ALBANY -- The city is nearing completion of its long-delayed housing element for the 2007-14 cycle -- just in time to start over and begin work on the 2014-22 cycle.

The Planning and Zoning Commission heard an update of the housing element at its Jan. 22 meeting. Consultant Barry Miller told the commission he had incorporated changes in the plans after receiving feedback from officials of the state Division of Housing Policy Development.

Miller said he would be showing the changes to state officials and once approval is given, will return the plan to the commission for consideration and referral to the City Council.

The housing element was created by state law in 1969 to encourage local governments to provide housing for all income levels. Many cities, however, have used zoning and other regulations to prevent the construction of lower-income housing.

The law requires local governments to "adequately plan to meet the existing and projected housing needs of all economic segments of the community." Cities are supposed to identify areas where various types of housing are allowed in the zoning code, even if no housing is located or planned for those lots.

The city will soon begin work on a new general plan, of which the housing element will be a key portion. The current general plan was adopted in 1992.

The commission also voted to send the City Council proposed changes in the city's sign regulations to allow electronic billboards in the city, but only if an existing static billboard is removed for each electronic sign that is approved. The proposal also includes restrictions on how bright the billboards can be and a requirement that the most energy efficient technologies are used.

---