Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Humboldt Sunshine says housing issue not resolved

James Faulk The Times-Standard
Eureka Times Standard

Suit still a possibility, group states

EUREKA -- A group that has threatened legal action against the county because of what it says is the inadequacy of its housing element has said that the state's recent decision does not mean the county's housing plan is good enough.

A lawsuit is still possible, said Humboldt Sunshine attorney Robert Best.

In a letter to Community Development Services Director Kirk Girard, the state has said the county's housing element is in compliance, despite heated and repeated objections from the Humboldt Economic and Land Plan group and Humboldt Sunshine.

”After thorough review, the department finds the report continues to demonstrate sufficient adequate sites to address the county's remaining share of the regional housing need,” the letter states. “While the suitability of some identified sites remains relevant, the report demonstrates the county has approved development in excess of its moderate and above moderate income regional housing need allocation and specifically identifies and analyzes sufficient higher density site capacity to accommodate the county's remaining housing need.”

The element's compliance is conditioned on maintaining enough of a land supply to meet its housing need.

Best said the state's letter does not re-approve the county's housing element.

”Its recent letter indicated that, although it had received information demonstrating that the housing element does not meet the requirements of state law, it would not take the extraordinary step of revoking its prior approval provided that the county complied with certain conditions,” Best said.

Best said the state “based its exceptional action on a process not recognized in state law whereby (state) staff negotiated directly with county staff around a secret report prepared by county staff and not made available for public review or approval by the Board of Supervisors.”

Although the state chose to accept that report instead of a proper amendment of the housing element, nothing in that report can make up for an inadequate housing element, he said.

”We do not accept that this kind of off-the-record information exchange can substitute for a housing element that includes both an inventory of sites suitable for residential development and a separate showing of specific sites that are adequate to meet the housing need of all income levels in the county,” he said. “Since the county is not acting to meet these requirements and (the state) is shying away from its responsibilities, it appears it will fall to Humboldt Sunshine to force compliance with state law.”

A lawsuit will be filed “as a matter of last resort” after Humboldt Sunshine has done all it can to get the county to support affordable housing, he said.

Attempts to contact Girard were not successful by deadline.

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