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  Agenda Item   10.    
Planning Commission
Meeting Date: 08/24/2021  

Subject:

GENERAL PLAN AMENDMENT NO. GPA 2021-01 (6th CYCLE HOUSING ELEMENT UPDATE FOR THE 2021-2029 PLANNING PERIOD) AND GENERAL PLAN AMENDMENT NO. GPA 2021-03 (SAFETY ELEMENT UPDATE)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY


A request to consider amendments to the Brea General Plan which updates the 6th Cycle Housing Element for the 2021-2029 planning period and the Safety Element as required by State law. Staff has prepared a 6th Cycle Housing Element update which includes an analysis related to the following: 1) Housing Needs Assessment: demographics, housing characteristics and the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA); 2) Housing Constraints: market, government, and environmental constraints; 3) Housing Resources: land, financial, and administrative resources available to meet housing demands; and 4) Housing Plan: establishment of goals and policies to address housing needs and a review of the past accomplishments under the 5th Cycle Housing Element for the 2014-2021 planning period. 

Staff has also prepared a Safety Element update which includes an analysis related to the following: 1) Emergency services; 2) Environmental justice; 3) Climate change; 4) Hazards management; 5) Wildland fires; 6) Flood concerns; 7) Geologic and seismic considerations; and 8) noise. 

These General Plan Amendments are herein referenced to as the “Projects” or “Elements”.

 

RECOMMENDATION

Staff recommends that the Planning Commission adopt Resolution No. PC 21-XX, adopt Resolution No. PC 21-XX, and recommend the City Council take the following actions:

 

1.    Find the Projects exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) pursuant to CEQA Guidelines Section 15282(s) and 15061;
 

2.    Adopt Resolution No. 2021-XX approving General Plan Amendment No. GPA 2021-01 to update the 6th Cycle Housing Element for the 2021-2029 planning period;
 

3.    Adopt Resolution No. 2021-XX approving General Plan Amendment No. GPA 2021-03 to update the Safety Element; and
 

4.    Direct staff to submit the adopted Housing Element to the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) by October 15, 2021.

BACKGROUND/DISCUSSION
The General Plan Housing Element (HE) provides for the analysis of a community’s housing needs and provides strategies and programs to respond to those needs.  The City’s current adopted and state compliant HE was for the 2014-2021 planning period.  State Government Code Section 65588 requires that the HE be updated every eight years. The proposed project seeks to amend the current General Plan to provide for an update to the Housing Element for the 2021-2029 planning period.   Subsequently, the HE update triggered Senate Bill 379 which states that upon the next revision of the General Plan, cities are required to update the Safety Element (SE), also a required element of the General Plan by the State of California. City staff is in the process of updating the SE concurrently with the HE. The proposed updates would bring the General Plan HE and SE into conformance with State of California requirements. State law also requires that prior to the adoption of any proposed amendments to the General Plan, the Planning Commission needs to review the amendments and make its recommendation to the City Council. 
 
 
DISCUSSION
HOUSING ELEMENT
The primary function of the HE is to review the current housing constraints, analyze the resources available to meet the demand and the RHNA, identify strategies to address those needs, and set forth a housing plan focused on goal and policy implementation. The following sections of the HE is discussed in brief below:
  • State Goals
  • Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA)
  • Housing Needs Assessment
  • Site-Specific Inventory
  • Housing Plan
 
State Goals
California has required that all local governments (cities and counties) adequately plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community. California’s local governments meet this requirement by adopting housing plans as part of their General Plan. General Plans serve as the local government’s blueprint for how the city and/or county will grow and develop and include seven elements: land use, transportation, conservation, noise, open space, safety, and housing.
 
California’s HE law acknowledges that, in order for the private market to adequately address the housing needs and demand of Californians, local governments must adopt plans and regulatory systems that provide opportunities for (and do not unduly constrain), housing development. As a result, housing policy in California rests largely on the effective implementation of local general plans and, in particular, local HE with the following intent:
  • Assure that cities/counties recognize their responsibilities in contributing to the attainment of the State housing goals;  
  • Assure that cities/counties implement the HE, which, together with Federal and State programs, will move toward attainment of the State housing goals;  
  • Recognize that each locality is best capable of determining what efforts are required by it to contribute to the attainment of a given housing goal, provided it is compatible with regional housing needs; and  
  • Ensure that each local government cooperates with other local governments in order to address regional housing needs.
 
Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA)
The Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) is mandated by State law to quantify the existing and projected need for housing by income categories for each local jurisdiction during specified planning periods. California’s population has continued to grow and State law requires each city and county to plan for their “fair share” of the State’s housing growth needs through quantity and affordability level.  
 
The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is the regional agency responsible for defining the fair share allocation among its six counties (Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura), and 191 cities in the Southern California region. Based on economic and demographic forecasts, the State has determined that the SCAG region must accommodate 1,341,827 housing units between 2021 and 2029 to meet the housing demand. As defined by SCAG, Brea’s RHNA for the 2021-2029 planning period is 2,365 housing units. Table 1 breaks down Brea’s housing growth need projections based on each income level.

Table 1: Brea 6th Cycle RHNA by Income Category
Income Level % of Area Median Income (AMI) Units
Extremely Low Up to 30% 334
Very Low 31-50% 335
Low 51-80% 393
Moderate 81-120% 403
Above Moderate Over 120% 900
Total   2,365

The Housing Resources section of the HE (starting on page 3-104) in Attachment G discusses this table in detail and how the RHNA can be accommodated.  Discussion of how Brea accommodates its RHNA is described later in this report under “Site Specific Inventory.” 
 
Housing Needs Assessment
This section of the HE discusses the characteristics of Brea’s population and housing stock as a means of better understanding the nature and extent of unmet housing needs.  Various sources of information were consulted in the preparation of the HE.  Federal census data remains the most comprehensive and widely accepted source of demographic information for the City of Brea.  Pending the data release of the 2020 Census, several other sources of information were also used to supplement and provide reliable updates of the 2010 information (e.g. State Department of Finance, DataQuick, Center for Demographic Research Orange County Projections, etc.). 
 
Brea’s population growth levels are among the highest in the County, has become more diverse through an increase in Asian and Hispanic population, and has an increasing aging population. All information and data related to income, poverty, special needs, housing conditions, and housing costs are found in Attachment G (pages 3-12 to 3-63 of the HE).

Site Specific Inventory
Each community is required to plan for future housing demand by providing “adequate sites” through its General Plan and zoning.   A component of the HE is the inclusion of a detailed, parcel-specific, housing sites inventory or housing opportunity sites, showing specifically where future housing growth could occur.   For Brea, a key to the analysis was a thorough review completed by City staff of both vacant and under-utilized residentially zoned land, focused opportunity sites in the newer Mixed-Use districts, and projects currently in the entitlement process or approved for residential development.  The analysis fully demonstrates that Brea’s inventory provides the opportunity for 3,373 new units during the 2021-2029 planning period, which would satisfy Brea’s RHNA allocation of 2,365 units (see Appendix D in Attachment G).  Figure 1 depicts the sites identified as part of the analysis.



The 6th Cycle of the HE includes five sites which have been either approved (Central Park Village – 82, Mercury Village – 114) or are currently under review (Brea Mall – 383, Brea 265 – 1,100, Brea Plaza – 189) and 18 sites where development could occur for a total of 23 sites. Of the 5th Cycle’s Focused Development Sites, only Brea Place is currently under development to include up to 653 new units. The housing sites inventory serves as a beneficial tool to share with residential developers seeking to build in Brea.
 
Housing Plan
As proposed, the Housing Plan sets forth Brea’s goals, policies, and programs to address the identified housing needs of the City.  The goals and policies are specifically detailed in Section 5 which first summarizes and evaluates the accomplishments of the last adopted HE and then presents the 2021-2029 Housing Plan (pages 3-132 and 3-133 of Attachment G). 
 
The Housing Plan includes the overarching State requirements and goals divided into five areas:
  • Maintaining Existing Housing Quality and Affordability
    • Goal 1.0 – To maintain and enhance the quality and affordability of existing housing and residential neighborhoods in Brea.
 
  • Provision of New Affordable Housing
    • Goal 2.0 – To assist in the provision of adequate housing to meet the needs of the community.  Establish a balanced approach to meeting housing needs that includes the needs of both renter and owner households.
 
  • Provision of Adequate Housing Sites
    • Goal 3.0 – To provide adequate housing sites through appropriate land use, zoning, and specific plan designations to accommodate the City’s share of regional housing growth needs.
 
