works for more than five years, involves demolishing the hut on Gundry Avenue and combining the property with an adjacent 1.41-acre, City-owned site at 1500 E. Hill St.
Merging the two properties enlarges the project size to a total of 1.61 acres, which increases the density of the proposed affordable-housing complex from 60 to 72 units.
Though Councilmember Lori Woods requested clarification regarding the increase in density, Signal Hill Community Development Director Scott Charney assured that the project would conform to city standards for multi-tenant housing.
“That’s 45 units per acre, which is the highest density that we allow in the city,” he said, adding that the project would be slightly denser than the Las Brisas II complex, which was the last affordable-housing development completed in Signal Hill at California Avenue and Burnett Street in 2007 by Adobe Communities.
Charney said that the new affordable-housing complex might have some three-story elements, but the bulk of it would be four stories high.
According to a city staff report, environmental assessments were completed for both sites of the project, and a negative declaration was presented to the Council that addresses any potential impacts regarding hazards, land-use planning, population and housing, public services, recreation and transportation.
During the approval process prior to development, city staff plans to either complete further environmental assessment of the Gundry Avenue site and implement any recommendations or make sure the housing is located on the 1500 E. Hill St. property and the Gundry Avenue property is only used for parking and open space.
Still, city officials have yet to attract a developer to invest in the project, especially after the State took away $2.6 million in set-aside, property-tax increment funds after lawmakers abolished redevelopment to fix the state budget.
The City’s former redevelopment agency acquired both properties through eminent domain, and the sites have since been transferred to the Signal Hill Housing Authority, but the City, like many others across the state, now has no affordable-housing funds set aside to make such projects equitable for a developer.
Signal Hill city staff did not disclose the total cost of the proposed project or address how the City would attract potential developers to bid on the development.
Charney, on the other hand, said having the zoning already in place will allow a potential developer to move more quickly on the project. He also said the Council’s action will likely help the City secure state certification of Signal Hill’s updated Housing Element, a city document that sets guidelines and policies for potential housing projects for the next eight years.
“Staff and the [Planning] Commission believe that approval of this item will put us in a good position for state certification of the Housing Element and also put us in a position of attracting interested potential developers of this site,” he said.
Periodically, the State requires that the City update its Housing Element, which is part of Signal Hill’s General Plan, to reflect population growth in the region and new state mandates. The State doesn’t require that the projects actually be completed, but cities must come up with enough land through city ordinances and zoning amendments to at least accommodate the units.
Each city’s required number of market-rate and affordable-housing units is determined through a Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), which, locally, is calculated by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG).
Like other cities, Signal Hill has until February 2014 to meet the State’s deadline for approving its final Housing Element that covers the period from 2013 to 2021.
So far, planning officials say Signal Hill should exceed the State’s housing obligations. The State requires that the City accommodate at least 169 new housing units, including both affordable and market-rate. The City’s draft Housing Element, however, indicates that Signal Hill is planning for 201 housing units.
Out of the total, the City is required to plan for a minimum of 71 units of affordable housing (including extremely-low-income, very-low-income and low-income units). Signal Hill, however, has outlined a total of 78 affordable-housing units, which include the proposed 72-unit affordable-housing complex and six other affordable-housing units throughout the city.
Other Council highlights
Introductions and presentations Signal Hill Mayor Michael Noll introduced Jacob Sansenbach as a new police officer for the Signal Hill Police Department. The Council also received a presentation on the new Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar as part of the City’s “Shop Signal Hill” program that offers Signal Hill businesses an opportunity to appear before the Council. A video on the restaurant’s opening was provided by Signal Hill business Asset Media Group, Inc.
Payments before litigation The Council voted unanimously to amend a city ordinance of the municipal code entitled “Claims Against City” to add procedural requirements for claims made against the City in compliance with California code. The ordinance amendment would impose a “pay first, litigate later” requirement for litigating tax-refund claims or tax disputes concerning any city taxes. The requirement mandates that any persons challenging the payment of taxes, fees, fines and other payment to the City make such payments prior to commencing any actions to recover such payments, according to a city staff report.
Oil-pipeline franchise The Council unanimously approved a resolution to allow the transfer of an oil-pipeline franchise from Arco Terminal Services Corporation (an affiliate of BP West Coast Products LLC) to Tesoro SoCal Pipeline Company LLC. The transfer is the result of an agreement made in 2012 in which BP and other affiliates agreed to sell certain assets to Tesoro.
Charter Business agreement The Council voted unanimously to authorize City Manager Ken Farfsing to enter into a contract agreement with Charter Business Network Operations Center for converting from a primary rate interface to an optical Ethernet fiber and fiber Internet network connection for phone and Internet service at all city public facilities. The agreement reduces the City’s expenses for service from $4,257 to $1,316 annually. Geno Maestas, major accounts executive for Charter Business, said the new network will provide faster Internet services and is similar to the infrastructure used by local large corporations.
The next Signal Hill Council meeting is scheduled for Dec. 3 at 7pm at the Council Chamber.