Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Affordable Housing For All in Gilroy Part 2

Since I wrote the first blog on affordable housing in August 2020, Gilroy has made strides to plan and promote affordable housing. We have developed interim objective design standards with the full document to be approved later this year in compliance with SB 330, you can build an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) on any residential property in the city, staff's work plan includes developing an inclusionary housing ordinance, and staff will begin working on the next Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) cycle for 2023-2031. That process will require us to look at some modest re-zoning of our General Plan 2040 in order to accommodate the affordable housing that is needed for the future. This next RHNA cycle is going to take some creativity on housing production, and that includes small projects to big ones. We can't grow when a majority of our land is zoned for single family homes. It has already been mentioned in meetings that we need to look at missing middle housing (duplexes, triplexes, and four-plexes).

With the recent adoption of our City’s General Plan 2040, we as a community called for bold actions that include providing high density housing options, affordable housing for all, and continuing to promote cleaner modes of transportation. We encourage existing and proposed development to incorporate Transportation Demand Management (TDM) measures such as car-sharing, transit passes, and unbundling of parking (requiring separate purchase or lease of a parking space) where such measures will result in a reduction in vehicle miles traveled, reduction of required amount of parking or an increase in the use of alternate transportation modes.

The City Council has made a bold statement in our strategic goals that we are committed to safe and affordable housing for all Gilroy residents and followed that up with a multi-year contract with HouseKeys to manage our below market rate housing units. HouseKeys will play a key role in advising city hall on programs and policies that we can implement to further strengthen our below market housing portfolio.

California has a statewide housing shortage of nearly 3.5 million homes. Low and middle-income households face historic rent burden in California, and the problem worsens by the day as middle-income households move into naturally affordable housing previously occupied by low-income renters forcing these households to move further away from their jobs, and in some cases, onto the streets. Undersupply of “Missing Middle” housing, or medium density housing near jobs and transit, is one of the key factors contributing to the displacement and rent burden of Californians across the state. This sort of housing is banned in over 70 percent of the state. In Gilroy we have 75.3% of our land zoned for single family homes, 10.2% were small multifamily (2-4 units), and 12.6% were medium or large multifamily (5+ units). 

According to recent data provided by ABAG, 59.1% of Gilroy’s population in 2020 was Latinx, 28.0% was White, 9.1% was Asian, and 1.1% was African American. In Gilroy, 21.0% of households are considered extremely low-income, making less than 30% of AMI. Furthermore, 24.3% of Gilroy households are large households with five or more people, with 20.0% of large family households experiencing a cost burden of 30%-50%, and 16.9% of households spending more than half of their income on housing. Some 20.1% of all other households have a cost burden of 30%-50%, with 21.1% of households spending more than 50% of their income on housing.

As we prepare for the next Housing Element we will need to examine the ways at which the 75.3% zoning can be the limiting factor as we work towards affordability, equity, and not continue to have communities that are segregated based on incomes and race.

Duplexes and other modest affordable “Missing Middle” housing types in places that currently exclude them would help our residents who need more affordable homes. City of Gilroy has many examples of properties where we used to do this decades ago before a majority of our city became zoned for single family homes. The four-flex above is located at 7680 Carmel St. Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) are allowed by right throughout the state now and that includes properties in home owner associations.  

Valley Transportation Agency (VTA) has hosted three community meetings regarding their Transit Oriented Development (TOD) project in Downtown Gilroy. Projects that are transit-oriented allow people to live and work near public transportation, which helps clear the air, ease traffic, and adds infrastructure investments to the community. We are creating more walkable/bikeable places to live that don't require you to own a car, and providing much needed housing for our graduating high school seniors, teachers, city employees other than managers/directors, and college grads to come home to. According to a timeline presented at the meeting, the VTA Board could choose a developer for the project by the end of this year, with design work continuing into 2024. Construction could begin by mid-2024 and end in 2026.

In 2021, the Area Median Income (AMI) for a four-person household in for Santa Clara County, as defined by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) was $151,300. Based on this, the following are the income limits for the various affordable housing categories (family of four): 
• Extremely Low Income (ELI) 0–30% AMI – $49,700 
• Very Low Income (VLI) 31–50% AMI –$82,850
• Low Income (LI) 51–80% AMI – $117,750
• Moderate Income 81–120% AMI - $181,550 
• Above Moderate- Above 120% AMI 

Below is an updated chart that shows our progress as of April 1, 2020 to meet our RHNA numbers. You can see that we are unbalanced in our categories. At the June 21, 2021 City Council meeting, we decided to not appeal our 2023-2031 RHNA allocation. 

