Housing Element
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What are the next steps now that the Housing Element has been adopted and deemed compliant by the State? 

2. What opportunity sites are proposed for rezoning to create housing capacity and how does Measure Z apply?

3. What are the consequences if Yorba Linda’s Housing Element is found to be non-compliant with State law based on the outcome of Measure Z?

4. What has the City done to challenge the State-mandated RHNA obligation?

5. What types of housing does the Housing Element address and what is the definition of “affordable housing”? 

6. How were the Housing Element opportunity sites selected?

7. The State of California owns a large parcel at the far east side of the City. Why isn’t this property included in the Housing Element?

8. How much can Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) contribute to satisfying Yorba Linda’s required RHNA capacity?

9. What efforts has the City made to inform residents of the Housing Element work effort to date?

10. What are the primary implementation actions needed to carry forward Housing Element goals and programs?

11. How can I find out more about the Housing Element and related implementation and what are the opportunities to participate and comment?

12. What is Included in the Housing Element? 

13. Why does Yorba Linda have to plan for more housing?

14. How much new housing will Yorba Linda need to plan for in the next 8-year Housing Element cycle?

15. Is there anything that can be done to reduce the City’s RHNA obligation? 

16. What was Yorba Linda’s RHNA for the 2014-2021 (5th Cycle) planning period, and did the City have to rezone sites to accommodate this need?

17. Do any of the 14 sites from the existing Housing Element remain undeveloped, and can they be reused in the sites inventory for the 2021-2029 Housing Element?

18. In addition to providing sufficient sites to address the total RHNA, how does the City’s zoning translate to providing adequate sites for each RHNA income category?

19. What happens if Yorba Linda does not have its Housing Element certified by the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD)?

20. How can the public be involved in the Housing Element process?

1. What are the next steps now that the Housing Element has been adopted and deemed compliant by the State? 

On April 8, 2022, the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) certified the City of Yorba Linda's 2021-2029 Housing Element and Appendices.

In the near term, 19 opportunity sites are proposed for rezoning to provide housing opportunities in compliance with State law. Measure Z (Yorba Linda Right-to-Vote Amendment) applies to the 19 sites proposed for rezoning and a corresponding ballot measure is planned for November 8, 2022 as part of the general election.

Measure Z does not authorize construction on any of the opportunity sites. When specific residential developments are proposed, they will require public review and approval to ensure that Yorba Linda’s established expectations of quality are met.

2. What opportunity sites are proposed for rezoning to create housing capacity and how does Measure Z apply?

Nineteen (19) opportunity sites are proposed for rezoning to accommodate housing opportunities in support of satisfying the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). While the City of Yorba Linda is required to plan for the required residential capacity under the RHNA, the City is not required to construct the dwelling units.

 

On August 2, 2022, the City Council voted to remove or defer action on the following sites:

Removed

  • Site S4-060: 5541 South Ohio Street 

  • Site S4-201: 5531 South Ohio Street 

  • Site S4-053: SW corner of Kellogg Drive and Grandview Avenue

  • Site S7-005: NE corner of Camino de Bryant and Meadow Land Drive

Deferred Action

  • Site S7-001: Bryant Ranch Shopping Center

  • Site S3-082: 4791 and 4811 Eureka Avenue

  • Site S3-207: 5300-5392 Richfield Road

  • Site S5-008: Fairmont Boulevard

3. What are the consequences if Yorba Linda’s Housing Element is found to be non-compliant with State law based on the outcome of Measure Z?

 

Jurisdictions throughout the state have been subject to a range of penalties and consequences for not having a compliant Housing Element. These penalties and consequences include:

 

  • Revocation of Housing Element Compliance: The California State Legislature has granted authority to HCD to utilize several tools to use to review any action or failure to act by a local government (that HCD finds) inconsistent with an adopted housing element or housing element law. This includes failure to implement program actions included in the housing element. HCD may revoke housing element compliance if the local government’s actions do not comply with state law.

