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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is a Housing Element?

The County is currently working on an update to its Housing Element for the 2022-2030 planning period. The purpose of the housing element is to identify and analyze existing and projected housing needs in order to preserve, improve, and develop housing for all economic segments of the community. The Housing Element consists of two parts: a Background Report and Policy Document. The Background Report identifies the nature and extent of housing needs in the county, analyzes constraints to housing, and provides an inventory of sites available for residential use. The Background Report provides the basis for the County’s response to those needs in the Policy Document. The Policy Document includes goals, policies, and programs that will guide the County’s housing efforts through 2030.

What is Included in the Housing Element?

Housing Elements are typically organized into the following parts:

  • Housing Needs Analysis
  • Analysis of Constraints to Housing Production
  • Inventory of Sites Suitable for Residential Development
  • Policy and Implementation Program

As a part of updating the Housing Element, the County will reorganize or add new sections to emphasize pertinent planning issues and respond to new State laws that have been passed since the current Housing Element was adopted. Following the adoption of the Housing Element, the Housing Element Team will:

  • implement of one or more of the Housing Element programs,
  • create objective residential design standards to reduce costs and permit processing times for developers, and,
  • draft amendments to the zoning ordinance for consistency with the new Housing Element.
Why Update the Housing Element?

Since 1969, California has required that all cities and counties plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community. California’s local governments meet this requirement by adopting housing elements as part of their “general plan” (also required by the State). General plans serve as the local government’s "blueprint" for how the city and/or county will grow and develop and include eight required elements: land use, transportation, conservation, noise, open space, safety, environmental justice, and housing (a ninth element, air quality, is required for cities and counties in the San Joaquin Valley). The law mandating that housing be included as an element of each jurisdiction’s general plan is known as “housing element law.”

California’s housing element law acknowledges that, 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 upon the effective implementation of local general plans and, in particular, local housing elements.

Who Is Preparing The Housing Element Update?

The Housing Element Update is being prepared by County staff with direction from the Board of Supervisors and input from the Planning Commission and the community. The development of the Housing Element is being led by County staff from the Planning Department. To assist in the preparation of the Update, the County has also hired a team of planning specialists that include community planners and technical specialists:

  • Mintier Harnish (lead consultant)
  • Planwest Partners (housing and environmental subconsultant)
  • Stover Engineering (engineering subconsultant)
Who Oversees the Housing Element Process?

The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) plays the critical role of reviewing every local government’s housing element to determine whether it complies with State law and then submits written findings back to each local government. HCD must certify the housing element before the County can adopt it as part of the General Plan. HCD review is scheduled to take place in May 2022.

What is the RHNA?

Each jurisdiction in California is required to plan for its fair share of the region’s housing need. This fair share is determined through a process called the Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA). HCD identifies the total housing need for each region of the State. In Del Norte County, HCD is responsible for distributing this need between the Crescent City and the County.

Once a local government has received its RHNA, it must revise its housing element to show how it plans to accommodate its portion of the region’s housing need. The Draft Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) Methodology was issued to the County on May 7, 2021. The Final RHNA will be issued by HCD on September 15, 2021.

What are Objective Residential Design Standards?

In recent years, the State legislature has taken a number of measures to increase residential development, specifically multi-family residential, and reduce obstacles to housing production. In this effort, State legislation (SB 35, SB 167, AB 678, AB 1515) has made it more difficult for jurisdictions in California to deny a multi-family housing project or decrease density of a proposed multi-family development unless the application fails to meet clear and objective standards defined within the General Plan, Zoning Code, Specific Plan, or adopted design manual.

As a result of recent changes in State law, multi-family residential projects that meet certain State-mandated requirements (including providing affordable housing units) are not subject to discretionary review by a Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors and may not require community input. These projects will proceed straight to building permit. The objective residential design standards will ensure that these projects meet the County’s expectations for siting and architectural design. Project applicants who do not want to adhere to the adopted Objective residential Design Standards can still proceed but will be required to go through the County’s existing design and discretionary review process.

What’s the Difference between a Design Guideline and an Objective Standard?

SB 35 defines an "objective" standard as one that involves "no personal or subjective judgment by a public official,” and is, “uniformly verifiable by reference to an external and uniform benchmark or criterion available and knowable by both the development applicant… and the public official prior to submittal."

Subjective Guideline:

 X            Parking lots should be generously landscaped with shade trees.

Objective Standard:

✔        Parking lots shall be landscaped with shade trees at a ratio of one tree for every six parking stalls. All pedestrian pathways within and connecting to parking areas shall also be landscaped with shade trees at intervals of a maximum of 30 feet.

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2022-2030 Housing Element

Del Norte County
Community Development Department
981 H Street, Suite 110
Crescent City, CA 95531

Contact:

Heidi Kunstal, Director
707-464-7254
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