  • Removal of Governmental Constraints
    • Goal 4.0 – To reduce potential governmental constraints to housing production and affordability.
 
  • Equal Housing Opportunities and Special Needs
    • Goal 5.0 – To promote equal opportunity for all so residents can reside in the housing of their choice.
 
The Housing Plan includes existing programs as well as several new programs.  Each of the 25 programs is covered in greater detail within pages 3-147 to 3-168 of the HE (Attachment G).  A total of 34 housing policies and 25 housing programs are proposed for the 2021-2029 planning period.  There are minor changes to existing programs with five new policies introduced and six new programs recommended in response to new State law.
 
 
New Policies:
Policy 1.4 Community Building Encourage residential and mixed-use developments that focus on building community, incorporating outdoor features as living space, as well as providing a mix of amenities that benefit the surrounding neighborhood.
Policy 3.4 Housing on Existing Commercial Sites Explore opportunities to integrate housing in underutilized commercial centers, and to reuse excess or obsolete commercial buildings for housing.
Policy 3.5 Accessory Dwelling Units Facilitate the creation of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and junior accessory dwelling units in all residential districts as a means of dispersing small, affordable units throughout the community.
Policy 4.3 Objective Development Standards Establish objective development standards to create greater certainty for developers and streamline the development review and permitting process.
Policy 4.4 Parking Standards Update the City’s parking standards to facilitate compact, well designed mixed use and multi-family development.

 
New Programs (Result of State Law Changes):
Program 6 Density Bonus Incentives Provide density and other incentives and concessions to support production of affordable housing.
Program 7 Affordable Housing Development Assistance and Implementation Guide Provide financial and regulatory incentives to facilitate affordable housing development.
Program 9 Brea Core Plan Provide expanded opportunities for mixed-use and high-density residential development.
Program 13 Objective Development Standards and Implementation Guide Facilitate quality development that can be approved ministerially.
Program 14 Update Parking Standards Implement parking standards that address the contemporary needs of mixed-use, multi-family, and other residential product types.
Program 15 Zoning Text Amendments for Special Needs Housing Facilitate the provision of a variety of housing types to address the diverse needs of residents.
 
At the June 1, 2021 Joint Study Session with the City Council and Planning Commission, Commissioner Sarah Barnes-Ramos requested that any changes incorporated as part of the feedback received during the meeting is red-lined in the Housing Plan. The document with the red-lines is included as Attachment H.
 
DISCUSSION
SAFETY ELEMENT
The SE focuses on understanding the hazards and safety issues that affect the community and ensures public safety concerns are adequately addressed. The quality of life in Brea is directly impacted by the sense of security of its residents and businesses. Addressing and reducing the risks associated with natural and human-induced hazards would further the City’s overall goal to provide a safe and enjoyable environment for its citizens.
 
The SE would meet the requirements of California Government Code Section 65302(g) by setting forth goals and policies to protect and safeguard Brea residents from the following:
  • Wildland and urban fires;  
  • Crime;  
  • Hazardous materials incidents;  
  • Flooding;  
  • Earthquakes;  
  • Exposure to the effects of climate change; and  
  • Exposure to excessive noise levels.
 
Environmental Justice
Per Government Code Section 65302 (h)(1), a local jurisdiction must add an Environmental Justice component to the General Plan upon the revision of two or more elements to the General Plan on or after January 1, 2018. The HE and SE updates triggered this requirement. Updates to the HE and SE would ensure that the incorporation of the Environmental Justice component into the General Plan is consistent with State law. The Environmental Justice component (page 6-8 of Attachment N) seeks to identify objectives and policies to limit the unique or compounded health risks by means that include but are not limited to:
  • The reduction of pollution exposure;  
  • Improvement of air quality;  
  • Promotion of public facilities,  
  • Food access;  
  • Safe and sanitary homes;  
  • Physical activity;  
  • Promote civic engagement in the public decision-making process; and  
  • Prioritize improvements and programs that address the needs of disadvantaged communities.

