Sonoma County’s Planning Commission will deliberate Thursday, July 20, 1:30-3pm, over the County’s Housing Element. The Sonoma Valley Collaborative Council says the Commission is resisting allowing lower-cost, higher-density homes in some of Sonoma County’s most resourced and desirable neighborhoods. Here is a letter to submitted by the Collaborative to Permit Sonoma staff and consultants to the Housing Element:
Sonoma Valley Collaborative is a forum of community leaders from a wide range of sectors across Sonoma Valley, finding solutions and taking action to address our community’s biggest challenges.
There are many good proposed actions in the Draft, but as a whole it is not strong enough or innovative enough to respond to the crushing housing affordability crisis we face in Sonoma County. We need a Housing Element that courageously tackles the evidence of this crisis: Permit Sonoma’s own public engagement, the census, the Portrait of Sonoma County, the cascading closures of local businesses, and the heart-breaking housing struggles related by residents.
All the housing stories in the Draft that are in green boxes were collected with permission by Sonoma Valley Collaborative from people who live or work in Sonoma Valley.
Facing the demographic evidence of Sonoma County losing so many of the people who make our County thrive, it’s clear we need a Housing Element that forcefully changes our course. The Draft is not there yet. HCD also asks the County to “go beyond status quo.”
Most importantly, the Draft omits an entire category of proven housing policies that help keep renters in their homes. We agree with Table 2 in the Draft, that “Displacement of residents due to economic pressures” is the highest priority factor that contributes to Sonoma County’s fair housing issues. But Program 5, supposedly designed to prevent displacement, is inadequate. Its emphasis on housing production is misguided. Sonoma County can’t rely solely on housing production, on meeting the RHNA, to stop our hemorrhaging losses of workers, families, seniors, and so many others. We must also protect people from losing their existing affordable homes, after which many leave the County.
Program 5: Displacement Avoidance
Sonoma Valley Collaborative asks that these policies be added to Program 5 or elsewhere:
rent stabilization (not rent control or a rent cap), which limits rent increases to a percentage of inflation
just-cause eviction policy, which protects tenants from being evicted unless there’s a specific justification, such as nonpayment of rent.
a rental registry, so that Sonoma County can track affordability, displacement, habitability, evictions, and other trends
Rent stabilization and/or just-cause protections exist in over 30 California cities and counties and have a track record of success.
Program 8: Protect Residential Lands and Units
Our members want faster, more vigorous action to reduce the number of vacation rentals and empty homes. Having over 10% of homes be unavailable to residents is not acceptable. We ask that the timeline in 8b for presenting policy options to the Board be accelerated to the end of 2024, not 2025.
Program 3: Protections for Mobile Home Parks
Mobile homes are a major source of unsubsidized affordable housing in Sonoma Valley and county-wide. On July 11, the Board of Supervisors directed staff to prepare for a Board item to amend the MHRSO on August 15, 2023. We ask that Action 3a be changed from “Continue to implement” the existing ordinance (which allows an annual space rent increase of 100% of the change in the Bay Area CPI, or 6%, whichever is less) to “Amend the Mobilehome Rent Stabilization Ordinance to limit space rent increases to no more than 4%, or 70% of the change in CPI (whichever is less).” The timeline for adopting the amendment should be mid-2024.
Program 15: Review and Update Zoning Code and General Plan
We ask that you add an ordinance to Program 15 creating a senior housing overlay district that would prevent designated senior mobilehome parks from being converted to all-ages parks. This will protect affordable housing options for seniors in the County and stop erosion of affordability of the existing senior parks. Many jurisdictions have senior housing overlay district, including Yucaipa, San Juan Capistrano, Huntington Beach, Ventura County, City of Ventura, and Santa Barbara.
— Members of Sonoma Valley Collaborative
Boys & Girls Club Of Sonoma Valley/Teen Services Sonoma
Disability Services & Legal Center
F.I.S.H. Sonoma Valley
Homeless Action Sonoma
La Luz Center
Morton’s Hot Springs
Sonoma Community Center
Sonoma Ecology Center
Sonoma Overnight Support
Sonoma Valley Education Foundation
Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce
Sonoma Valley Community Health Center
Sonoma Valley Golden State Manufactured-Home Owners League
Sonoma Valley Hospital
Sonoma Valley Housing Group
Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance
Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance
Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau
Transition Sonoma Valley
Valley Bar + Bottle
Vintage House Sonoma
Winery Sixteen 600