SELMA – Mayor Scott Robertson reported he was called to Long Beach by California Governor Gavin Newsom this week as Selma is one of 47 cities in the state whose housing plans are considered out of compliance with Assembly Bill 72.
In order to avoid a lawsuit from the State Attorney General’s Office, Robertson said it’s imperative the plan be updated. Noncompliance jeopardizes Selma’s chances to be in line for state funds for transportation and planning projects.
“The City must change the existing zoning to high-density residential for at least 8.5 acres, or 169 units. The City, after several warnings, failed to do this and now the Department of Housing and Community Development has put the city in noncompliance status,” he said. “There was a shortfall of units that was never corrected.”
He attended the City Council’s Feb. 19 meeting via teleconferencing as he was still out of town attending to the matter.
In other matters, the Council also approved new rules regarding granny flats, welcomed a new Recreation Department employee, honored a citizen who’s reached her 100th year and approved extending its contract with a grant-writing firm.
Assembly Bill 72 was passed in September 2017 and requires cities and counties to adopt a comprehensive, long-term general plan for its physical development and of any land outside its boundaries that bears relation to its planning.
Robertson said the city’s current housing plan adopted in 2016 is compliant; however it’s the regional housing needs allocation from 2007 that needs to be revamped.
He was notified just this past week and said he felt obligated to attend the Governor’s meeting to keep the City from legal action similar to what the City of Huntington Beach is currently facing.
“The Governor sat at a round table with us and said how he’d been the mayor of San Francisco and knew what we were going through, but he was adamant. He said, ‘get your housing element in compliance or the state’s going to take legal action.’”
Robertson said he has since met with Department of Housing and Community Development officials who shared the exact steps needed to return Selma to compliance and that the City “is not in line to be referred to the Attorney General at this time.”
Robertson said noncompliance has penalties of losing out on Senate Bill 1 transportation and planning funds so he’s eager to see the general plan updated.
“SB 1 transportation and SB 1 planning grants would help us with our zoning and ordinances we all want to change and our general plan update, which we really need. [It’s] crucial for our roads. We really need action on this and to be compliant on this.”
City Manager Teresa Gallavan said city managers across the state also had chance to give the League of California Cities CEO Carolyn Coleman input on the matter.
At the League’s recent annual city managers’ meeting, Coleman asked about each city and the factors that lead to noncompliance.
“While they were all a little bit different, there were some common messages about the lack of resources in planning. That was a common element, about half the room raised their hand when she asked about that,” Gallavan said. “Another is one size does not fit all when it comes to housing in different markets.”
Gallavan said Coleman’s plan was to meet with Gov. Newsom this week and convey the group’s message “as we all work through this.”
The issue will return to a future Council meeting.
Accessory Dwelling Units
Gallavan said even though the State allows homeowners to build accessory dwelling units, or ADUs commonly called granny flats, on their property, Selma doesn’t have any rules about them for code enforcement or the public to use as guidance.
The city’s planning consultant David Duda said each city needed to thus add details such as how far back and how large the units could be built.
Some of the rules Council approved that night include:
- A garage may be converted to an ADU, but they may not be built above a garage.
- The structure can be attached to, or detached from, the main residence.
- The structure must be one story, one bedroom and a maximum of 1,200 square feet, or half of the primary residence.
- Only one ADU is allowed per parcel.
- The property owner must occupy either the main house or the ADU.
- The structure must be built to match the main residence with similar roofing material, similar roof pitch and matching façade.
Councilmember John Trujillo previously sat on the Planning Commission and recalls when they discussed how residents would need to abide by these new laws if they built an additional unit on their property.
“We’re putting some teeth into it,” he said.
City attorney Bianca Sparks Rojas added that passing this new law would provide consistency in neighborhoods, prevent overcrowding and keep landowners accountable.
“Requiring owners to live in one of the units prevents developers from just buying up properties, building second units and being absentee landowners. We’re doing what many cities have done across California and we’re trying to put some teeth in the ordinance so people can’t just build willy-nilly.”
Grant writers contract
In other matters, the Council approved extending its contract with Townsend Public Affairs for four more months by a three-two vote with Trujillo and Louis Franco dissenting. Their fee is $3,500 per month. The contract started in March 2018 for one year and was extended to June 30.
Gallavan said since Townsend first started worked with the City, they’ve acquired $211,214 for Selma.
“They’ve also assisted the City with seven grants, all of which are pending. Four of those amount to $2.6 million,” she said.
Richard Harmon, a Townsend senior director, said right now they’re pursuing multiple grants for bike trails, storm water recharge basins, traffic signalization, Rockwell Pond funding, firefighter equipment grants, green infrastructure, housing development streamlining and carbon-reducing programs such as affordable housing, fleet modernization and urban greening. The firm has secured $195,265 from the Tobacco Law Enforcement Grant Program for officer training, sting operations and education to stop the sale of tobacco products to youth. They’ve also secured $15,949 in a Department of Justice program to help pay for additional equipment and hours.
Recreation Director Mikal Kirchner introduced his new staff member, Recreation Coordinator Liz Martinez, saying he’s glad to have full-time help.
Martinez graduated Selma High, and is currently finishing her bachelor’s in recreation administration at California State University, Fresno. She’s been a member of the California Parks and Recreation Society for the past four years and was active at CSUF’s program. She’s worked for the City of Kingsburg and Fresno. She’ll run the Senior Center, assist with the recreation department and youth services.
“This is exciting. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a full-time person. We hope to see some expansions of our programs,” Kirchner said.
Martinez said she’s excited to work in her hometown.
“I hope to make some good changes, for the Senior Center especially,” she said. “Whatever I can do to help Mikal, that’s my goal. I’m excited to be here and get to work.”
Selma citizens who are 100 years old or better are being recognized by the Council as members of the City’s Century Club. The first inductee was Barbara Duncan. A perpetual plaque will be placed at the Nick Medina Senior Center and additional names will be added in the future.
Mayor Pro Tem Louis Franco said it’s a city’s citizens that make it special and thanked Duncan for contributing to Selma.
“To have someone spend such a wonderful, blessed life and to witness this is a benefit to our community,” he said.
“Thank you all for the recognition,” Duncan said.