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Grover Beach amends city codes to boost affordable housing 

Grover Beach recently eased several of its city codes to increase affordable housing options for its residents.

"The city's development code updates are not being carried out with the intent of financial gain for the city, but instead are intended to encourage production of more housing units to help those who live and work in our community," City Manager Matthew Bronson told New Times.

click to enlarge EASY LIVING Grover Beach plans to fast-track the journey to affordable housing by including by-right development that removes the need for separate review by the Planning Commission or the City Council. - FILE IMAGE COURTESY OF GROVER BEACH
  • File Image Courtesy Of Grover Beach
  • EASY LIVING Grover Beach plans to fast-track the journey to affordable housing by including by-right development that removes the need for separate review by the Planning Commission or the City Council.

On Nov. 8, the Grover Beach City Council approved amending housing regulations after receiving input and policy direction over the course of two public workshops held this fall. These changes will appear in the city's Development Code and Land Use Element.

According to the city, the earlier standards made it tough to increase housing production because Grover Beach is a built-out city with "few vacant residential lots, generally small lot sizes and low turnover of commercial properties."

Some of the amendments include allowing by-right development of residential projects, which means that city staff can green-light such plans without a separate review and approval by the Planning Commission or City Council.

"Since by-right projects would no longer require Planning Commission or City Council review, enabling more projects by-right could save applicants both time and money," Bronson said. "While the exact cost savings would depend on the size and complexity of the project, at a minimum it would likely be a few thousand dollars. The time savings for the applicant could also reduce financing costs depending on the type of project."

Other updates include implementing more straightforward design standards like reducing the required number of architectural details like arches and awnings that differentiate the lower floor from the upper ones. Bronson said that the design standards haven't been finalized yet but Grover Beach may draw ideas from the city of San Luis Obispo, which is also in the process of adopting such criteria.

Grover Beach also plans to remove opacity in some of the more broadly defined regulations. For instance, Bronson said one such standard states that new residences should respect existing buildings that contribute to the neighborhood's "architectural character."

"Since this standard is vague and can have different meanings to different people, the city plans to modify standards such as this to be more objective and prevent subjective interpretation to ensure compliance with the State's Housing Accountability Act," he said.

Bronson added that flexibility in construction regulations would improve housing opportunities for the homeless population, too, though it wouldn't apply to temporary emergency housing shelters like the existing development by the 5Cities Homeless Coalition at South 16th Street and Longbranch Avenue.

"The Development Code updates could make an impact on a variety of housing and homeless challenges because housing projects that have a minimum 25 percent affordable units would be allowed by-right, meaning Grover Beach residents would have more affordable housing options available to them," Bronson said. Δ

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