 

  • Legal Suits and Attorney Fees: Local governments with noncompliant housing elements are vulnerable to litigation from housing rights’ organization, developers, and HCD. If a jurisdiction faces a court action stemming from its lack of compliance and either loses or settles the case, it often must pay substantial attorney fees to the plaintiff’s attorneys in addition to the fees paid to its own attorneys. Potential consequences of lawsuits include: mandatory compliance within 120 days, suspension of local control on building matters, and court approval of housing developments.

 

Kennedy Commission Awarded $3.5 M in Attorneys’ Fees for Advocacy in City of Huntington Beach Low-Income Housing Case

 

Developer sues City of Millbrae over proposed housing at historic El Rancho Inn

Pro-housing group sues 3 cities for failing to adopt 2029 housing plans

Realtor affiliated group sues 6 cities for failing to adopt new housing plans

 

  • Loss of Permitting Authority: Courts have authority to take local government residential and nonresidential permit authority to bring the jurisdiction’s General Plan and housing element into substantial compliance with State law. The court may suspend the locality’s authority to issue building permits or grant zoning changes, variances, or subdivision map approvals – giving local governments a strong incentive to bring their housing element into compliance.

 

City of Pleasanton approved deal to end lawsuit over housing; ordered to stop issuing nonresidential building permits until orders are complied with

 

  • Streamlined Ministerial Approval Process: Proposed developments in localities that have not yet made sufficient progress towards their allocation of the regional housing need are now subject to less rigorous “ministerial” approvals in order to hasten the production of housing and bring a jurisdiction into compliance with its state-determined housing need allocation.

 

Under pressure from state, City of Simi Valley reverses opposition to proposed 278-unit apartment complex

 

  • Financial Penalties: Local governments are subject to court-issued judgements directing jurisdictions to bring a housing element into substantial compliance with state housing element law. If a jurisdiction’s housing element continues to be found out of compliance, courts can fine jurisdictions up to $100,000 per month, and if they are not paid, multiply that by a factor of six pursuant to California Government Code Section 65585(l)(1)(A).

 

  • Court Receivership: Courts may appoint an agent with all powers necessary to remedy identified housing element deficiencies and bring the jurisdiction’s housing element into substantial compliance with housing element law.

4. What has the City done to challenge the State-mandated RHNA obligation?

 

Over the past three years, Yorba Linda has been actively involved in the 6th cycle Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) preparation process with the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), and has provided regular updates on the progress of this effort in previous issues of the Yorba Linda Connection. Yorba Linda Councilwoman Peggy Huang serves as the Chair of SCAG’s RHNA Subcommittee, which was the committee responsible for providing detailed analysis and recommendations to SCAG’s Regional Council on the RHNA methodology. Unfortunately, the RHNA Subcommittee’s recommendation for an equitable housing solution that was unanimously supported by SCAG’s Community, Economic and Human Development Committee was overturned through a last-minute decision by its Regional Council to redistribute significantly more housing into Orange County and Los Angeles County. This resulted in Yorba Linda’s draft RHNA allocation increasing from 200 to 2,415 units.

Despite numerous letters from City staff, the Mayor, the City Council and numerous individual residents, the City’s efforts to lower its RHNA obligation have been ignored by SCAG and by the California Department of Housing and Community Development. These letters are available to view here. 

 

The City put together the following video for the RHNA Appeals Board outlining many of the same concerns that the City is hearing from the community about why it did not make sense to add 2,415 additional housing units into Yorba Linda.

