El Dorado County leaders hash out housing issues

Eric Jaramishian
Mountain Democrat

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The El Dorado County’s Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission met this week to discuss the county’s housing needs for the next eight years.

Topping the needs list is more middle-class housing and a plan to address homelessness. El Dorado County’s Housing Element, part of the General Plan, provides information on current and future housing needs and outlines programs, policies and strategies designed to fulfill these needs. The plan is updated every eight years.

Public comment during Monday’s meeting, during which no action was taken as this was just a chance to review the draft Housing Element update, speakers addressed issues such as affordable housing, requiring smoke-free units and the county homelessness issue.

The county’s 2013 Housing Element included a 10-year plan to house the county’s homeless, but, as some pointed out, had little success. Findings included in the Housing Element update state at least 613 EDC residents are experiencing homelessness.

“That is a great example of a plan gone awry,” said Maureen Dion-Perry, a Camino resident. “You would think you would have a little bit of progress.”

Seven new housing implementation measures are included in the 2021 Housing Element update, including HO-36, which promotes middle-income housing — something county leaders and speakers acknowledged is lacking.

“I know of a lot of friends my age and my sister’s age who grew up in this county that can’t afford to live here,” said District 5 Planning Commissioner Amanda Ross. “They are professionals, they have middle- to upper-income paying jobs and they cannot afford to live here.

“The discussion of middle housing needs to be in this element update,” she added. “This is eight years. If it doesn’t go in now, it really won’t be implemented until we look at it again in eight years.”

Single-family homes in unincorporated El Dorado County make up of 89% of the housing units, according to the update. There was discussion on including more multi-family units in the plan and SB 35 — a statute streamlining housing construction in California counties and cities that fail to build enough housing to meet state-mandated housing requirements.

BOS Chair John Hidahl acknowledged that the county has not been successful in getting multi-family units built.

“If we want to bring back discretionary authority and review, we need to step up and get that affordable housing incentivized and encouraged to be built so we fall into the category where we can have discretionary review rather than administrative approval for projects like SB 35,” Hidahl said.

The District 1 supervisor said waiting to build these units is prompting state legislators to make more rules/regulations regarding housing, “which is taking more control away from local decision makers.”

“I don’t want to see that happen anymore,” Hidahl said. “We need to try to reverse that.”

Multi-family homes make up about 6% of housing units in unincorporated El Dorado County.

Housing needs are divided into four categories in the Housing Element — very-low income, low income, moderate income and above moderate income. The county is responsible for finding the necessary land to accommodate the housing needed, while addressing concerns like water supply, fire safety, traffic and cost of housing.

The state determined that 153,512 housing units were needed for the areas the Sacramento Area Council of Governments oversees, which consists of El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties. El Dorado County (West Slope and Tahoe Basin) is responsible for 3.27% of that allocation, around 5,000 units — 1,350 of which are designated for people in the very-low income category. The Housing Element update notes the above-moderate income category has the the highest allocation at 1,991 housing units.

Adoption of an affordable housing ordinance was discussed at the meeting. County staff is working with SACOG on a memorandum of understanding to get funding.

The 2021 Housing Element draft was submitted to the California Department of Housing and Community Development for review. The update and more information is available online at—2021.aspx.

The Planning Commission will hold a 2021 Housing Element update public hearing on Aug. 26 and the Board of Supervisors will follow with its hearing Aug. 31. The due date for final adoption is Sept. 10, 2021. The HCD has 90 days to review and certify the update.

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