Senate Bill 1000 (SB 1000) requires cities with identified disadvantaged communities (DACs) to include environmental justice goals and policies in the General Plan. Per SB 1000, the California Environmental Protection Agency uses the California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool (CalEnviroScreen), a mapping tool to identify DACs throughout the state. There are two areas in Brea, shaded in blue, that have been identified as a DAC (Figure 2A). These two areas are part of a census tract shown in red that also includes parts of the city of La Habra (Figure 2B). The CalEnviroScreen identifies DACs by census tract that are disproportionately burdened by and vulnerable to multiple sources of pollution and other hazards. These can lead to negative public health effects, exposure, or environmental degradation. These communities also have concentrations of people that may experience low income, high unemployment, low levels of homeownership, high-rent burden and/or low levels of educational attainment. As mandated under SB 1000, the SE includes policies to address environmental justice through reducing health risks to DACs, promoting civil engagement, and prioritizing the needs of these communities.

Goals and Policies
The SE addresses the following key issues related to safety and establishes goals and policies to regulate existing and proposed development in hazard-prone areas:

  • Emergency Services and Safety: The public safety goals and policies reflect Brea’s emphasis on preventing public safety problems rather than reacting to them. Brea aims to build on its proven safety record by fostering safer neighborhoods through demand-responsive police and fire services, active enforcement, community involvement, and continued proactive public safety planning.
o Goal 1.0 – Provide the highest quality public safety services to the Brea community.

o Goal 2.0 – Protect all persons and property from criminal activity through appropriate physical design.

o Goal 3.0 – Provide safe pedestrian environments citywide.

 

  • Hazards Management: Understanding the potential threat of hazards and creating safeguards to prevent accidents would ensure a level of safety for Brea residents and the community at large. The following goals and policies express the importance of working with and supporting other agencies that monitor and regulate hazardous waste and oil operations.

o Goal 4 – Protect the community from the hazards associated with the transportation, use, and storage of hazardous materials in the urban environment.

o Goal 5 – Minimize the public’s exposure to potential hazards associated with existing and abandoned oil facilities.

 

  • Wildland Fires: New development would create increased fire hazards due to higher levels of interactions between open grassland and residential development. The City would continue to reduce the potential for dangerous fires through fire hazard education, fire protection, and fuel modification programs. Development proposals within high fire areas would be required to provide appropriate and adequate safeguards and response capabilities to prevent the loss of structures and to ensure established development does not experience reduced service. This includes attention to emergency preparedness, evacuation routes, and home safety.

o Goal 6 – Protect the community from wildland fires.
 

  • Flood Concerns: Brea would strive to protect residents and the community at large from flood hazards. 

o Goal 7 – Reduce the risk to the community from flooding hazards.

 

  • Geologic and Seismic Considerations: In Brea, hillside development is tricky, given the constraints posed by local geology. Land use policies set forth in the Community Development chapter identify the City’s approach to allowing development in areas with challenging terrain and geologic conditions, policies that balance the need to protect life and property with the goal of providing new housing opportunities. In all cases, development can only occur where living conditions can be made safe. The combination of sound planning practices and continued education of residents would minimize risks to the community from seismic and geologic hazards, and would protect the health, safety, and welfare of Brea residents. 

o Goal 8 – Reduce the risk to the community from seismic activity and geologic conditions, including ground shaking, fault rupture, liquefaction, and landslides.

 

Noise: Certain areas of Brea are subject to high levels of noise. This in turn can reduce the quality of life within these neighborhoods. Consideration of noise sources in the planning process and identification of who that noise impacts is an effective method of minimizing the impacts of noise on residents. Areas already impacted by noise can explore different noise attenuation and rehabilitative improvements.

o Goal 9 – Minimize the impact of point source noise and ambient noise levels throughout the community.

o Goal 10 – Minimize the impacts of transportation-related noise.

o Goal 11 – Minimize noise impacts from sources other than transportation.

 



Community input is an important component of any General Plan update.   In an effort to have an extensive and robust outreach experience during the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure compliance with State and County health orders, staff utilized new tools and sought out different activities to reach out to the community. A summary of the efforts is listed below and a full report along with survey results are contained in Appendix E of the HE (Attachment G). 