5. What types of housing does the Housing Element address and what is the definition of “affordable housing”?

 

The Housing Element addresses a variety of housing needs and provides programs to support a range of housing types and affordability. Housing affordability categories include Moderate Income, Lower Income, Very Low Income, and Extremely Low Income. These are based on surveys of local area median income (AMI). For example, for Orange County, Lower Income for a family of four is currently defined as $102,450 per year. “Affordable housing cost” for lower-income households is defined in State law as not more than 30 percent of gross household income with variations (Health and Safety Code Section 50052.5).  “Housing cost” commonly includes rent or mortgage payments, utilities (gas, electricity, water, sewer, garbage, recycling, green waste), and property taxes and insurance on owner-occupied housing. Examples of existing affordable housing developments in Yorba Linda:

 
 
 
 
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National CORE Oakcrest Heights_2.jpg
 

Oakcrest Terrace (source: National CORE, 2022)

Oakcrest Heights (source: National CORE, 2022)

YL Palms.jpg

Yorba Linda Palms Apartments (source: Avanath Communities, 2022)

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Villa Plumosa (source: National Core, 2022)

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Parkwood Apartments at Yorba Linda (source: American Housing Partners, 2022)

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Altrudy Senior Apartments (source: https://altrudylaneseniors.com/)

 

6. How were the Housing Element opportunity sites selected?

The City conducted a strategic and transparent effort to identify and narrow down the sites that were ultimately selected for the Housing Element. The first step was to simply use existing State laws and existing land already zoned for development to meet our requirements (i.e., ADUs permitted on every residential parcel per State law, congregational lands for housing as permitted by AB 1851, etc.); however, the State ended up only giving the City credit for 400 ADUs (additional information is provided under FAQ #8). The City was also able to get credit for 355 units on congregational lands per AB 1851. Most of these units qualified as meeting the lower income RHNA units.

The City also attempted to get the State to participate as a partner in resolving its housing crisis by allowing for development of the State-owned Coal Canyon property, which could have accommodated approximately 900 housing units. However, the State refused to allow this property to be included in the Housing Element.

 

With only 755 out of 2,415 units accounted for, the City released a survey to the public with an interactive map seeking public recommendations for potential housing sites. Concurrently, the City conducted its own analysis to analyze all properties greater than 1 acre in size that could potentially accommodate additional housing. We then used HCD’s guidelines and criteria for determining eligible sites to remove sites that would not meet State law requirements. This resulted in a list of properties that were eligible potential candidate sites.

 

City staff reached out to the property owners to determine which property owners would be interested or supportive of having their properties considered for rezone purposes. As the candidate sites list was refined with guidance from the Planning Commission and City Council through various public workshops, City staff recommended various levels of density to each site based on the context of its surrounding geographic conditions. Ultimately, this was further narrowed down to the final list that was approved by HCD.

7. The State of California owns a large parcel at the far east side of the City. Why isn’t this property included in the Housing Element?

There is an approximately 30-acre parcel located at the east side of the City referred to as Coal Canyon. This property was zoned as a Planned Development and was originally anticipated for commercial development. This property is owned by the State of California and could be rezoned to allow for higher density housing. However, when the City reached out to the State Department of General Services about its willingness to participate as a partner in the Housing Element, the State told the City that this property is not eligible for affordable housing in that it is restricted in its use as a wildlife corridor. City staff appealed this decision to HCD, who also stated that this property is not eligible for housing purposes.

8. How much can Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) contribute to satisfying Yorba Linda’s required RHNA capacity?

Recent State housing laws passed in 2019 required that jurisdictions allow by right on every residential property at least one Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) and one Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit (JADU). With over 20,000 residential dwelling units in the City, one would assume that the RHNA could easily be met simply by utilizing ADUs. In June 2020, HCD established guidelines to regulate how many ADUs it would allow a jurisdiction to count towards meeting its RHNA. The general rule is that a jurisdiction can use its ADU trends from 2018-2020 or five times the ADU construction trends prior to 2018.

 

It is important to note that both of these methods were based on construction trends either during the COVID-19 pandemic or prior to the changes in ADU laws. Therefore, the City conducted its own ADU trend analysis and determined that over the course of the eight-year housing cycle, the City would likely see approximately 1,100 ADUs constructed. HCD initially agreed that this was a reasonable request and the City sought to find housing sites to accommodate the remaining 1,300 housing units in the City’s RHNA.

