Letter: Prioritize Affordable Housing

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I am very concerned about the lack of housing for working people and artists in Laguna Beach.  There has been no affordable housing construction in Laguna Beach since 2006. The law SB 35 Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) identified a shortage of up to 1,400 units of low-income housing in our community. Knowing this why would our city even consider spending  $25 million on a structure to park cars? This money would be better used to maintain the village-like character of Laguna and provide affordable housing.

Rising rents are pushing low and moderate people out of our city.  As a friend recently told  me “I’ve lived in Laguna Beach for 30 years.  It was always a great city but now it is becoming a place for the rich. We used to have places where artists could afford to live. But those are all gone. We need to preserve the diversity.”

The Affordable Housing Task Force explored various funding sources and proposed eight proposed sites for new affordable housing units.

So far nothing has been built.

Another possibility for providing housing for low-income families is to promote auxiliary dwelling units [ADU’s], attached or detached residential dwelling units which provide complete independent living facilities for one or more persons. ADUs are one option to increase the stock of “within-reach rental units”.

ADU’s can also be part of a homeowner’s financial security or aging-at-home plan. In addition to adding to the city’s housing stock and a source of additional income, they provide homeowners with a way to downsize and stay in their own home. At the beginning of 2020 new laws came into effect that prohibit city zoning ordinances from requiring a minimum lot size or “unreasonably” restricting the construction of an ADU on any lot zoned for single-family residential use. The city could do more to promote ADUs.

Rather than spend money on a parking garage the city might consider the construction of one or more multi-unit buildings for rental to artists, teachers and other essential members of our community.  These could be sited on public or acquired lands financed by a bond.

Laguna Beach will lose its attractiveness as well as its heart and soul, if the artists and craftspeople who have made the town what it is today and whose festivals provide so much income to the city and its businesses are forced to leave.

We need to elect members to the city council supported by Village Laguna or others who will support housing for a diverse community, rather than for a place to park cars.

Robert Girling, Laguna Beach

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