No easy solutions as Cypress seeks to increase housing units

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Adding approximately 4,000 units to Cypress is no easy task.

By: George Pardon

The Cypress City Council has the incredible challenge of addressing a mandate to plan for 3,936 additional residential units over the next eight years. On March 15, the Cypress City Council held a workshop where three conceptual scenarios were presented. The workshop can be viewed at the following link: http://cypressca.swagit.com/play/03162021-561/#0

There will be a second workshop on March 29 at 5 for residents to provide input. There are no easy solutions. As I reviewed the different scenarios, I made some observations that could distribute the units over a larger area within the City.

Council Member Paulo Morales made an outstanding observation that Forest Lawn may one day decide they don’t need all the property they have and may be interested in developing some of their property along Crescent for residential. I don’t know if anyone has contacted Forest Lawn but I don’t know that there is a downside to providing for an overlay for housing on some of their property along Crescent if the City Council is considering a ballot initiative since it is PS zoned.

Consideration should be given to a higher density overlay on existing residential properties that have smaller single-family homes on them. There are properties in Cypress that have 850 to 1,200 square ft homes. If those properties were upzoned to permit a duplex, many smaller investors could acquire sites that could be demoed and replaced with duplexes. Investors may pursue the acquisition of 2, 3, or 4 sites adjacent to each other and replace them with four, six, or eight unit complexes.

Council Member Frances Marquez has also talked about the need for student housing for Cypress College. In the past, the college has reported that many of their students are homeless. While the campus would likely have to build a parking structure to replace land used to construct housing on campus, they have the ability to sell tax-exempt bonds and pursue additional funding.

The Department of Housing and Community Development has administered billions over the years to assist with affordable housing. Other funding is available to address the homeless population. The college could advocate for funds in both areas. It seems that the college wouldn’t have a problem with placing student housing on the campus and perhaps even faculty housing on the campus property that could be pursued over the coming years. Housing 10% of their 6,000 full time equivalent students doesn’t seem like an unrealistic goal. The student housing most certainly would fall into the affordable category.

While it was stated at the workshop that higher density sites are more suitable to provide for affordable units, the city doesn’t require that higher density sites include any affordable units. San Jose requires that all projects with 20 units or more per acre must include affordable units. This requirement has held up against legal challenges. Cypress should have a similar requirement. https://www.laaconline.org/pub/13689/supreme-court-ruling-a-win-for-affordable-housing-san-jose/

Adding to the density on Lincoln should require developers to follow some sort of consistent design criteria. Many cities have high density developments on their main transportation corridors but they seem to have a similar exterior architectural appearance.

As for LARC, the current 1,250 units proposed for the site represents 32% of the units required for the Housing Element while the 150 acres that are available for development represents only 3 1/2% of the 4,230 acres in Cypress. As the City knows, the prospect of finding a developer to build a town center on the remaining 10 acres zoned on the race course property is minimal.

The city encountered difficulty when seeking a developer to build retail on the city’s 13 acres. The race course’s effort to rezone some or all of the property failed twice before a rezoning was approved in 2018. One option would be to pursue the rezoning of the 10.5 acres zoned as town center to allow higher density which currently only allows another 115 units. The other 15 acres west of the town center area could also be upzoned to allow for more residential than currently allowed.

The town center zoning already allows for multi-family housing so the amount allowed in the town center would need to be increased from the original 250 units to 500 units so another 365 units could be built there instead of only 115. If the other 15 acres is upzoned from 15 units per acre to 25 units per acre, that would add another 150 units for a total of 400 units. If the city was to require developments of 20 units or more to include affordable housing, the site would end up with even more units.

Adding 400 more units to the race course property would increase the race course’s share to 42% of the required housing for the Housing Element which is significant. The other options proposed along with the Lincoln Ave components should address the remaining units needed to satisfy the requirements of the Housing Element.

You can register for the March 29 workshop as well as submit questions and comments at www.cypressca.org/cypresshousing. Any scenario approved by the City Council will have a significant impact on all of us. Everyone is encouraged to provide input.
(Editor’s Note: George Pardon is the founder of the advocacy group Citizens for the Reponsible Development of Cypress.)