Archive » August 16, 2012
Planning commission explores housing, parks
By Alonzo Orozco, Contributing Writer
Amid confusion regarding late changes in monetary figures to the staff report and perceived percentage discounts for easement acquisitions, Goleta planners were asked to weigh the importance of affordable housing versus available funds for parks and recreation at the latest meeting of the city’s planning commission.
Monday evening at the City Hall Council Chambers, members left the meeting divided on whether the Towbes Group should be given the opportunity to delay paying their Quimby fees on the construction of 100 condominium units in exchange for $150,000, the offering of an easement and agreeing to maintain affordable rental units at their Willow Springs Apartment (Willow Springs I) complex and future proposed development, Willow Springs II. The 100 units are to be added to the existing multi-unit residence as part of the Willow Springs II Ordinance Amendment for a development agreement relating to housing projects at both Willow Springs I and II. “The Quimby fees are collected toward parks and recreation, and they are applied to projects involving a subdivision,” said Natasha Campbell, one of the city staff’s contract planners, of the fees that came about as a result of the state’s 1975 Quimby Act which was created in order to maintain open spaces for recreation.
Chair Jonny Wallis questioned the figures of option 2 of the proposal which originally asked for the developer to make an initial payment of $271, 900 and a deferred amount of $703,900 if the units sold between 10 and 20 years. Wallis reviewed the amounts that had been changed to $420,000 for the initial installment and $590,000 in deferred payments just five days earlier. Option 2 would be another alternative to the conventional Option 1 that calls for The Towbes Group to pay the total $1,020,600 in Quimby Fees in the early stages at the final map of the project.
City council approved of the plans back on July 17; but the city and developer had since then attempted to come up with a scenario that would defer the fee payments in exchange for an extension of affordable units at the existing Willow Springs at $500 below market value, and proposed Willow Springs II till 2023, a public easement for a commuter train stop and a $150,000 payment on top of the Developmental Impact Fees (DIF).
However, there was some confusion over whether the offer included the easement at 15 percent below the land’s market value. “That was an error on our (staff’s) part; the 15 percent is not part of the current proposal,” explained Campbell. “One of the things that we have offered is a pure donation of $150,000 to the city, which would be far more than a 15-percent reduction in the fair market of an easement,” said Michael Towbes, chairman of the board and owner of The Towbes Group.
Commissioner Julie Kessler Solomon was uncertain if the $150,000 put aside for public benefit would actually go toward parks. “It’s always very easy to take money away from Parks and Rec,” said Kessler Solomon.
With some trepidation, the commissioners voted option 2 in favor that the amendment is recommended to city council by a vote of 3 to 2, with Wallis and Shelor being the dissenting votes.