City of Elk Grove Responds to California Attorney General’s Allegations of Housing Discrimination
City of Elk Grove Statement Regarding Oak Rose Apartment Project Litigation 10/12/2022
The proposed Oak Rose Apartment Project would construct 67 affordable housing units ("Project") on a vacant parcel in the Old Town Historic District. The Project would provide permanent supportive housing, as well as support services, for individuals experiencing homelessness.
The Project includes on-site office spaces to serve residents, located in the front of the building and on the ground level, with residential units on three levels of a single building. The 9252 Elk Grove Boulevard Project location is zoned Commercial in the Old Town Elk Grove Special Planning Area. This zone allows multifamily housing on the second and third floors as part of a mixed-use development, provided there is commercial use on the ground floor. Pursuant to state housing laws, the Project applicant has requested relief from the City’s zoning code to allow both office and residential use on the ground floor, with the office use being street facing. The Project applicant has also requested a "density bonus" pursuant to state law increasing the density from 37 units to 67 units.
The Project application was submitted under Senate Bill 35 ("SB 35"), a recently enacted state law that limits the discretionary authority of City officials in considering or approving qualifying housing projects. Under SB 35, the City is limited to reviewing projects against objective standards, without application of personal or subjective judgment.
July 27, 2022
The City Council denied the Appeal for Oak Rose (5-0 vote). The City Council found that the Project did not meet the City’s objective zoning standards and, therefore, was not eligible for SB35 streamlined ministerial approval. The Council also denied the applicant’s request for a development standard waiver, as not available under state law, and it denied the density bonus request as moot in light of the City Council’s other actions. The action of the City Council was final on the date of decision and may not be further administratively appealed.
June 10, 2022
The Applicant submitted an appeal on the Planning Commission’s decision. The Appeal and Density Bonus/Waiver Request/Housing Regulatory Agreement is scheduled for the July 27, 2022 City Council meeting.
June 2, 2022
The Planning Commission adopted a resolution (2022-19) finding the project not eligible for Senate Bill 35 Streamlined Ministerial Approval (CEQA Exempt).
Frequently Asked Questions
What is California State Senate Bill 35 (SB 35)?
- SB 35 went into effect on January 1, 2018, and it changed the local City review process for certain qualifying affordable housing development projects. SB 35 applies to California cities and counties where production of new housing has not met the state-mandated Regional Housing Need Allocation targets. All California cities are held to these targets, which are nearly impossible to meet. As such, cities and counties must use a streamlined, ministerial review process for qualifying multifamily residential projects. The State of California Department of Housing and Community Development has determined that the provisions of SB 35 apply to the City of Elk Grove.
Which projects are eligible under SB 35?
- Housing projects qualify for SB 35 if they satisfy several criteria, including:
- Provide the specified number of affordable housing units,
- Comply with objective planning standards,
- Are in an urban area with 75% of the perimeter developed,
- Are on sites zoned or planned to allow residential use,
- Are not located in the coastal zone, agricultural land, wetlands, or fire hazard areas,
- And, pay prevailing wages (only for projects with 10 or more units).
What is a streamlined, ministerial review process?
Under SB 35, the City must review applications for qualifying housing developments within a statutory timeframe. The City must first determine if the project is eligible for streamlined approval. If the application is eligible for review under SB 35, the City must review the project within 90 days after an application submittal for projects of 150 or fewer units, or within 180 days for larger projects.
Ministerial review is based on compliance with set, objective standards and cannot involve subjective judgment. Qualifying projects are also not subject to environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act.
What are objective standards?
"Objective zoning standards" and "objective design review standards" involve no personal or subjective judgment by a public official and are uniformly verifiable by reference to an external and uniform benchmark or criterion available and knowable by both the development applicant or proponent and the public official prior to submittal. Examples of objective standards include, but are not limited to, building setbacks, building height, and parking requirements.
What are density bonuses, concessions, and incentives under State Housing Laws?
Under state law (Gov. Code, section 65915), qualifying affordable housing projects may seek a density bonus to increase the maximum allowed density for the housing project. A request for density bonus has been submitted by the Project applicant here to increase the density of the Project to 67 units. Under the same state law, a qualifying housing applicant may seek concessions or incentives relieving the Project applicant of certain development standards in order to encourage affordable housing units. As noted above, the Project applicant is seeking relief from the City’s zoning code to allow both office and residential use on the ground floor.
What is permanent supportive housing?
Permanent supportive housing is a model that combines housing, healthcare, and supportive services to help formerly homeless individuals lead more stable lives. Supportive housing has no limits on the length of stay, and it is typically linked to on-site and off-site services to assist the resident in retaining housing, improving their health status, and maximizing their ability to live and work in the community.
Supportive housing is intended as long-term housing. It is not a homeless shelter, not transitional housing, and not a residential treatment center.
What services are provided to residents of supportive housing?
- Many services are provided both on-site and off-site in permanent supportive housing, which may include:
- Individual case management
- Independent living and tenancy skills building
- Community-based health care
- Substance abuse and mental health treatment
- Employment training
- Streamlined benefits access
- Life skills education
- Psychiatric services and therapy
- Crisis intervention services
How long will people stay at a supportive housing development?
Regionally, permanent supportive housing projects have a 98% success rate at keeping people housed. The average length of stay is around nine years.
Is supportive housing a homeless shelter?
No. Permanent supportive housing is meant for long-term living. Tenants have leases, private kitchens and bathrooms, and an expectation that they can occupy the unit so long as they follow their lease terms. In contrast, homeless shelters are meant to be temporary. Most shelters provide overnight accommodations only, and those staying at the shelter often must leave during the day.
Wouldn’t another location be better for this Project?
