Norwalk rezones properties for high-density housing

NORWALK - In a 3-2 vote, the Norwalk City Council on Tuesday narrowly approved a resolution to rezone two single-family properties, allowing high-density, multi-family housing instead in order to meet state requirements of adequate housing for low-income residents.Some residents staunchly oppose the zoning amendments, which they fear will decrease property values and only bring more traffic into already congested neighborhoods. However, Norwalk officials believe the changes were the only way to meet state mandates, which dictate the number of housing units required in each city based on income level. According to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the city's updated Housing Element, which is due in October, must include specific low-income housing sites that allow a minimum density of 30 units per acre. Since Norwalk's highest residential density previously allowed only 22 units, the city's 2014 Housing Element would have reflected a necessity of 169 low-income housing units. If unmet, the city could face threats of litigation, loss of grant opportunities, or possibly a loss of land use authority, city officials said. "If there is an unaccommodated number of housing units, Housing and Community Development will not certify the Housing Element which creates some risks for the city," said senior planner Jessica Serrano. "The exposure to risks increases the longer we proceed without a certified Housing Element." With Mayor Luigi Vernola and Councilman Leonard Shryock dissenting, the council agreed to rezone and re-designate properties on the 12700 block of Studebaker Road and the 14800 block of Pioneer Boulevard as high-density, multi family housing developments in order to satisfy state mandates. While the city needed only 86 housing units to meet state housing requirements, the two sites provide approximately 86-112 units. The site on Studebaker Road is located on the west side of the street, just north of the I-105 Freeway and currently houses a church and one single-family residence. The property on Pioneer Boulevard is also on the west side of the street, about 200 feet north of Excelsior Drive. Currently, two single-family homes reside on the property. Councilmembers had considered rezoning a third site on the southwest corner of Alondra Boulevard and Maidstone Avenue, but the property was removed from consideration on Tuesday. As a result of the zoning changes, the two properties will now have a high-density residential designation in the city's general plan and an R-4 zoning label, which allows multi-family units, such as apartments and condominiums.

********** Published: Aug. 22, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 19