 

In the City’s first comment letter back from HCD, the City was informed that since it only produced an annual average of 5 ADUs in prior years, HCD was only willing to count 40 ADUs total over the entire 8-year cycle towards the City’s RHNA. Initially, when the City inquired about this significant reduction of over 1,000 units previously agreed upon by HCD, the State indicated that it would be willing to allow the City to double its annual average to 10 ADUs per year for a total of 80 ADUs over the entire 8-year cycle. City staff pressed back on this determination through a detailed ADU analysis and was able to get HCD to count a total of 400 ADUs towards its RHNA over the entire 8-year cycle, which is one of the highest numbers that has been allowed by HCD.

 
 
 
 

9. What efforts has the City made to inform residents of the Housing Element work effort to date?

 

In October 2020, the City Council and Planning Commission conducted a joint workshop to kick off the Housing Element update. At this meeting, staff introduced the creation of a new City website (https://www.ylhousingelementupdate.com) that would be dedicated to providing an overview of the Housing Element process, frequently asked questions, allow for citizen input on potential housing sites and to provide comments, and to announce future events related to the Housing Element.

 

The City also released a Housing Element survey for residents to provide input on what they see as the most important housing needs and to provide feedback on their preference in relation to various policy questions. The survey was posted on the City’s website for approximately four months, with a link advertised in the City’s eNews, on the City’s website, and on the City’s social media accounts (i.e., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).

 

The City also distributed a survey targeted towards the City’s senior citizens to solicit feedback about their perceived housing needs. This survey was posted on the City’s website, published in the eNews, emailed to the Parks & Recreation distribution list of approximately 2,200 people 55 years and older, and hard copies were distributed at the Senior Center in March and April 2021 during the Senior Lunch Program, the drive-thru grocery program, recreational classes and the coffee socials. The City also collected contact information for any residents requesting to be informed about housing information in the future.

 

In January 2021, the City hosted a meeting with its local religious congregations to discuss the Housing Element update and to present the concept of a congregational housing overlay to allow for housing to be built on religious sites pursuant to AB 1851. All 37 religious congregations were invited to participate in this event and 12 of the 37 religious congregations were represented at this meeting.

 

On February 24, March 24, April 28, June 9, July 14, and July 28, 2021, the City’s Planning Commission conducted workshops focusing on the development of the Housing Element sites inventory. The public was notified through the City’s eNews, on the City’s website, on the City’s social media accounts, through published advertisements in the newspaper, and emailed to all individuals requesting to stay informed of the process. In June 2021, City staff conducted a stakeholder meeting with property owners of all previously identified potential candidate housing sites at the Yorba Linda Community Center. Over 250 invitations were sent out and nearly 100 individuals participated in the meeting. Dozens of individual follow-up meetings with property owners were conducted to discuss their specific sites. Furthermore, the City’s Traffic Commission discussed the Housing Element at their April 22 and September 29, 2021 meetings.

 

After all of this effort and public outreach, on August 3, 2021, the City Council discussed the draft Housing Element sites inventory prior to submitting the draft Housing Element to HCD for review. The public was notified through the City’s eNews, on the City’s website, on the City’s social media accounts, through published advertisements in the newspaper, and emailed to all individuals requesting to stay informed of the process.

 

The draft Housing Element was made available on the City’s website starting on August 27, 2021. The public was notified of its availability through the City’s eNews, on the City’s website, on the City’s social media accounts, through published advertisements in the newspaper, and emailed to all individuals requesting to stay informed of the process. The City received comments back from HCD on October 26, 2021, and made substantive changes to the Housing Element.

 

The City resubmitted its revised draft Housing Element to HCD on December 8, 2021, and made the document available to the public for review and comment and advertised this effort through the City’s eNews, on the City’s website, on the City’s social media accounts, through published advertisements in the newspaper, and emailed to all individuals requesting to stay informed of the process.

