TURLOCK — The unrealistic that way the state requires Stanislaus County cities to plan for growth is causing land to be annexed too soon and triggering costly lawsuits, Turlocks city manager told a gathering of regional officials Friday.
Roy Wasden said Californias growth regulations need to change because the state consistently overestimates demand for housing.
Turlock likely will be forced to do annexations way in advance of when we planned to, said Wasden, citing requirements for cities to plan for growth based on state projections rather than local knowledge about the community.
If Turlock doesnt annex more land for new subdivisions, Wasden said, opportunistic attorneys will claim the city is out of compliance with state housing laws and we wont be able to withstand those lawsuits.
The problem is that state projections for housing demand are consistently far above reality, Wasden told the board of directors for the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley. Those directors met in Turlock, and housing mandates were among the topics they discussed.
Wasden noted that during Stanislaus Countys 2001 to 2008 building boom, nearly 25,000 new housing units were created. That was among the biggest growth spurts in Stanislaus history, but state officials had projected more than 35,000 new houses would be needed during those seven years, and they required cities to plan accordingly.
It was the greatest boom cycle ever, and we still came up one-third short of what the state projected, noted Stanislaus County Supervisor Vito Chiesa, who is on the San Joaquin Valley partnership board.
Even after Stanislaus housing market crashed in 2007 leaving thousands of vacant houses throughout the county the state continued to project demand for more new houses. The so-called regional housing needs allocation required Stanislaus to plan for the building of an additional 25,000-plus housing units from 2007 to 2014. Only a few thousand new houses have materialized.
Now the state again is projecting a big demand for additional housing in Stanislaus.
State officials initially wanted the county to plan for 35,341 more houses during the next 10 years, but Stanislaus cities balked at that number. The county expects to need about half as many new houses and apartments, and has convinced the state to lower its housing demand projection to 21,330.
Wasden thinks county officials not state bureaucrats should be deciding how many houses will be needed.
The states overly high numbers create a tremendous burden for our communities, Wasden explained. He said it is expensive for cities to reserve that much land for housing, just to satisfy state projections that have consistently been wrong in the past. But if we do not have a compliant housing element (in our general plans), that pretty much guarantees were going to be sued.
The state has a different perspective.
Glen Campora, assistant deputy director at the state Department of Housing and Community Development, said his agencys housing demand projections are based on population growth estimates.
Campora said city officials often are pressured by residents who do not want more houses built in their towns or who oppose apartments or other high-density developments.
But he said theres a need for fair-share housing to create enough supply to meet demand in every community, so the state uses demographic data and population projections to estimate how many new housing units each county should plan on. Campora said that even though the recent recession constrained the housing market, demand is marching on and growth must be planned.
But that doesnt mean the state wants Turlock to annex more territory. Campora said the state wants Valley cities to grow inward and upward, but not outward to avoid sprawl.
Campora does not see the harm in planning for growth that doesnt materialize. He said if the projected homes end up not being built, then the space planned for housing can be saved to use for future demand.
Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2196.