Friday, August 7, 2020

Affordable Housing For All in Gilroy

We are in a housing crisis and the dream of owning a home is not a realistic opportunity for everyone. We need to continue to promote all options for housing solutions that benefit everyone. Gilroy must continue to promote the development of more affordable housing for all income levels while looking at creative polices that we can control to make them more livable, bikeable, and walkable. State standards like SB 330 and SB 35 that streamline housing by requiring City’s to adopt a checklist and design standards allows for needed housing to be developed at a lower cost, quicker, and efficiently. 

Recent State changes to the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) process supports the building of ADU’s on single family and duplex residential lots while having the additional option for junior accessory dwelling units. As more residents want to age in place, having the option to move into a smaller unit on your property while being able to rent out the larger home, allows income and stability for you to stay in your neighborhood. The building of ADU’s in multi-family developments like in single family lots will provide additional needed housing by infill. Our housing crisis is not going away soon, and many of these ADU’s are needed for the “missing middle” who need housing too. Around the Downtown there are many examples of 2-5-unit complexes that were built many years ago, and simply you aren’t allowed to make those conversions today. Those types of units are needed for the “missing middle”, and address the root cause of the housing crisis, there aren’t enough homes.  


The goal of CA Senate Bill SB 330 and SB 35 are to streamline the residential development process, and still allow cities to develop clear objective standards. Gilroy needs to take full advantage of it now. Otherwise whatever a developer proposes based off of our current standards, it will automatically be deemed complete on submittal. Many Cities across California including our neighbors, established their design standards checklist at the end of 2019 before the law went into effect. The City of Gilroy and Gilroy City Council have not done this yet, and should have done this back in 2017 when SB 35 was signed into law. A recently proposed affordable apartments project at the southwest corner of Hecker pass and Santa Teresa, wouldn’t have to conform to City Council’s objective standards because it can become vested prior to those standards being adopted.

California has a housing supply and affordability crisis of historic proportions. The consequences of failing to effectively and aggressively confront this crisis are hurting millions of Californians, robbing future generations of the chance to call California home, stifling economic opportunities for workers and businesses, worsening poverty and homelessness, and undermining the state's environmental and climate objectives. 


In 1969 a state mandate called the Housing Element and Regional Housing Needs Allocation, or RHNA was created. As part of RHNA, the California Department of Housing and Community Development, or HCD, determines the total number of new homes the Bay Area needs to build—and how affordable those homes need to be—in order to meet the housing needs of people at all income levels. Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), working with the Housing Methodology Committee, then distributes a share of the region’s housing need to each city, town and county in the region. Each local government must then update the Housing Element of its general plan to show the locations where housing can be built and the policies and strategies necessary to meet the community’s housing needs. Ours from 2015 is located here  According to our general plan we should be updating this annually.

We are currently meeting the above moderate above 120% AMI. However, the City is not meeting the RHNA goal for affordable housing below 80% AMI. Therefore, at this time, projects providing on-site affordable housing at 80% AMI are eligible for streamlining in Gilroy provided they meet all of the eligibility criteria.

AMI – 2019 Area Median Income in Santa Clara County 
In 2019, the Area Median Income (AMI) for a four-person household in for Santa Clara County, as defined by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) was $131,400. Based on this, the following are the income limits for the various affordable housing categories (family of four): 
 Extremely Low Income (ELI) 0–30% AMI – $43,900 
 Very Low Income (VLI) 31–50% AMI –$73,150 
 Low Income (LI) 51–80% AMI – $103,900 
 Moderate Income 81–120% AMI - $157,700 
 Above Moderate- Above 120% AMI 

Cities and counties subject to SB 35 streamlining provisions when proposed developments include ≥ 50% affordability. Gilroy is one out of 221 jurisdictions that has insufficient progress toward their lower income RHNA (Very Low and Low income) and are therefore subject to the streamlined ministerial approval process (SB 35 (Chapter 366, Statutes of 2017) streamlining) for proposed developments with at least 50% affordability. 

Here’s the numbers below in a chart. As you can see, your feelings of building residential units in Gilroy is happening too fast are validated. We need housing in all categories built but we need a balance for all levels of affordability. RHNA total allocated 1088 units, we have built 1698, with a remaining 610 to build in the right categories needed. We are not on pace to meet our RHNA numbers.

