The Planning Commission on Aug. 12 unanimously voted to send the city’s revised housing plan to City Council for final review.

The Housing Element Update describes the city’s housing needs from 2021 to 2029, as well as the policies, programs and developments that will meet those needs. The state mandates that it be updated every eight years.

In May, Council voted to send a draft of the document to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) for comments. Once HCD responded, city staff addressed the comments with changes. It was this edited version that Community Development Director Craig Hoffman presented to the commissioners.

“We felt really confident that the document that we were sending was going to meet all the requirements for the state,” Hoffman said. He continued that HCD requested “no new policies or goals, but they did want us to strengthen a number of programs and add some additional information to our background report.”

With the Planning Commission’s assent, the housing element now goes to Council, which will review the document in a workshop at its Aug. 17 meeting and then vote on the final submission at its Sept. 7 meeting. If Council approves the housing plan, it will be sent to HCD for a 90-day review and certification process.

In its comments, HCD asked for more information in three categories: Galt’s housing needs, resources and constraints; the city’s housing programs; and the justification for the city’s housing production over time.

Hoffman said the regulator has changed the way it handles housing elements since the previous cycle.

“I think you’ve seen HCD move from just a ‘Show us how you’re going to do this’ (approach) to more now of a ‘prove it,’” Hoffman said.

Jim Harnish, owner of consulting firm Mintier Harnish, attributed the changes to a bevy of new regulations as well as new staff at the department, which he said have made HCD “kind of a moving target.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated communication with state agencies Hoffman said later in the meeting. He noted that staff had reached an agreement with an HCD representative about the number of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) to be included in housing predictions, only to receive a comment asking that the number be recalculated.

ADUs, also known as granny flats or secondary units, are smaller living quarters on the same lot as a stand-alone house. The proposed Morali Estates development on Fermoy and Adare ways would include 50 ADUs.

Hoffman predicted that more ADUs would eventually be constructed.

“I think what we have historically viewed as a housing unit is going to change in California … because it’s just getting too expensive,” Hoffman said.

The commissioners were generally complimentary of city staff and Mintier Harnish’s efforts.

“I’ll be honest with you,” Commissioner Dan Gerling told Hoffman. “When I saw HCD’s comments, and then I was looking through that, I was making lots of notes myself, and then I got to your responses, and you thoroughly covered everything from what I can tell. I have no questions after you got done with that.”

Commission Chair Keith Jones asked what would happen if HCD had additional comments on the document after Council had agreed to submit it. Hoffman said that, in the case of any minor comments, staff would bring the matter back before the Planning Commission and City Council.