By Elizabeth Patterson and Steve Goetz, January 19, 2023
Please attend the City Council public hearing on the Housing Element scheduled for 6:00 pm on January 24, in-person or via Zoom. You don’t have to say anything, just show your support for those who do say something
- Adopt the Environmentally Superior alternative project
- By adopting the Environmentally Superior Alternative (ESA), the historic districts and places are removed thus no significant impact to cultural resources
- Housing Element with this ESA still has more than 15% buffer as “insurance” for parcels that may not be developed at designated densities and affordability
- Remove Park Rd and Jefferson Ridge as “opportunity sites” because city has already approved development
- Reduce impacts to aesthetic resources, energy, geology and soils, greenhouse gas emissions, hazards and hazardous material, hydrology and quarter quality, public services, population and housing, and transportation by adopting the ESA.
- Avoid potential threats to the viability of our heavy industry while also avoiding threatening public health and safety.
- After adoption of Environmentally Superior alternative initiate planning for community goals for East side where most of the high density and affordability parcels are identified.
- After adoption consider planning tools to achieve density and affordability, e.g. minimum affordability requirement range between 20 and 25%; required density for designated parcels.
- Avoid losing additional land use control in the next update of the housing element (2031) through “by right development” if city does not adopt planning measures to meet state housing requirements
The following letter is from Steve Goetz
Next Tuesday (January 24) the City Council will consider changing the Benicia General Plan to accommodate over 250% of Benicia’s share of the region’s housing need. Specifically, the Council will consider adopting a Housing Element to the General Plan that will accommodate 1,174 units above the 750 units mandated by the state for Benicia by 2031.
We need housing so why would providing more housing than what the state requires be a problem? A review of the information developed for the Housing Element shows this level of rezoning will significantly damage the character of Benicia’s two historic districts and historic cemetery disproportionately burden the East Side compared to other areas of the city, and concentrate new lower-income housing next to heavy industry. In other words, the City is proposing an effort in gross excess of what is required or suitable for the intended purpose, meeting the definition of the word “overkill”.
The City’s own Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Housing Element says that the close proximity of the proposed housing sites to historic buildings will substantially damage the significance of these historic districts. The EIR says we can protect these historic districts and meet Benicia’s share of the regional housing need by removing the 17 housing sites proposed in these historic districts.
The EIR concluded that the project alternative to remove proposed housing from the historic districts is “environmentally superior”, meaning it not only eliminates damage to Benicia’s historic districts, it also reduces impacts to aesthetic resources, energy, geology and soils, greenhouse gas emissions, hazards and hazardous material, hydrology and quarter quality, public services, population and housing, and transportation when compared to the proposed project (i.e. Housing Element). Most importantly, the EIR finds that this environmentally superior alternative would accommodate Benicia’s share of the regional housing need.
The second problem with proposing an excessive amount of housing is that over 70% of the total amount of housing proposed in the lower income categories is located in the East Side. This proposal is clearly against the General Plan policy that requires dispersal of this housing across the city.
Finally, this Housing Element shows that this concentration of lower income housing is in the most environmentally challenged area of Benicia. There is a reason why there are some undeveloped sites in the East Side. These sites happen to be near heavy industry. We have located heavy industry away from housing so it can contribute to our economy without being a nuisance and without endangering public health. This Housing Element threatens the viability of our heavy industry while also threatening public health and safety.
Last week’s staff report to the Planning Commission on the Housing Element explained that these disproportionate impacts to the East Side are a result of the City Council’s direction. In other words, the City Council is choosing to propose 2.5 times the amount of housing needed for the region to the detriment of our historic districts, the East Side, our heavy industry, and public health and safety.
One commenter at last week’s Planning Commission hearing on the Housing Element said most public comments were only looking at how the Housing Element was affecting them and not how it could benefit those who need housing and want to live in Benicia. The comments in support of our historic districts, heavy industry, and public health were not generated by concern about how the Housing Element would affect them, but how it would affect Benicia’s future and the type of community we hand down to future generations.
We look to our City Council to address city needs in a way that balances benefits of a proposed action against the disadvantages and how it supports the city’s overall goals. The Housing Element is not balanced, but is overkill, representing new housing any cost. A balanced approach to meeting our state obligation for new housing is the EIR’s environmentally superior alternative, which satisfies our housing priorities while also serving other city priorities.
>> Please attend the City Council public hearing on the Housing Element scheduled for 6:00 pm on January 24, in-person or via Zoom. You don’t have to say anything, just show your support for those who do say something. You can also call your City Council at 707-746-4213 now and leave a message. Write to our Council members: