OCEANSIDE — The Oceanside City Council has once again changed course on inclusionary housing rates, which will now require developers to include at least 15% affordable housing in projects citywide or pay an in-lieu fee to the city.
The change happened during the council’s Dec. 20 meeting, as the body prepared to adopt a previously approved ordinance previously approved at a Dec. 6 meeting that would maintain the current 10% inclusionary housing rate throughout the city, with an increase of 20% in Smart and Sustainable Corridors Plan areas along Mission Avenue, Oceanside Boulevard and Vista Way.
The idea to raise the current inclusionary housing rate from 10% to 15% stemmed from a housing workshop last summer, during which dozens of community members asked for more affordable housing.
Many asked for a 20% citywide rate, but the council appeared to settle on 15% affordability in multifamily and mixed-use projects and 10% in single-family neighborhoods. The council then changed the proposed affordability rate to 10% citywide and 20% along smart and sustainable corridors.
Now, the city is expected to establish a 15% citywide inclusionary housing rate.
Councilmember Eric Joyce, who has supported raising the inclusionary housing rate from the beginning, said he worried the Dec. 6 change would have impacted the city’s Smart and Sustainable Corridors Plan. He also pointed out that raising the rate to 15% was a “modest step” that wouldn’t call for review from the California Department of Housing and Community Development.
“It’s not going to hurt our stock of housing or the development of housing,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Ryan Keim, who does not support a blanket 15% citywide and was the sole Dec. 20 vote against the change, explained that density needs to be in the right places throughout the city, like the smart and sustainable corridors, which are designed to handle more density around areas with more access to public transportation.
Keim recalled how many locals had grown frustrated with proposals for higher-density projects crammed into smaller single-family neighborhoods over the last few years.
“I thought those were thoughtful changes,” Keim said.
Councilmember Peter Weiss, who had suggested limiting the 20% to the smart and sustainable corridors earlier in December, said he hoped the rest of the council would “stand firm” against residents frustrated by future density bonus projects.
Mayor Esther Sanchez believed it was a mistake to only raise the inclusionary housing rate to 20% in the unfinished Smart and Sustainable Corridors Plan.
“We go to 20% in some future corridor definition that we can’t say what it’s really going to be,” Sanchez said. “It’s probably going to change several times before we get there.”
Several residents also spoke in favor of raising the inclusionary housing rate to 15% citywide. Some questioned the reason for wanting to put more affordable housing in certain areas of the city only, suggesting the move would segregate lower-income households from higher-income earners.
Oceanside resident and longtime community advocate Diane Nygaard wrote an email chastising the City Council for first changing its inclusionary housing plan earlier in December. She approved of the most recent switch back to 15% citywide.
“Our City Council seems to be getting back on track with increasing the amount of critically needed affordable housing in our community,” Nygaard said via email. “Fortunately, they backtracked from the previous misguided idea from Councilmember Weiss to limit this to smart growth corridors. That could have been a disincentive to smart growth and could have moved us backwards.”
While Nygaard said the last vote was a “step in the right direction,” the Oceanside senior volunteer remains concerned about future council decisions regarding affordable housing and density.
“They still seem confused about the interface between affordable housing and increasing density,” Nygaard said. “State law basically allows density bonus increases everywhere. That is the opposite of smart growth. It is up to our council to work within the limits of state law while still doing what is best for our community.”