The most recent certified housing element for the Humboldt County (County) General Plan included an implementation measure that required the rezoning of a substantial number of properties single-family residential to multi-familty residential. The County retained LACO to assist them with a highly visible effort to identify suitable parcels for the rezoning process. We were also the lead authors of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the rezoning project.
Our project team’s approach was to navigate this complex planning process with an emphasis on technical expertise, clear communication, and a reliance on objective data. LACO employed an in-house GIS-based screening methodology, which we developed specifically for large scale property inventory projects to assess each single-family residential parcel in unincorporated Humboldt County. Our analysis addressed such factors as environmental constraints, proximity to shopping and transit, available land for development, and other neigborhood characteristics. This method yielded a substantial inventory of candidate parcels for rezoning. LACO joined County staff at a series of public meetings to explain the methodology and request further public input into the prioritization of potentially affected parcels. We prepared question and answer sheets, PowerPoint presentations, and surveys, and responded to questions during public meetings throughout a sometimes contentious process. After collecting and compiling public feedback and conducting follow up surveys with property owners, we identified a final set of properties to recommend to the Plannign Commission and Board of Supervisors for rezoning.
After identifying the final set of properties, our project team prepared a draft EIR to analyze the effect of implementing rezoning process. While the EIR included all mandatory topic areas, our team focused on the the following impacts:
- Air quality
- Public services such as schools, water and sewer providers
- Wetlands and other natural habitat
County staff circulated the Draft EIR. LACO took the lead role in preparing responses to comments, and prepared a Final EIR for the project along with mandatory findings, and a statement of overriding considerations.
Our project team participated in the public hearing process at both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors by providing technical information regarding the parcel selection methodology and the findings of the EIR. Ultimately, the Board of Supervisors approved the rezoning and EIR, which permitted the housing element to continue to be certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (CAHCD).
LACO’s GIS screening method provided a robust and transparent system for making rezoning decisions. Our team succeeded in fulfilling the mandate of the housing element to the satisfaction of the Housing Element and CAHCD.