Thursday, October 21, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 34

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on September 1st, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 22, Issue 27 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 22, Issue 27

Affordable housing, zoning density addressed by Guadalupe's draft general plan

By Malea Martin

Guadalupe is planning for future population growth of more than 50 percent, and looking to accommodate that swell with higher density housing.

The city released its draft 2021 general plan update in late August, and the City Council discussed it at an Aug. 26 meeting. The council gave staff direction to move forward with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process, City Planning Director Larry Appel said, so the plan can be finalized. 

Guadalupe’s draft general plan proposes ways to accommodate population growth in the coming years. The city expects to grow by about 50 percent.

Appel said the general plan is updated every 20 years, and this time around, the draft lays out a plan for moderate growth in Guadalupe. From the current population of just more than 8,000, the city expects to increase to about 12,500 in the coming years. But, Appel emphasized, the plan does not suggest expanding the urban boundary of Guadalupe.

“The city of Santa Maria is going through a general plan update, and they are wanting to expand eastward to incorporate hundreds of acres for future expansion,” Appel said. “Guadalupe is surrounded by prime agricultural land and the City Council didn’t think it was appropriate to expand.”

Instead, Guadalupe’s draft plan proposes changing the zoning and designations so the city can have higher density in certain areas. For example, land to the west of the central business district is currently zoned for general commercial, but the plan recommends changing this area to high density residential zoning, Appel said. 

The draft plan also increases the maximum housing unit allowances for the three different categories of residential zoning—low, medium, and high.

Increasing housing and making room for expansion, what Appel called upzoning, are efforts in pursuit of meeting the city’s regional housing needs allocation. 

“The state says, ‘Santa Barbara County, you need to give us X number of affordable units over the next housing element cycle,’ which runs for eight years,” Appel said. 

The next cycle starts in 2023.

The current cycle required Guadalupe to make room for 49 new affordable housing units, something the city was able to achieve. But in the next one, that number is increasing to 431. Appel said the proposed zoning and density adjustments will be enough to reach that number, but whether those affordable units actually get built is largely out of the city’s hands.

“It’s important to understand the city doesn’t have to develop the units but must have adequate land and densities so these units are possible,” Appel said. “It’s totally up to the developers, it’s up to the economy.”

Appel said there are a few local developers with family roots in Guadalupe who want to build affordable housing. There are also large developments in the works, like the Pasadera homes, that are approved to add hundreds of units once fully built out. But, this project isn’t considered affordable by state standards, so it doesn’t count toward the city’s regional housing needs allocation.

California also mandates that jurisdictions allow people to add an additional unit to their property if they desire, called an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). These units don’t contribute to density numbers, but they do increase the strain on parking, city water and sewer supply, and other infrastructure.

If the ADUs are affordable, “we can get credit for them,” Appel said. “But the impact that they’re having on the city may catch up with us at some point because of the parking issues and providing utilities.”

Despite some of the anticipated utility challenges the city may face as it expands, compounded by the ongoing drought issues, “the city of Guadalupe is well on its way to meeting all state and regional requirements related to water, wastewater, solid waste, and drainage facilities and is well positioned to accommodate the future growth anticipated,” the draft general plan states. 

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