Ryan McDonald

South Bay must plan for more housing units

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by Ryan McDonald

The Beach Cities might have to accommodate a significant increase in the number of housing units in the coming years to comply with a state planning law.

The Southern California Association of Governments voted last week at its Regional Council meeting to approve a significant change in how cities in the region will produce the 1.3 million units called for in its Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). The vote reduced the share called for in the Inland Empire area while boosting the number in cities closer to the coast.

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Under the approved plan, Hermosa Beach’s allocation went from 334 units to 566; Manhattan Beach’s from 103 units to 791; and Redondo Beach’s from 2,212 units to 2,591. SCAG delegates approved the changes in a 43-19 vote, with two of the three delegates from the South Bay Cities Council of Governments opposed.

The shift from inland to coastal cities was driven by concern over urban sprawl’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions. Policymakers have said that it will likely be impossible for California to meet its environmental goals if population growth continues to be centered on places that are car-dependent and distant from coastal job centers.

The change is likely to prove controversial in the South Bay, where many residents feel that their cities are already dense enough.

The RHNA process requires cities to develop a local plan, known as a housing element, for certain amounts of housing, including affordable housing, over an eight-year cycle. It does not require a set number of units to be built, only that a city’s zoning scheme allows for the assigned amount of growth. South Bay cities have struggled to comply with state directives in the past, particularly in the area of affordable housing.

The changes voted on last week apply to the cycle beginning in 2021. Redondo City Councilmember Christian Horvath said that Redondo likely would not have to change its zoning to comply with last week’s figure. The city’s past objections to its RHNA were rooted in a sense of fairness; Redondo’s 2013 allocation was 1,397 units, 37 times more than Manhattan’s, even though it has only twice the population. He said the new figures, while high, have a more realistic relationship to population and job growth. 

“Am I happy that we got a high number? No, I’m not happy. But I am happy that it’s been more equitably distributed among the cities,” Horvath said.

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