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The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday took a close look at an upcoming update to the housing element of the county’s general plan, a move required of jurisdictions every eight years.

Central to the update is the state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), which requires county officials to plan for 4,634 new housing units across four income levels by 2032.

With a 10% buffer on that number bringing the total to 5,098 units, the county must submit a plan for the units to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) by Nov. 15.

That will involve rezoning roughly 76 parcels throughout the county’s urbanized unincorporated areas, including 1,800 units to urban high-density.

This includes 40 parcels that will be rezoned to allow for 375 duplexes, triplexes and quads in existing low-density neighborhoods.

The two-hour discussion comes amidst a housing crisis which, if not addressed, will bar many young and low-income people from the market.

“The state of California, our jurisdiction, and other jurisdictions are in a housing crisis and we need to find ways to accommodate more options for people to be able to able to rent in our community and purchase houses,” Planning Department Assistant Director Stephanie Hansen said.

The housing element plan will now move to the county’s Planning Commission on Sept. 27, with a public hearing by the Housing Advisory Commission to follow on Nov 1. It will return to the supervisors for final adoption on Nov. 14.

After the HCD approves the plan—likely in mid-January—the County would begin the rezoning process in 2024.

When crafting their housing element, county officials must consider several factors, including the need to accommodate special needs populations, and provide housing for a wide variety of incomes.

Chief among the discussion is developing new housing in infill areas or unused or under-utilized sections of urban areas. The plan calls for placing future development in proximity to “high resource attributes” such as transit, schools, amenities and services.

Planners say that would have the dual effect of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, since there would be less vehicle miles traveled. 

The Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments (AMBAG) predicts that Santa Cruz and Monterey counties will add 42,240 new households between 2015 and 2045. 

“I think we’re discussing probably the biggest challenge this board, this county, is going to have for the next six years to more than triple our requirement under RNHA,” Supervisor Bruce McPherson said. “It’s going to be a long haul.”

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA.


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