Sonoma County introduced the second set of housing initiatives to the Planning Commission on August 23, 2018. These incentives include changes to create and expand opportunities for housing development in Sonoma County. The proposed changes included: allowing higher densities near jobs and transit, provide cottages in low density districts, new density units concept (Density Unit Equivalent), and codifying existing condominium conversion policy and providing protections for existing tenants.
Proposed Workforce Housing Combining Zone:
The Workforce Housing Combining Zone changes intend to create and increase housing opportunities for local workforce in areas that are close to employment and transit. This will be applied to properties within 3,000 feet of a public transportation center or employment area. These properties must have at least three acres of commercial zoning or ten acres of industrial zoning.
The Workforce Housing Combining Zone will allow for an increase in density, up to 16 to 24 dwelling units per acre. Density will be calculated using the density unit equivalent. This means that smaller units will be counted as a fraction of a unit, which will allow for more smaller units to be constructed in the same building footprint as one larger unit.
All new developments in the Workforce Housing Combining Zone will be incentivized to provide the smaller units, which are considered fractional units. The County will also require a minimum of 15 percent of the units to be micro-apartments, which are classified as being less than 500 sf in size.
Proposed Changes to High-Density Residential (R3) Development Standards:
The County of Sonoma permit and resource management department staff proposed use of a Density Unit Equivalent concept. This proposed concept will promote the development of Micro-apartments by allowing them to be considered fraction of units. This would cause Micro-apartments or Studios to be considered 0.33 density unit. This concept will be applied to urban zoning districts like Affordable Housing (AH) or Workforce Housing (WH) Combining Zone. The Equivalent concept would encourage smaller rental housing units. The changes to the multifamily development standards will cause the standards to become more objective.
Proposed Changes to Cottage Housing Development Ordinance:
The Proposed Cottage Housing Ordinance will create more units in low and medium density residential zoning districts. The minimum parcel size to be considered for cottage housing projects is 8,000 square feet. There will need to be one reserve parking space designated for each of the cottage developments. The allowed density of cottages on a parcel is one cottage per 2,500 square feet. This density measure applies to both attached and detached cottage units. This proposed ordinance should lead to more affordable housing in low density districts to aid with the housing shortage.
Proposed Changes to Mobile Home Park and Condominium Conversion Standards:
The proposed changes to the Mobile Home Park and Condominium Conversion Standards will provide an improved protection for renters in these locations. Some of the changes would require consistency with the General Plan and replacement rental housing in another mobile home park. Condominium conversions proposed additions to the Sonoma County Code, would require 30 percent of the proposed units to be offered as low-income housing units. Also, long term leases shall be provided for tenants over the age of 60 years and for a condominium conversion to be approved only if, the vacancy exceeds 5 percent in the units.
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We will keep you updated to any approved changes. Keep an eye out for the next Housing Initiatives Blog!
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