ALBANY -- The City Council will consider the city's long-delayed housing element at its Monday meeting. As of press time, the city's Planning and Zoning Commission had not yet made a recommendation on the state-required plan. At a commission meeting on Oct. 9, the discussion of the housing element was continued to this past Tuesday.
The housing element is part of the state's requirement that every local jurisdiction (either city council or county board of supervisors) adopt a comprehensive, long-term general plan for the development of the area.
The city needs to "adequately plan to meet the existing and projected housing needs of all economic segments of the community," according to the California housing element website. Cities aren't required to build any housing, but are required to create an environment through planning and zoning regulations to allow for that housing to be built.
The current seven-year cycle runs through 2014, meaning Albany is developing its housing element very late, with any implementation unlikely until the next cycle has started. The city was sued earlier this month by Albany Housing Advocates, Amber Whitson and Betty Stephenson for not having finished its housing element. The complaint argues that low-income housing is not available in the city.
At the commission meeting, consultant Barry Miller showed various properties around the city that could potentially be the site of affordable, multiunit housing. For example, a lot in the 400 block of Evelyn Ave. has a fourplex at the front, but three-quarters of the lot is empty.
Whitson, a member of the homeless settlement living on the Albany Bulb, asked the commission to research potential sites where homeless shelters could be located.
However, several members of the public asked the commission to slow down and not rush the plan.
Albany Community Development Director Jeff Bond told the commission that in light of the lawsuit, "We feel like we have to do our best to present (the plan) as soon as possible" to the City Council.
Because the council had already announced its intention to consider the housing element on Monday, the commission made the decision to continue the meeting to try to have a recommendation ready by then.
Also at the Oct. 9 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, the latest version of the plans for the University Village mixed-use development project were discussed with the commission giving more feedback to developers.
The project, which has generated ongoing debate and protests by open space advocates, appeared to be in the fine-tuning stages.
Fewer members of the public showed up to comment on the plans than have at past meetings. Many complained about the removal of old trees and the replacement with new trees in the current plans. A report from the city's urban forester, Tony Wolcott, examined all of the trees on the property and outlined which ones should be replanted and which should be removed. Some speakers at the meeting complained that the report only listed a handful of trees as candidates to be saved.
Current plans for the site, which is owned by the University of California, are for a Sprouts Farmers Market and senior housing.
Commissioner Phillip Moss noted that plans are for more retail on the site in addition to the market, but because developers haven't shown any plans for that part of the property, Moss said they should keep open space there.
"I'd like to see UC come to the table with a nice park design for that retail area that we're never going to get," he said.