June 8, 2021

The City Council wishes to achieve a Housing Element Update that reflects the City’s goals (including community involvement) and can be certified by the State of California in compliance with State law. The City’s sixth cycle Housing Element update must be completed by January 2023. State law requires that every eight years cities prepare an update of Housing Element, a guide for the housing needs of all segments of its population.

To enlist a consultant experienced in developing a Housing Element Update, Council approved adding some Capital Investment Projects funds for the Housing Element Update and authorized the City Manager to execute an agreement with Lisa Wise Consulting (LWC) to provide the Update.

In addition, new changes in State law (SB 166) related to zoning creates new pressures for the City to ensure that sites identified for lower-income housing are not concentrated in one area but must be spread out.

Also, the City will face higher scrutiny for non-vacant and vacant sites during this cycle. State regulations designate land which is deemed ‘non-vacant’ and ‘vacant.’

Finally, the City will need to accommodate a much higher number of lower income housing units to meet the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) State mandates to be completed by 2031, which may require the City to amend its general plan and zoning code to allow for more housing opportunities for residents—regardless of income.

Discussion about community outreach and engagement included organizing a variety of ways to educate the community about the heavily regulated State requirements for the Housing Element Update and RHNA before the project is completed.

The City Council heard an update from the City Council Legislative Subcommittee on State Assembly and Senate bills that affect the positions of the League of California Cities. For bills which had been previously on the “watch” list, four have been changed to specific positions and the subcommittee has letters for the Assembly and Senate committees to be approved by Council. Of those bills, City Council opposes AB 602 which changes laws that govern local development impact fees, such as Traffic Impact fees; opposes AB 989 which creates a new appeals commission to make judgements on local public health and safety decisions about housing development; opposes AB 1401 that prohibits local government from imposing minimum parking requirements for housing. The city supports identical SB 4 and AB 14 which prioritize deployment of broadband infrastructure in California.

June 22, 2021

The City Council welcomed a new City Manager. Gabriel Engeland will begin work in Los Altos on July 19, 2021. He previously was City Manager in Sierra Madre, California, and also worked in Trinidad, Colorado and Gilbert, Arizona. He received his Masters Degree in Public Administration at the University of Kansas. His expertise is finance and budget.

The City Council directed the city staff to file an appeal of the City’s housing allocation for the sixth housing element cycle to the Association of Bay Area Governments/Regional Housing Needs Allocation (ABAG RHNA). The appeal against California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) challenges the method used by HCD to determine the numbers of housing needed in Los Altos.

The City Council Legislative Subcommittee presented further update on State legislation the Council has been asked to support or oppose as recommended by the League of California Cities. The Council voted to support SB 16. The bill makes subject to disclosure every incident involving unreasonable or excessive force by police, and any finding that an officer failed to intervene against another officer using unreasonable or excessive force. Councilmember Jonathan Weinberg states the bill provides transparency to police action and in doing so augments public trust in the police. On reconsideration, the Council changed 3/2 to support AB 989 about an appeals commission to make judgements on local public health and safety decisions about housing development. The council changed 3/2 to support AB 1401. The bill prohibits a local government from imposing a minimum automobile parking requirement, eliminates expensive parking mandates in areas with good transit, and supports changes to public driving and parking models in the future, according to Member Weinberg. Vice Mayor Enander states that the legislation would take away the ability of local governments to make parking requirements.

Observer Claire Noonan