Lompoc must lay groundwork for over 2,200 new homes, state says

Lompoc officials last week began the yearlong task of updating the city’s housing element, including providing space, zoning and easier paths to the development of 2,248 new homes, as required by state law.

“This does not mean the city builds it. The city does not build housing. This is just laying the groundwork, having the development regulations in place, so if somebody wanted to come in and develop a project, it’s ready to go,” said Brent Gibbons of Sacramento-based Mintier Harnish.

Over the course of about a year, the city will hold a variety of public workshops, pop-up events, and provide other opportunities for Lompoc residents to chime in on the future of their city. A website dedicated to the project can be found at envisionlompoc.com.

In a presentation to the City Council on May 17, Gibbons said the state requires the housing element update every eight years, and that the Santa Barbara Council of Governments determined how state-mandated housing development numbers would be distributed among the county’s various communities.

SBCAG determined Lompoc’s share of the latest allocation includes: 166 very-low income, 262 low-income, 311 moderate income and 1,509 above-moderate income homes. In addition, Gibbons said, the city should prepare for an additional 147 homes at the very-low, low and moderate-income categories as a buffer in case the state opposes any proposed development plan.

The law requires these units must include everything from transitional and supportive housing, that communities cannot reduce units by rezoning, and that they must work toward streamlining processes for developers to help housing come to fruition more quickly.

“The real challenge that most people know is: We’re not building housing. There [are] sites in town, but people aren’t building it. But that’s not what this process is for. This process is to make sure that you plan for it and make sure we have land appropriately zoned in those income areas,” Lompoc Planning Manager Brian Halvorson said.

The imposition of more than 2,200 new housing units on the community of 13,216 households representing 44,444 residents per U.S. census data may seem rash, Gibbons explained, but it’s not out of line with what other communities have been tasked with, including many with “an over-300% increase” from the last housing element cycle.

“This the state’s push in trying to offset the housing crisis. This is one avenue they think will work, and I would say the sixth cycle is definitely a test case. We’ll see. We haven’t had anything like this. This is unprecedented. Other communities that, let’s say typically build 800 units per year, now have [Regional Housing Needs Allocations] of 7,000,” Gibbons said.

The emphasis this cycle will push for infill development, up-zoning and rezoning housing densities.

“If you look at the density of this city, you’ll find very little infill available. There’s been no downzoning, several upgrading. There’s been the state with the (accessory dwelling unit mandate). I mean, we’re a city that’s out of room,” Councilman Dirk Starbuck said.

This update cycle will also include revisions to the city’s safety element, circulation and mobility element, and new environmental justice element.

“Think of it as a blueprint for the community’s future,” Gibbons said.

In other news, the council voted 4-0, with Councilwoman Gilda Cordova absent, to give city staff approval for nuisance abatement of weeds, rubbish, refuse and dirt from 43 parcels within city purview.

The city had initially provided written notice to 150 property owners calling for the cleanup for public safety, particularly to reduce fire hazards.

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Lompoc Fire Marshal/Battalion Chief Dena Paschke said the majority of property owners have complied, and most of the remaining parcels are owned by 15 property owners, all of whom have been contacted.

The move, which followed a public hearing on the issue, allows the city to recover any costs associated with the abatement, including the cost of contracting out the service and any city staff time.

In other business

During the May 17 meeting, the City Council also: 

— Heard a request, during public comment, from resident Carl Jones who, with his wife, regularly volunteers for street cleanup. They have noted an increase in human waste in residential areas, and requested the city take action to curb the trend which he said was a threat to public health.

“I mean: People are in your backyard. You’re barbecuing. There are flies out there landing on crap on the road, and coming over and landing on your hamburger. That’s the truth. That’s basic food sanitation right there,” he said.

— Held a public hearing regarding an ordinance approving the Lompoc Police Department’s current and future inventory and its use policy for specialized police equipment, also referred to as “military equipment”;

— Established a Parks & Recreation projects coordinator position in the Community Development Department, Parks & Recreation Division and amended the city’s compensation and classification plans accordingly;

— Awarded a $1,476,210 construction contract to Tierra Contracting Inc. for Vandenberg Village Community Service District interceptor sewer siphon relocation at Floradale Avenue, as well as a $151,610 consulting contract to Filippin Engineering Inc. for construction management, inspection and materials testing services;

— Awarded a $424,943 contract to Great Western Installations Inc. for construction and installation of a playground area at Thompson Park;

— Heard a presentation by Mimi Erland, water treatment plant chemist, regarding the City of Lompoc Water Quality Report, available in English and Spanish at the Lompoc Library, Dick DeWees Community and Senior Center, Aquatic Center, card racks at City Hall and online at the city’s website. Sixty years in, Lompoc produces 3.8 million gallons of water per day on which it reduces hardness by about half, as well as alkalinity, bicarbonate, iron, manganese and arsenic. In addition, the water treatment plant monitors chemical levels to help fine-tune treatment;

— Appointed Kali Rosales to the Youth Commission ending in January 2023;

— Appointed Ila Thatcher-Geis to the Parks & Recreation Commission until December 2022;

— Reappointed Lompoc resident Alice Down to the Santa Barbara County Library Advisory Committee, with a term expiration of June 30, 2023;

— Met in closed session for a conference with labor negotiators regarding city business with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1245.

In addition, Obsorne presented proclamations honoring Peace Officers Memorial Day, National Public Works Week, CommUnify 55th anniversary, and student leaders from Hapgood Elementary School provided a presentation about the Hapgood Garden Sustainability Program.