  • A HE 101 study session with the Planning Commission in September 2020;  
  • A joint HE 101 study session with the City Council and Planning Commission in November 2020;  
  • A stakeholder workshop with 15 participants in attendance in February 2021;  
  • A community-wide workshop with 34 participants in attendance in March 2021;  
  • A housing survey both electronic and printed with 125 submissions;  
  • Received over 90 Build Your Dream Home Challenge submissions (Figure 3);  
  • Distributed over 100 building block goodie bags to students as part of the Build Your Dream Home Challenge (Figure 4 and 5);  
  • Printed ads sent in the water bill, BreaLine, and on BreaTV;  
  • Regular announcements on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter;  
  • Educational and informational videos in multiple languages;  
  • Ads at bus shelters and the downtown kiosks; and  
  • A dedicated community engagement project website called ShapeBrea.net;




With Council’s recommendation, engagement efforts brought back the Brea Envisions steering committee members to participate in a focus group for the design of the new engagement tool, ShapeBrea.net. Their feedback helped to create a more user-friendly and comprehensive tool. To date, over 2,000 users are registered on the tool with over 200 signing in to receive updates on the Projects. Staff also made a concerted effort to provide printed resources to participants at the Senior Center and collaborated with the Brea Olinda Unified School District and Community Center to get the students involved in the Build Your Dream Home Challenge. Moreover, engagement efforts reached over 4,500 followers on Facebook; 1,200 subscribers on Instagram; 8,500 followers on Twitter; and 1,200 subscribers on Brea Line.
 
The feedback received from all of these efforts are compiled and taken into consideration when drafting the HE. In addition to the feedback received on the various platforms previously mentioned, the City received five comment letters regarding the HE. They are included in the packet as Attachment E. Furthermore, on June 4, 2021, requests for tribal consultations were sent to tribes within the area, pursuant to SB 18. Each tribe was given 90 days to request a consultation. Letters were received from the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians. Both tribes replied and confirmed the location identified within the project is not located within the respective tribe’s Traditional Use Area or Area of Historic Interest. Their letters are included as Attachment F.

PUBLIC AGENCY REVIEW
Housing Element
The State Legislature has delegated to HCD the authority to review and issue findings regarding the HE’s compliance with the law. Cities are required to submit the draft HE to HCD for review and must address any comments from HCD prior to final adoption. Staff received HCD’s comment letter on August 16, 2021 and it is included in this packet as Attachment I. Following recommendation for adoption from the Planning Commission and adoption from the City Council, staff would submit the final HE to HCD for certification by the October 15, 2021 deadline. When HCD issues a letter finding that the HE is in substantial compliance with State law it is referred to as “certification” of the HE. 

Safety Element
Staff received CAL FIRE’s Assessment letter on August 17, 2021 and it is included in this packet as Attachment O. Staff and CAL FIRE will meet to review the assessment letter and the most recent SE (Attachment N). Following the meeting, the SE would be submitted to the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection for adoption. Approval by the Board would bring the SE into conformance with State of California requirements.

CONCLUSION
Following public agency reviews and the Planning Commission public hearing, the Projects would go to the City Council as a public hearing item. City Council’s approval of the HE and SE and the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection’s approval of the SE would bring both the HE and SE into State compliance. 

PUBLIC NOTICE 
The projects were noticed in accordance with the City’s public noticing requirements and were published in The Orange County Register. The public hearing notice for the HE is provided as Attachment B and for the SE as Attachment K of this report. 

ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT
Statutory exemption No. 15282(s) deems a project exempt from CEQA review if it is an action necessary to bring a general plan or relevant mandatory element of the general plan into compliance pursuant to a court order as set forth in Section 65759 of the Government Code. The adoption of the revised Housing Element and Safety Element are state-mandated updates that qualify for this exemption. 

The adoption of the Housing Element and Safety Element are exempt under Section 15061 as it can be seen with certainty that there is no possibility that the adoption of the Housing Element and Safety Element may have a significant effect on the environment since no physical development is proposed at this time. All future development will be subject to CEQA review
RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED
Jason Killebrew, City Planner
Prepared by: Linda Sok Tang and Sergio Heredia-Melchor
Management Analyst II and Administrative Clerk II

ATTACHMENTS
Housing Element: A- I
Safety Element: J-O
  
Attachments
A. Draft Planning Commission Resolution
B. Public Hearing Notice
C. Notice of Exemption
D. Draft Resolution
E. Public Comment Letters
F. Tribal Responses
G. 6th Cycle Housing Element 2021-2029
H. Housing Plan Redline
I. HCD Comment Letter (August 16, 2021)
J. Draft Resolution
K. Public Hearing Notice
L. Notice of Exemption
M. Draft Resolution No. 2021-XX
N. Safety Element (August 17, 2021)
O. CAL FIRE Assessment Letter (August 17, 2021)

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