Developers lay into YC authorities
Developers of some of Yuba City's biggest projects - including a representative of a major Bay Area firm - blasted the City of Yuba City on Tuesday for foot-dragging by the municipal staff.
The complaints to the City Council and the Planning Commission were an unusual tack for developers who don't often want to alienate the same council members who may be approving their projects.
City officials said the developers knew that the city was in the midst of putting new standards in place for development.
“I think it's disingenuous to say they didn't know about this, because the city has said projects will meet all policies,” said Assistant City Manager Phil Carter.
Carter, a paid consultant for the city whose Sacramento company, Pacific Municipal Consultants, is providing staffers, said applicants were told they could have a moratorium for two years or they could get projects moving forward to get them ready to move to the council.
Carter also said the city asked for a plan from builders to deal with affordable housing but only got it last week.
Councilwoman Karen Cartoscelli said everyone knew from the start that the city wanted residential development guidelines.
“You elected to move forward knowing all these things are not in place,” Cartoscelli said.
The city has also been short on planners and engineering staff members after many of them quit.
But the four developers who have specific- or master-plan projects in the pipeline said they are frustrated with how long it is taking to move their projects along - years in some cases.
They spoke Tuesday during a joint meeting with the City Council and the Planning Commission.
The meeting was a workshop on the new residential guideline handbook, residential site planning and urban edge issues. The handbook would provide for a more attractive community character, a variety of housing types, and streets that are aligned with adjacent neighborhoods.
Darrell Bolognesi's voice cracked with emotion when he talked about the frustration of 18 months spent dealing with the city. He said he has put up $1.5 million and designed his project to high standards, including front porches and other extras, only to find himself in a “black hole.”
Bolognesi said he has asked Carter and City Manager Jeff Foltz to put together a schedule but has gotten nowhere. Bolognesi said the city should have declared a moratorium.
“I have never been put through the process I've been put through with the city,” said Bolognesi, who oversees land acquisition and planning for Braddock & Logan of Danville. Bolognesi said the firm has built 25,000 units of housing.
Darin Gale, legislative advocate for the North State Building Industry Association, said the developers have submitted designs and layout. But now they are seeing the city's new residential development handbook, which may require them to redesign some of their projects.
The handbook came out this month about two years after the council adopted its updated general plan.
Gale said it was unusual for developers to speak out. They want to work with the city; but after so much time elapsed, they want some answers.
“I think it shows their sense of frustration,” Gale said.
Some commercial developers are having issues with the city as well, Gale noted.
Mayor Eric Hellberg said that the city should have declared a moratorium on building.
“Personally, I think everyone is to blame but most of all the council,” Hellberg said.
City administrators agreed to brief council members next month on time frames and other issues to try and break the logjam. The first in a series of four major developments was expected to go before City Council in two to three months.
But one local developer lashed out after seeing his project all but shot down Tuesday after he was two years and several hundred thousand dollars into it.
Al Montna wants to build a KB Home project with cluster housing near Township Road, one of four projects in the planning pipeline.
But the majority of the City Council told planning commissioners they don't want to see the cluster housing - four- or six-pack housing - so close to the edge of the sphere of influence where the general plan calls for single-family, detached homes. The city has started planning what the interface with Sutter County should look like with a $300,000 grant from the Sacramento Area Council of Governments.
“Now we may have to tear this up,” said Montna. “As Darrell pointed out, maybe Yuba City isn't the place to be any more.”
Appeal-Democrat reporter John Dickey can be reached at 749-4711. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.