After a lengthy discussion about the need for more affordable housing in Half Moon Bay, the City Council last week voted to transfer four out of 20 Measure D certificates, which are required to control the city’s population growth, for residential units outside of the downtown area.
The City Council last December confirmed it would provide up to 66 Measure D certificates for this year, which represent 22 downtown units, 22 bonus units and 22 units outside of downtown. As of last week, all 22 allocations for areas outside downtown had been issued in January, and just two certificates for downtown had been awarded. Each September, the city has the option to transfer any unused downtown allocations for projects elsewhere.
Measure D, which is how the city annually regulates population growth, was approved by voters in 1999. The certificates the city provides are required for new residential spaces, including accessory dwelling units, and junior accessory dwelling units. The law allows Half Moon Bay to grow by 1.5 percent at most each year. Half a percent is for new units outside of downtown, another half a percent is for inside downtown. The city has the discretion to grant another half a percent to downtown development as a “bonus” allocation.
The four approved low-income units are split between two single-family homes with two accessory dwelling units on Monte Vista Lane. The council’s decision underscores its effort to make developers prioritize affordable housing in downtown Half Moon Bay. Staff recommended the council transfer all of the remaining 20 downtown allocations, which included 15 accessory dwelling units. The council opted to deny the transfer despite 12 of the proposed units being in the “Town Center.” That is where the city has prioritized development — land east of Highway 1 and south of Highway 92.
Staff is evaluating the possibility of having unused allocations transferred to the city and “banked” for developers who want to build below-market-rate housing. Other potential updates could involve requiring electrical and sustainability efficiency criteria, charging application fees for accessory dwelling units and waiving fees for affordable units.
Depending on whether developers resubmit for next January, staff is anticipating a backlog of proposals. Councilmembers Harvey Rarback, Joaquin Jimenez and Deborah Penrose opposed the full transfer. Jimenez said he did not support the full transfer because he thought it didn’t do enough to promote more low- and very low-income housing. Jimenez noted that while accessory dwelling units may be more affordable than single-family homes, they still could price out many people.
“If (developers) have to apply again in January, they have to apply again,” Jimenez said. “My position will not change until we figure out what to do about housing for our community, something we really need.”
Rarback said he was in favor of increasing density in the downtown area, which the city outlines in its Local Coastal Land Use Plan.
“I voted ‘no’ because I think we should prioritize the downtown area,” he said. “All the new housing that we can get, that I hope will be affordable, should go down there.”
The city received 27 certificate requests from developers, seven more than it was allowed to issue. The applications included 10 individual accessory dwelling units, one individual junior accessory dwelling unit, five single-family residences with an accessory dwelling unit and one six-unit duplex with two accessory dwelling units and a single-family residence. Vice Mayor Debbie Ruddock said she wanted to transfer the 20 certificates because it would still allow some alternative housing to the city and possibly avoid lengthening the queue of applications.
“From a purity standpoint, no transfers, I think, would make us all feel good, but the fact of the matter is ADUs still create more affordable opportunities,” Ruddock said.