 

On January 12, 2022, the City’s Planning Commission conducted a public hearing and recommended that the City Council adopt the Housing Element.

 

On February 1, 2022, the City Council conducted a public hearing on the Housing Element; however, HCD had informed the City that it had some minor revisions for the Housing Element and recommended that the City Council postpone adoption of the Housing Element until it could make those refinements. The Council continued the public hearing until February 9, 2022. On February 4, 2021, the City received a second review letter from HCD and made the refinements requested by HCD. On February 7, 2022, the City posted its revised Housing Element onto the City’s website and made the document available to the public for review and comment. On February 9, 2022, the City Council conducted its public hearing on the Housing Element and adopted the Housing Element prior to the State deadline of February 11, 2022. On February 10, 2022, the City submitted its adopted Housing Element to HCD for review and received final approval from HCD on April 8, 2022.

 

On April 29, 2022, the City released a Notice of Preparation for a Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) and announced that the City would conduct a Scoping Session on the PEIR on May 23, 2022, in the Yorba Linda Community Center. The comment period for the Notice of Preparation ends on May 30, 2022. In June, the City is planning to release its PEIR for a 45-day public review period. This will be advertised through the City’s eNews, on the City’s website, on the City’s social media accounts, through a published advertisement in the newspaper, emailed to all individuals requesting to stay informed of the process, and will be directly mailed to all property owners within 2,000 feet of any of the proposed Housing Element sites.

On June 23, 2022, the City of Yorba Linda Traffic Commission held a noticed public meeting to discuss and review the Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA) prepared for the proposed 2021-2029 Yorba Linda General Plan Housing Element Implementation Programs project. Public notice of the Traffic Commission meeting was mailed directly to all property owners within 2,000 feet of the 27 proposed Housing Element sites. 

On June 29, 2022, the Planning Commission held a publicly noticed hearing related to the General Plan Amendments and Zoning Code Amendments. Staff provided the Planning Commission with an update on a conversation with HCD to discuss the possibility of revising the Housing Sites Inventory approved by HCD on April 8, 2022. The current Housing Sites Inventory contains a buffer of 309 dwelling units (or approximately 12% of the City’s total RHNA). HCD stated that they would be amenable to allowing the City to remove sites from the Housing Sites Inventory under two strict conditions: 1) The City’s buffer cannot be reduced below 10% of the total RHNA (or 242 dwelling units); and 2) The City can only remove dwelling units approved for the above-moderate and moderate income categories. Based on the staff presentation, public comments, and updated information from HCD, the Planning Commission adopted a Resolution recommending that the City Council approve General Plan Amendments 2022-01 and 2022-02 and Zoning Code Amendments 2022-01 and 2022-02, but recommended that the City Council remove Sites S4-060, S4-201, S4 053, and S7-005. On July 15, 2022, the public comment period for the draft PEIR closed. On July 22, 2022, the City released its Response to Comments in the Final PEIR for public review.

On July 27, 2022, the City of Yorba Linda Planning Commission held a noticed public hearing to review the Final PEIR and Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program (MMRP) and to provide a recommendation to the City Council. Approximately 25 individuals spoke during public comment with most of the comments focused on three sites: S3-207, S7-001, and S5-008 with primary concerns related to traffic, wildfire, safety, and geologic issues. The Planning Commission recommended one revision to the MMRP to require the project applicant to prepare and submit the following project-level technical reports for future development applications for housing opportunity sites S7-001 (Bryant Ranch Center), S3-207 (Richfield Christmas Tree Farm), S2-012 (Richfield Community Church), and S5-008 (Fairmont Blvd Site): 1) a traffic study including a safety analysis; 2) a geotechnical report; 3) a Fire Protection Plan; and 4) a Fire Evacuation Analysis. These reports would be subject to review and approval from the City of Yorba Linda.

