San Juan Bautista City Council. Screen capture.
San Juan Bautista City Council. Screen capture.

In a unanimous vote, the San Juan Bautista City Council agreed to send the city’s 2023-2031 Housing Element and Fair Housing Analysis, which requires the city to identify enough properties to accommodate a minimum of 88 housing units to be built in the city over the next eight years, to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) for approval—with reservations.

“The state of California is basically forcing us to do this stuff,” said Councilmember Scott Freels. “Me personally, I don’t want to see suburbia. I am not happy with the fact that we are being told how to run our city by the state of California.”

The stated-allotted Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) in the housing element would include eight extremely low-income units, 10 very low-income units, 14 low-income units, 18 moderate units and 38 above-moderate units.

Affordable housing is based on an area’s median income (AMI), which in San Benito County is $101,923. The income categories vary depending on the size of a household, but the formula for affordability provided by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development is as follows:

  • Acutely low income: 0%-15% of AMI
  • Extremely low income: 15%-30% of AMI
  • Very low income: 30% to 50% of AMI
  • Lower income: 50% to 80% of AMI; this designation may also be used to mean 0% to 80% of AMI
  • Moderate income: 80% to 120% of AMI

Given this formula, a household in the county making $122,307 is considered moderate income. 

While saying he shared Freels’ disdain for the state’s mandate, Councilmember John Freeman said the city should be grateful for what he described as a “tremendously low number” of homes to build.

“I am going to give you a counter-example,” Freeman said. “Sand City has a population of about 370 people right now. And they have a RHNA number of 900 and something. The city manager yelled, ‘What do you want me to do? Build houses in the Costco parking lot?’”

Councilmember E. J. Sabathia said that he was concerned about more housing being “shoved onto the community” but that he sympathized with people trying to find places to live in San Juan Bautista.

“There are people being forced to leave the community,” he said. “People with small children are having to move away. And that is a failing, in my opinion. There are people who are going to have children or grandchildren, and I would love to see them have the opportunity to stay.”

Mayor Leslie Jordan said she found it disconcerting that so few members of the community participated in the recent planning sessions.

“There was one meeting where maybe 10 people showed up,” she said. “This affects our community and our entire way of life.”

She also asked what would happen if the city did not plan for those houses within eight years. 

Assistant City Manager Brian Foucht replied that if the city made an “overt choice” not to build any units, the HCD would see that as growth-limiting and would have a problem with that.

“The consequence is that they would not certify the housing element,” he said. “And not having a certified element has implications. What would most likely happen is that in the next cycle, they would tell us we had to do better.” 

During public comment, Cara Vonk, attending via Zoom, expressed concern over what she perceived as too low a percentage of affordable housing units being mandated. 

“We do have city-owned property,” she said. “The city yard is one, and the area near the sewage plant is another. The city should go out of its way to build real, concrete affordable housing for our community.”

Refusing to reach the housing goals, Freeman pointed out, could get the city fined or sued.

“I suggest anyone interested google ‘RHNA Huntington Beach.’ They have been sued, and they are fighting back, and they are losing.”

He also said that while increased amounts of low-income housing is a desirable goal, developers will not work on projects that have affordable housing at higher than 25% of the units to be built.

City to consider security cameras

Because it was after 10 p.m. and Morris-Lopez needed to drive to Sacramento that evening, several matters were postponed until a possible special meeting of the council, including a presentation by Flock Group concerning leasing six security cameras proposed to be installed throughout the city. 

Two cameras would be mounted near the intersection of Alameda and Highway 156, one would be mounted near the intersection of Monterey Street and Hwy 156, and one camera would be mounted near the roundabout on First Street. Two additional cameras would be near City Hall and on the water tower outside the city.

The installation, setup and training would cost $20,100 with an annual lease of $18,000 and a two-year contract.

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