Business / Economy

SJB Planning Commission chooses firm to update housing element

City has been out of compliance with rules governing local development since 2015.

Though its rules for housing developments have long been out of compliance, the San Juan Bautista Planning Commission took recent steps to get the city back on track.

During a Jan. 14 special meeting, the planning commission approved a recommendation to the San Juan Bautista City Council to hire EMC Planning Group to update the city’s housing element.

A housing element is a portion of a city or county’s general plan, required by state law since 1969, that outlines appropriate development procedure. According to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, “local governments must adopt plans and regulatory systems that provide opportunities for (and do not unduly constrain), housing development. As a result, housing policy in California rests largely on the effective implementation of local general plans and, in particular, local housing elements.”

And according to the meeting agenda packet, San Juan Bautista’s housing element has not been updated since 2015.

Voting was delayed at the commission’s Jan. 8 meeting because commissioners wanted staff to obtain other bids.

“After doing some research and coordinating with our regional partners at AMBAG, the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments, they did say that this is actually a pretty good deal,” said city planner Todd Kennedy. “We really should jump on it.”

Because the city is out of compliance, it must adopt two consecutive, four-year housing elements in order to be up-to-date, according to the state department of housing.

EMC Planning Group proposes to do both phases for up to $43,877. San Juan Bautista would pay $28,561 for the first phase and $15,316 for the second.

Kennedy said EMC Planning Group had reached out to San Juan Bautista offering their planning services before it was discovered the housing element needed to be updated. He also said the firm knows the area well and had good recommendations and references from Gilroy, Carmel and Hollister.

According to their proposal, EMC estimates finishing certification of the first part of the housing element in June. The second phase is estimated to be completed in Dec. 2019.

Kennedy said it was important to be in compliance because the city would then be eligible for grants like the Community Development Block Grant.

Commissioner Shirley Brewer asked Kennedy what steps staff will take to ensure the housing element updates are not missed, given the frequent rollover of council and planning commission members. Kennedy responded that it was a matter of organization and making sure it’s in the calendar.


Other discussion

City planner Kennedy informed the San Juan Bautista Planning Commission that the roundabout proposed near the Rancho Vista housing subdivision looks like it won’t be built because the street is too narrow. He presented commissioners with a welcome arch as one alternative.

A traffic study was never conducted, Kennedy said, and the city would need to acquire land in order to construct a roundabout.

At a special meeting on June 26, 2018, representatives of developer Meritage Homes said the roundabout might not be possible and would work with the city to determine its feasibility.


Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is BenitoLink Co-Editor and Content Manager. He joined BenitoLink as reporter intern and was soon brought on staff as a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. He is a San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily. He is a USC Center for Health Journalism 2020 California Fellow.