On August 2, 2022, the City Yorba Linda City Council held a noticed public hearing to adopted resolutions certifying the Final Program EIR for the 2021-2029 Housing Element Implementation Programs and a Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program (MMRP), as well as conducted the first reading of ordinances related to the Housing Element Implementation Programs. The City Council also voted to proceed with a Measure Z ballot measure on General Plan and Zoning Code amendments on November 8, 2022 for 19 sites identified in the Housing Element and removed or deferred action on the 8 sites most concerning to the community.

On August 9, 2022, the City of Yorba Linda City Council held a noticed public hearing to conduct the second reading of ordinances related to the Housing Element Implementation Programs, and approved actions related to a citywide Measure Z vote on amendments to the City’s General Plan and Zoning requirements for 19 separate sites.

10. What are the primary implementation actions needed to carry forward Housing Element goals and programs?

To address a variety of community housing needs and to comply with State law, the adopted Housing Element includes 20 programs to implement housing goals which are described in Chapter V of the Housing Element. Programs include a variety of approaches and strategies as summarized here:

Conserve and Improve Existing Housing

  1. Residential Rehabilitation Program

  2. Housing Community Preservation and Abatement

  3. Multifamily Acquisition and Improvement

  4. Section 8 Rental Assistance

Provision of Affordable Housing

  5. Affordable Housing Development Assistance

  6. Mortgage Assistance Program

  7. Sustainable and Green Building

Adequate Residential Sites

  8. Housing Opportunity Sites & Rezone Program

  8a. Lot Consolidation Program

  9. Affordable Housing Overlay

  10. Commercial Mixed-Use Overlay

  11. Congregational Land Overlay

  12. Promote Accessory Dwelling Units

  13. Annexation Areas in Sphere of Influence

Removal of Governmental Constraints

  14. Measure Z Evaluation

  15. Multi-family Development Standards and Processing Procedures

  16. Affordable Housing Density Bonus

  17. Administrative Adjustment Process

  18. Zoning Text Amendments for Special Needs Housing

  19. SB 35 Streamlining

Equal Housing Opportunities and Special Needs

  20. Fair Housing/Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing

 

Timing for each of the programs is identified in Chapter V of the Housing Element in compliance with State law timelines.

11. How can I find out more about the Housing Element and related implementation and what are the opportunities to participate and comment?

Reviewing this website is a great place to start! There is quite a bit of information on why housing elements are required and what they entail. Importantly, the adopted and certified Yorba Linda Housing Element may be accessed here: Housing Element and Appendices. There are many ways to learn more and express questions and thoughts:

12. What is Included in the Housing Element? 

The Housing Element is comprised of the following major components:

  • Review of effectiveness of existing Housing Element

  • Assessment of existing and projected housing needs

  • Identification of resources – financial, land, administrative

  • Evaluation of constraints to housing

  • Housing Plan – goals, policies and programs

Results from each of the four key components of the analysis — review & revise, housing needs, resources, and constraints — are reflected in the goals, policies and programs in the implementation plan. The entire process must reflect public participation from the draft stage to final adoption.

13. Why does Yorba Linda have to plan for more housing?

Based on California’s continued population growth, the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) estimates that the state needs upwards of 200,000 housing units per year in order to maintain a healthy housing sector. Currently, the market is producing less than half of that amount. This scarcity has driven California’s housing costs to be the highest in the nation, prohibiting occupations like teachers, nurses, public safety officers and younger professionals the ability to afford owning a home, essential for building a stronger and vibrant economy.

 

State housing element law requires each city and county to plan for their “fair share” of the State’s housing growth needs.   The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is the regional agency responsible for defining the fair share allocation among its six counties (Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura), and 191 cities in the Southern California region. Based on economic and demographic forecasts, the State has determined that the SCAG region needs to accommodate 1,341,827 housing units between 2021 and 2029 to meet housing demand. 

