Sutter County affordable housing plan draws criticism
In about a month, Sutter County supervisors will have a tough choice on their hands: Angry residents in one neighborhood, or searching for suitable affordable housing land somewhere else.
As part of the General Plan update the county adopted last year, the state requires Sutter County to include parcels for affordable housing in its housing element.
The requirement only calls for such local governments to zone land for such purposes, not to build the housing, said Steve Geiger, a Sutter County principal planner.
To a few dozen people who showed up for the first rezoning discussion on Wednesday at the county's Planning Commission meeting, however, the prospect of nearby affordable housing was too much to accept.
"When we bought our home, it was with the understanding this would be for single-family homes," said Rich Handwork, referring to the two parcels along Elmer Avenue northwest of Yuba City. "I think a lot of people bought there because it was for single-family homes."
Handwork and several other speakers told planning commissioners rezoning for affordable housing would bring new problems in traffic, crime and hits on property values.
As well, officials from the Yuba City Unified School District have opposed the rezoning because nearby Butte Vista Elementary School is already overcrowded. And another speaker said the parcels are within the sphere of influence for Yuba City, which in future annexations has the area slated for single-family homes.
Commissioners said the outpouring of response from the near overflow crowd estimated at 50 people convinced them not to recommend rezoning, and forwarded the recommendation to the Board of Supervisors on a 7-0 vote.
Supervisors will consider the recommendation for that and other, less contentious rezones within the next month, according to the county's Planning Department.
After consulting with school administrators, Supervisor Jim Whiteaker said he is inclined to support the recommendation.
"We don't want to put high-density housing near a school already overflowing with students," he said.
But if the matter is contentious, it's supposed to be, said a spokesman for the California Department of Housing and Community Services, which oversees housing element implementation.
"It's not unusual for a housing element process to have a robust dialogue on these issues," said Colin Parent. "That's actually the whole point."
Such discussions help local governments determine where to zone for affordable housing, Parent said. He added, if they don't have well-defined housing elements, they run the risk of being sued for failing to provide for such housing.
But for mostly rural counties like Sutter, finding appropriate parcels can be difficult, Geiger said.
Most of the county's new home development tends to be one home on fairly large lots, and multi-family housing usually depends on easy hookups to nearby city services such as water and sewer, he said.
"It's very different from what you see in Yuba City," Geiger said.
If supervisors agree with the commission's recommendation to keep the Elmer Avenue parcels zoned for single-family homes, it means looking for new, suitable parcels somewhere else.
"And it's certainly possible we could do the best research we can and still come back with opposition," he said.
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at email@example.com or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.