Home ❭ News ❭ 9/17: HOUSING. FURTHER THOUGHTS. Yesterday in preparation for the Gen H Panel Discussion, I did a deep dive into Housing in Sebastopol.
9/17: HOUSING. FURTHER THOUGHTS. Yesterday in preparation for the Gen H Panel Discussion, I did a deep dive into Housing in Sebastopol.
I talked to our Mayor, Vice Mayor, and our Planning Director Kari Svanstrom. Read the "Housing Element" that lays out Sebastopol's housing plan (effective 2015-2023) in incredible (129 page!) detail.
Bottom line: It became clear to me that Sebastopol's housing polices already encourage building that is affordable and inclusionary. Ideas that are discussed in other jurisdictions are already allowable here: tiny homes, co-housing, dense (for us) projects, mixed use, multi-generational, ADUs, Jr ADUs, affordable by design, etc etc. We even have some policies that are particularly pro-affordable housing and won't be seen in other communities. For example, in other communities a developer can choose to pay a fee "in lieu of" complying with the requirement that affordable units be included in the project. Not in Sebastopol - if a project here has an affordable unit requirement, the developer has no choice but to include a certain number of those units.
The barrier we can't conquer? Astronomically rising building and land costs that drive developers away from smaller (more affordable) living units and towards larger (higher ticket price) homes.
Good news: We do have a few projects in town that (if they come to fruition) will be larger complexes that house more people in less space. And although this may sound scary for some (can you say "urban sprawl?") our very active Design Review Board can be relied upon to keep an eagle-eye on that piece of the puzzle.
What to do: We need to keep pushing on the larger denser developments (with a nod to our vigilant citizenry and to the Design Review Board as to monitor impacts: traffic, environmental, livable city issues, etc). And we need to examine our existing living spaces to see if there are financial or other methods to address the intersecting needs of our different population groups (e.g. seniors who want to downsize but have no good options within Sebastopol, and young families who need a home but can't afford one).
Are there easy solutions? No. We already know that. If it were easily solved, we wouldn't have panel discussions like the one last night. But that doesn't mean we can't tackle it. Having a space to call your own, where you can lay your head down to sleep and know that you and your family are safe for the night, is essential. It drives the rest of our quality of life issues, on an individual and community level: the economy, social stability, community involvement...joy and hope for the future....