14. How much new housing will Yorba Linda need to plan for in the next 8-year Housing Element cycle?

 

SCAG has allocated the region’s 1,341,827 housing unit growth needs to each city and county through a process called the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). Yorba Linda’s draft RHNA for the 2021-2029 planning period (6th RHNA cycle) is 2,415 units, distributed among the following income categories:

 
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The RHNA represents the minimum number of housing units Yorba Linda is required to plan for in its Housing Element by providing “adequate sites” through general plan and zoning.  The State requires that jurisdictions create a sufficient buffer in the Housing Element sites inventory beyond that required by the RHNA to ensure adequate site capacity exists throughout the planning period. 

 

The City’s RHNA represents a planning target and is not a building quota.  However, the City must identify sufficient sites to meet the RHNA allocation based on criteria specified in State housing law; those sites must be realistic and probable for housing development within the prescribed timeframe, and the City cannot later impose undue constraints to development of housing, particularly among those sites identified. 

15. Is there anything that can be done to reduce the City’s RHNA obligation?

 

Over the past three years, Yorba Linda has been actively involved in the 6th cycle Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) preparation process with the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), and has provided regular updates on the progress of this effort in previous issues of the Yorba Linda Connection. Yorba Linda Councilwoman Peggy Huang serves as the Chair of SCAG’s RHNA Subcommittee, which was the committee responsible for providing detailed analysis and recommendations to SCAG’s Regional Council on the RHNA methodology. Unfortunately, the RHNA Subcommittee’s recommendation for an equitable housing solution that was unanimously supported by SCAG’s Community, Economic and Human Development Committee was overturned through a last-minute decision by its Regional Council to redistribute significantly more housing into Orange County and Los Angeles County. This resulted in Yorba Linda’s draft RHNA allocation increasing from 200 to 2,415 units.

Despite numerous letters from City staff, the Mayor, the City Council and numerous individual residents, the City’s efforts to lower its RHNA obligation have been ignored by SCAG and by the California Department of Housing and Community Development. These letters are available to view here.

 

On October 26, 2020, the City filed a formal appeal for a revision of its RHNA allocation to reduce its housing obligation. The City determined that this number was calculated in a manner that did not follow state housing laws and requested an adjustment of the City’s housing responsibility. The City also argued that SCAG did not follow the law by creating a regional housing plan that contradicts its sustainable communities strategy as required by state housing law. The City’s public hearing was held on January 15, 2021; however, the RHNA Appeals Board unanimously denied the City’s appeal. Per state housing law, decisions of the RHNA Appeals Board are final and cannot be further appealed.

16. What was Yorba Linda’s RHNA for the 2014-2021 (5th Cycle) planning period, and did the City have to rezone sites to accommodate this need?

The City’s 2008-2014 4th cycle Housing Element (adopted in October 2011) involved the rezoning of 14 sites at densities of 10 to 30 units per acre as required to address the RHNA.

 

SCAG has allocated the region’s 1,341,827 housing unit growth needs to each city and county through a process called the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). Yorba Linda’s draft RHNA for the 2021-2029 planning period (6th RHNA cycle) is 2,415 units, distributed among the following income categories:

  • Projects with entitlements

  • Vacant and underdeveloped residential sites (rezoned during 5th cycle)

  • Second residential units (now referred to as Accessory Dwelling Units)

The City’s residential sites inventory from the above sources provided capacity for up to 1,078 additional units, including sites suitable for development of 621 lower income units, 391 moderate-income units, and 66 above moderate-income units.  During the first six years of the Housing Element (2014-2019), the City issued building permits for a total of 932 new housing units, including 166 units affordable to lower and moderate-income households.

17. Do any of the 14 sites from the existing Housing Element remain undeveloped, and can they be reused in the sites inventory for the 2021-2029 Housing Element?

Just two of the 14 sites from the existing Element have not yet been developed: the Postal Annex site at SE Lemon and Eureka (5 potential units), and the Yorba Linda Water District site at 4622 Plumosa (10 potential units).  Two additional Housing Element sites (Lakeview/Altrudy and Lakeview/Mariposa) are entitled for development and projected to be occupied during the 6th cycle Housing Element, contributing a total of 391 units towards the 2021-2029 RHNA, including 47 affordable units. 