While there could be other sites for which this Project is appropriate, the site selection of a private development is left to the developer. As long as the Project is consistent with state law and local zoning laws, the developer has the right to determine what type of project is appropriate for a particular site. The City cannot mandate a particular site for private development, whether it be market-rate or affordable housing. Currently, funding resources prioritize affordable housing be built in high opportunity areas (areas with characteristics that support positive economic, educational, and health outcomes for low-income households), and that could make this site more attractive for this type of use.
Will residents of the Project have leases? Can they be evicted?
As with market-rate apartments, residents living in permanent supportive housing complexes have leases. Any resident can be evicted for lease violations.
What would be valid grounds for eviction (e.g., loud parties, disturbing the peace, causing problems in the neighborhood)?
Leases are contracts that can vary by their terms. Many leases, however, including those for supportive housing, typically contain standard provisions that require residents to maintain respectful behavior on the property and toward neighbors. Any significant lease violation is usually grounds for eviction.
Do residents of supportive housing pay any rent or utilities?
Residents pay monthly rent and utilities. For supportive housing units, residents pay 30% of their income toward housing costs.
Will this Project draw additional people experiencing homelessness to Elk Grove?
It’s not likely. There is no shelter component to the property and there are no services except for residents of the property. The permanent supportive housing units are filled through a centralized process called coordinated entry. There would be no incentive for people experiencing homelessness to spend time around this property because it would not increase their chances of being housed at the property.
Is there a potential that some of the residents of this Project could have substance abuse and/or mental health issues?
It is likely that some of the residents will have substance abuse and/or mental health issues, just like many housed people. On-site case management is intended to help people experiencing these issues address them in a professional setting.
What percentage of residents are projected to have known mental illnesses?
The City can’t speculate on this. Permanent supportive housing residents must have a disabling condition such as a physical or mental disability. There is a wide range of disabling conditions and many of those are not mental health related.
Will this housing Project be providing the necessary substance abuse and mental health services to aid the residents of the complex?
Yes, the individualized case management is focused on helping people address substance abuse and mental health issues, among other services.
I am concerned about the safety of kids knowing that people with mental illness will be housed in the neighborhood.
The City cannot deny the Project based on the population that would be served. People with mental health issues live successfully in many settings. A full-time caseworker will be devoted to this Project and a key element of their work is facilitating access to mental health resources for those who need them. Residents with concerns about people actively experiencing a mental health crisis should contact the Police Department. The Police Department’s Mobile Crisis Support Team, which includes a licensed mental health clinician, is often available to respond to these situations.
How are individuals requiring permanent supportive housing selected? Does the City have a say in that process?
Supportive housing residents are selected through the county-level coordinated entry system. The coordinated entry system is a process designed to match people experiencing homelessness to housing types that meet their needs. In an environment of scarce resources (i.e. severe housing shortage), a main goal of coordinated entry is to prioritize housing and services for people who are highly vulnerable. The City contracts with Sacramento Self Help Housing for a navigator who works with people experiencing homelessness to help get them on a countywide list. Elk Grove’s homeless residents have equal access to units countywide based on their assessed vulnerability. The City will not have the ability to select or recommend residents for these supportive housing units.
Is this Project for families or single adults?
It is illegal in California for landlords to discriminate based on familial status (i.e. presence of children in the household). Therefore, the project may have some families with children. However, given that all of the units are planned as studios, it’s likely the project will serve mostly single adults.
Will a property manager live on-site for the Project?
Yes. One of the 67 units is set aside for the property manager.
Can the Project be shut down if it is not being maintained?
The City would be able to enforce compliance with its Municipal Code. The project could be shut down if it consistently failed to meet minimum habitability standards. For units that have Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8), a rigorous unit inspection is completed annually. Other investors in the Project also are likely to conduct annual inspections to ensure their investment is properly maintained.
What impact do these low-income housing projects have on the market value of homes that are located nearby?
The City has not seen a decrease in property values of homes near multifamily housing, including affordable housing.
Will this Project bring more traffic and congestion to the area?
Relatively few permanent supportive housing residents own cars, therefore the Project is not expected to result in increased traffic and congestion.
Does the Project allow for sufficient parking?
Assembly Bill 1763 (Gov. Code, section 65915) states that if the development is either a special needs housing development, or a supportive housing development, upon request of the developer, a city shall not impose any minimum vehicular parking requirements. Since the Project is supportive housing, the parking requirement is zero based on state law.
Will this Project lead to increased loitering and panhandling in Old Town?
It’s not likely. Residents typically spend most of their time in their own homes. The Project also includes on-site community spaces for residents to gather. Residents’ rents are set based on 30% of their income, which is often Social Security Disability, so they are left with some money for food, clothing, entertainment, etc. There has not been an increase in loitering or panhandling around other permanent supportive housing projects in the region.
Is there concern that the location of the Project may impact the proposed future library or other nearby uses?
The location of a development project is left to the discretion of the developer, subject to compliance with state and local laws. Pursuant to SB 35, the City can only enforce the objective standards that are in place at the time of the application submittal. Should the Project comply with the standards set forth in SB 35 and the objective standards, the Project must ministerially be reviewed. No discretionary review is allowed if the Project complies with SB 35.
How does SB 35 limit the authority of the City to review this Project?
Pursuant to SB 35, the City can only enforce the objective standards that are in in place at the time of the application submittal. Should the Project comply with the standards set forth in SB 35 and the objective standards of the Elk Grove Municipal Code and Old Town Elk Grove Special Planning Area, the Project must ministerially be reviewed. Compliance with subjective standards, such as neighborhood compatibility and architectural aesthetics, cannot be compelled under SB 35. No discretionary review is allowed if the Project complies with SB 35.
Planning Division, City of Elk Grove
Phone: (916) 478-3684
Public Affairs, City of Elk Grove
Phone: (916) 478-2206