City of Gilroy Planning Progress 62.5% 
Planning Period 8 years 2015-2022 

Affordability Type

RHNA Housing Units Allocated by ABAG/HCD



Percentage Complete

Extremely Low-Very Low 0-50% AMI





Low 51-80% AMI





Moderate 81-120% AMI





Above Moderate above 120% AMI (Market Rate)





Solutions: I think a better way to meet the general plan goals of publicizing the residential sites inventory and facilitate infill development would be to have a 1-2-page document on the landing page of our city website that has all the latest information in it. Including links to all the different sub-sections of the community development website, like zoning, accessory dwelling unit (ADU) checklist/state law info, “objective” standards checklist for residential development, checklist for residential development, info on streamlining development using SB 330/SB 35,  planning, and etc. That would be easier for a developer and resident  (that doesn't already have a seat at the city’s developer’s roundtable) to find out all the information, and for the public to be educated with current state law. We need to update our residential sites inventory annually and promote that.

I want to be able to promote what's available for builders in Gilroy as well. I meet developers and investors often at conferences and meetings. It would be nice to always be able to refer to a link that has all the information in one document. I think it's important to keep reminding the residents of recent state laws and why we are required to grow as a community with housing through an organized fashion. But also, to educate them as to why we need to promote certain types of affordable housing over others to meet the RHNA numbers. 

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Adequate Bike Parking in South County

The message was clear from the Bay Area Public Health Officers during the shelter in place issued regarding COVID-19.  Remember to get out for a walk or bike ride.  This was mentioned at many of the press conferences by the Bay Area Public Health Officers. Spending time outside improves mood and well-being, and is particularly beneficial to children. You can go for walks, go to the park, and engage in other similar activities, but you should maintain social distance (more than six feet away from persons who are not part of your household) to avoid spread of the virus.

I couldn’t agree with them more.  In Gilroy we have plenty of off-street bike/ped trails and more that are planned for construction.  Whether you live on the east side, west side, or central, we all have access to these trails.  If you don’t know where they are, check out our website that’s available in English/Spanish.   

The Gilroy BPAC hasn’t lost any momentum and remains committed to advocating for all the projects and policies that we have been working on.  Once City Hall opens back up, we will hit the ground running. This is how government works. Disasters will always happen and government has to react, that's why we try and get as much done during good times.  We are always working on projects and ideas behind the scenes.  Connecting virtually with other advocates around the world is what we are used to. 

In my last column I wrote about the Gilroy Bike Parking Ordinance that I drafted and the Gilroy BPAC approved in January 2020.  Going through my first shelter in place, it has become an even higher priority that we have adequate bike parking for our community.  We don’t have any zoning requirements for bike parking in Gilroy.  The goal of CA Senate Bill SB330 is to streamline the residential development process, and still allow cities to develop clear objective standards. Gilroy needs to take full advantage of it now. Otherwise whatever a developer proposes based off of our current standards, it will automatically be deemed complete on submittal. 

As a South County advocate, I am teaming up with Bike Therapy Owners/Morgan Hill residents Doug & Jodi Hall to make some incremental changes that I think will benefit us all.  Morgan Hill's zoning requirement for multi-family residential is 1 long-term space for every 5 units (regardless if it’s a studio to three bedroom). Do you think that’s enough? Why shouldn’t every unit have access to a long-term bike parking space or better yet each bedroom? In today’s housing market not all families will be able to own a home, and some will stay in these apartments indefinitely. Families, young adults, and seniors all need a safe place to store their bikes and incentives to not drive their cars.

Bicycles are essential transportation for many who need to get around during the coronavirus outbreak. This might include traveling to essential jobs, running crucial errands, or participating in mutual aid for vulnerable people who cannot leave their homes. I am connecting Gilroy & Morgan Hill residents who have an extra bicycle to residents who need one. Whether you have a bike or need a bike, we will match you. If your bike needs a little TLC before it’s ready for a new home, please consider reaching out to a local bike shop to service it. 

Until our local government is back open, take care of each other and your health.  Get outside and enjoy the great weather in Gilroy.  Support your local restaurants and cafĂ© that remained open for to-go orders.  Most have great front row bike parking when you pick up your orders.  If they don’t, then ask them to reach out to me for a free consult.  #GilroyBPAC