Recent changes to Housing Element law add additional criteria to be able to re-use sites identified in a previous Housing Element.  For example:

  • Vacant sites included in the prior two Housing Elements to accommodate lower income households, or non-vacant sites included in the prior Element, cannot be used in future Housing Elements unless: a) the site is zoned to the minimum lower income density thresholds (30 du/acre); and b) zoning allows for development by-right if at least 20% of units are affordable to lower income households.  While the Water District site currently allows 30 du/acre, the Postal Annex site would need to be upzoned from its current 10 du/acre.  

  • Non-vacant sites, small sites (<0.5 acres), and large sites (>10 acres) are presumed to be inappropriate for development of housing for lower income households unless the jurisdiction can provide evidence why the sites would be appropriate; both the Postal Annex site and Water District site are non-vacant and less than 0.5 acres in size.

  • Unless a jurisdiction has established minimum allowable densities, site capacity calculations must be adjusted downwards based on the following factors: a) land use controls and site improvements; b) realistic capacity of site; c) typical densities; and d) environmental and infrastructure constraints. 

 

Layering these new requirements on a jurisdiction’s sites inventory will both reduce the number of suitable sites and will reduce the presumed unit capacity on sites deemed appropriate and available for development.  Lastly, the “No Net Loss” Law (Government Code section 65863) requires enough sites be maintained to meet the RHNA for all income levels throughout the planning period.   Therefore, State HCD will require jurisdictions create a sufficient buffer in the inventory to ensure adequate sites capacity exists throughout the planning period. 

18. In addition to providing sufficient sites to address the total RHNA, how does the City’s zoning translate to providing adequate sites for each RHNA income category?

Housing Element law provides for the use of “default densities” to assess affordability when evaluating the adequacy of sites to address the RHNA affordability targets. Based on its population within Orange County, Yorba Linda falls within the default density of 30 units per acre for providing sites suitable for development of housing for very low- and low-income households, and 15 units/acre for sites suitable for moderate income households.  This is generally consistent with the default density approach that applied when the City updated the Housing Element in 2013, except that for this new 6th RHNA cycle housing sites will need to be designated and zoned with a minimum allowable density at these levels to count toward the associated lower and moderate income categories.

19. What happens if Yorba Linda does not have its Housing Element certified by the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD)?

There are several potential consequences, the greatest of which is the risk of litigation based on a legally inadequate General Plan. Courts can impose a range of sanctions if they rule the housing element invalid, including a moratorium on all development and local land use authority until the housing element is brought into compliance. Furthermore, the jurisdiction is responsible for paying the litigant’s attorney fees. Settlement agreements between the parties often include stipulations for mandatory rezoning and affordable housing production requirements. State housing and related parks and infrastructure funds typically require housing element compliance for eligibility, so failure to secure an HCD approved element can result in a loss of funding. And where a jurisdiction’s prior housing element failed to identify adequate sites to address the RHNA, this unmet RHNA carry over to future housing element cycles, rendering HCD compliance in future housing element cycles extremely difficult.

 

AB 72 now expands HCDs enforcement authority to refer non-compliant jurisdictions to the State Attorney General’s Office for litigation, as evidenced by the recent lawsuit the State brought against the City of Huntington Beach.

20. How can the public be involved in the Housing Element process?

The Housing Element update is a community-based process that will include a variety of public engagement opportunities.   This will include:

  • On-line housing needs and sites survey

  • Public study sessions before Planning Commission and City Council

  • Community-wide workshops

  • Environmental scoping meeting

  • Review of Draft Program Environmental Impact Report

  • Public hearings before Planning Commission and City Council

To join the mailing list for notification, see the Sta­y Informed/Participate page to submit your email address. Meeting notices and any announcements will also be posted on this page.