On Monday, Hillsborough residents let city officials know they don’t want apartments or rezoning to meet state housing mandates, preferring to stick to a plan for using units of the in-laws instead.

As part of its Housing Element process, mandated by the state to zone 554 new affordable homes by 2031, Hillsborough officials conducted public outreach and studies on how best to achieve the goals while while safeguarding the interests of its residents.

At a meeting on Monday, Mayor Alvin L. Royse said the council had set three goals as part of its housing unit plan and he believes they have met them. The first is to contribute effectively to the solution of affordable housing needs. Secondly to maintain the unique character of the historic city. Finally, he wanted to meet the needs of the community.

Royse believes the most effective way to help with affordable housing issues is to build secondary suites, or in-law units, and rent them out, which he believes the community has agreed to do.

“We want commitment, not compliance,” Royse said. “To get engagement, you have to get people to believe in what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, so they’ll do it when you’re not watching.”

If it’s just compliance the city seeks, residents will find ways around it, he said, adding that listening to the community is the way to ensure buy-in.

Suggestions so far have included maximizing the number of ADUs on a lot, including incentives to build more. Hillsborough has issued 236 ADU permits since 2014, according to a staff report.

Plans to rezone designated areas of the city and build an apartment complex at the town hall were additional options. The apartment complex proposal includes a five-story building with between 88 and 123 apartments on the Town Hall property at Floribunda Avenue and El Camino Real.

Another approach is to modify and rename its existing zoning district, establish two new zoning districts, establish an affordable housing overlay district, and update its subdivision ordinance, which will result in the accommodation of 385 net new units to be developed in the current RHNA cycle. The city has one zoning district, the residential district. This zone allows only single-family residential development and related ancillary structures, according to the report.

An outline of community thoughts along with a probability chart from the California Department of Housing and Community Development who would accept the plan were the focus of conversation at Monday’s meeting.

For more than a month, Hillsborough officials received community concerns and option requests before submitting the first housing unit plan, which is expected to be submitted in early October.

“It was really important for the City Council and staff to make sure the community had a solid opportunity to participate and provide feedback,” said Liz Ruess, Long Range Planning and Special Projects for Hillsborough.

During the 45-day public review period, the city found that the majority of community members would prefer to reduce the “no net loss” buffer or eliminate it altogether. The state’s “no net loss” buffer is a recommendation that is intended to provide alternative options in the event that a site of opportunity is not developed.

Ted Ullyot, a Hillsborough resident, expressed concerns about the planned plan. He said the feedback received by the city was overwhelmingly negative. Ullyot thinks the draft city plan should continue to push for community demands, regardless of the possibility that HCD refuses the first draft.

“The opening draft we put into HCD is not our final plan and we expect some pushback,” said Ullyot, who added that the majority of the community does not support the current draft.

As part of this process, Hillsborough does not have to build the units but must provide building and zoning opportunities. All cities and towns must go through this process, but the numbers for this cycle are higher than in years past. The next step is for the council to draft their housing component which will be reviewed on October 10 at the council meeting before being submitted to the HCD.

The California Department of Housing and Community Development has 90 days to provide the city with feedback on the draft, which must be passed by Jan. 31. If the city refuses to adopt a compliant housing item, fines range from a minimum of $10,000 per month. up to $600,000 per month.

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