Pacifica’s “housing element” — the planning document it uses to assure it meets regional expectations under the Association of Bay Area Governments — comes up for review every eight years. This time, the expectation is high for Pacifica.
Pacifica is expected to identify 1,900 new housing units over time, said Assistant City Manager Tina Wehrmeister. Only 79 units have been built so far. It’s a drop in the bucket given the need. The Bay Area needs to identify 444,000 new housing units going forward but has only 190,000 planned, she said.
“Pacifica received a higher than usual number because we are 30 minutes to major job centers. We are a high opportunity area and exhibiting a moderate degree of racial and economic exclusion. Therefore, Pacifica is receiving a higher allocation than last time,” she said.
The city manager plans to send a letter this month to the state Department of Housing and Community Development with City Council’s comments about what can be done about housing in Pacifica. Those comments include Pacifica’s work underway on higher densities through “Plan Pacifica.” It will note Pacifica’s policies favoring accessory dwelling units.
Social equity factors should be larger than economic factors, city leaders say. The letter will note 50 percent of Pacifica is open space, leaving not much room to build. Areas of potential annexation are often in high fire danger areas.
The letter will also note Pacifica has limited public transit and highway capacities. New housing in Pacifica would be more than 30 minutes away from job centers. Too much housing will adversely impact city services, city leaders say.
“The general plan estimates 1,000 housing units over 20 years. We will continue with this work,” said Wehrmeister.
City Council members said the expectations are simply too high.
“This number is outrageous. We don’t have space. This is too high. Other cities are complaining,” said Councilmember Sue Vaterlaus.
Mayor Pro Tem Sue Beckmeyer said, “We don’t have good public transportation. That should be a leveling factor. I want to complain: This is too many.”
Councilmember Mike O’Neill said the amount of land where Pacifica can actually build is very limited.
“These numbers are daunting,” said longtime housing advocate Suzanne Moore. “We have a desperate need for affordable housing. Prioritize accessory dwelling units. Prioritize housing for essential workers. We need to reduce our dependence on cars.”
The next steps will be to accept public comments on the Association of Bay Area Government’s draft methodology until Jan. 21 with written comments requested by Nov. 27. The final methodology will be approved in spring 2021, with appeals to be heard that summer with a final allocation approved by the end of 2021. Pacifica’s Housing Element is due in January 2023.
City Manager Kevin Woodhouse said a general report about Pacifica will go with the letter.
“We don’t have to build the units. We just plan on them,” he said.