Commissioners asked city staff to look for alternative locations to fulfill housing opportunity requirements as outlined in the state mandated Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) in the latest round of the Housing Element update at the March 11 Galt Planning Commission meeting.

City staff and consultants Amy Yang and Rick Rust from Mintier Harnish met with the commission in February to give an overview of the state requirements for the Housing Element, which included providing zoning for 1,926 new housing units during the 2021-29 housing cycle. Of the nearly 2,000 new units, 404 need to be accessible to very low-income families, 243 for low income, 379 for moderate income and 900 for above moderate income.

The 1,926 housing unit increase would boost Galt’s housing inventory by 31% if all units were built in that eight-year period; 34% of those new homes will need to be in the low income categories.

At the March meeting, Community Development Director Craig Hoffman told commissioners that he was able to “hit the easy button” for this first round of possible locations. Finding that projects already in the pipeline will fulfill most of the new RHNA requirements.

“Staff had determined that most of the RHNA can be met through the units that will be produced through approved and planned projects,” the staff report reads. “To meet the remainder of the lower income RHNA requirement, staff has identified one vacant site near Simmerhorn Road. Finally, staff has identified two additional sites outside city limits, but which are currently in the process of being annexed into the city as part of the East Galt Infill Annexation Area.”

Commissioners were shown maps of the proposed project locations, where 17 areas were identified to help meet RHNA requirements.

Existing projects that will help fulfill those requirements are the First Street Development; Second Street Apartments; A Street Crossing; Cardozo I; Cardozo II, Caterina Estates, which was just approved by City Council March 2; Cedar Flats; Dry Creek Oaks; Eastview Specific Plan; Fairway Oaks; Greenwood Cottages; Morali Estates; Parlin Oaks; and Veranda by Elliot.

Three additional locations have been identified; a portion, nearly 20 acres, of the already planned Simmerhorn Ranch Project can be designated to fulfill moderate income housing needs; 16 acres just north of Simmerhorn Road and west of Steiner Road can fulfill lower income needs; and nearly 10 acres of now zoned highway commercial property just to the west of the Simmerhorn Ranch project and east of Highway 99 can be rezoned to fulfill additional lower income needs.

All three of the additional locations are in areas without existing housing.

“When we first started this a few months ago, we were worried that we were going to be doing some re-designations around the community, and at this point, besides a minor change, … this is looking really good for the community,” Rust said during the presentation.

Several commissioners were concerned about losing 10 acres of highway commercial income by reallocating the property to high-density housing and asked staff to look into other sites.

“I think one of the challenges is trying to find sites and working with property owners that are willing to take those sites,” Hoffman said. “I think what the nice thing about [the highway commercial property] is, I’ve got a property owner that basically asked for multifamily housing. He wants to do a high-density project. It checks a number of boxes for me because it’s away from existing residential, so I don’t have neighbors complaining.”

Hoffman also said that although you would not generate sales tax by rezoning to housing, “the property tax on that ends up being nice money coming to the city.”

Hoffman told The Galt Herald that the highway commercial property is just over 41 acres in total and that the property owner is in favor of rezoning a portion of the property to high-density housing.

“That leaves 30 acres along the freeway for an active highway commercial area,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman noted that building apartments is quite expensive at this time and indicated that he doesn’t expect a large complex to build out anytime soon.

At the February meeting, commissioners asked staff to speak with the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to see if accessory dwelling units (ADU) could be used to fulfill RHNA requirements. Staff reported at the March meeting that HCD would allow 64 ADUs to be used toward the overall low income housing requirements.

Unlike other parts of a general plan, cities need to get the certification from the state that their housing element meets all the requirements of state law. The city of Galt has until May to submit a draft plan and then has 60 days thereafter to negotiate with the state over that plan before submitting and adopting a final Housing Element, according to staff.

In other actions, planning commissioners approved a revised site plan for the 24-hour Storage facility planned for Industrial Drive.

The property owner and project applicant proposed changes to the wall, lighting and landscaping designs approved in December 2020.

The project uses shipping containers as each storage unit and originally designed the property to use the back of the shipping containers to serve as the property wall. Instead of the shipping containers, the new general contractor was proposing a 10-foot perimeter wall to provide the security to the property as well as providing better aesthetics to the area. Living wall screens, such as vines, will be planted along the new wall to further break up the prefabricated wall.

Original plans called for interior landscape islands with 32 trees in the RV and boat parking area; however, the applicant was seeking to eliminate these interior trees to avoid branches and birds from causing potential damage to the stored vehicles.

Also proposed was the removal of fixed lighting on each storage container to be replaced with pole lighting to “provide better lighting of the site and units”. The poles will also allow the project to install security cameras.

Commissioners unanimously approved the proposed changes.