Government Code Section 65583.2(b)(4) requires a general description of any environmental constraints to the development of housing within the jurisdiction, the documentation for which has been made available to the jurisdiction. This information need not be identified on a site-specific basis.
The housing element must analyze the suitability of the sites that are identified for residential development relative to environmental conditions or other known issues, including:
- The housing element must include a general description of any known environmental features (e.g. presence of floodplains, protected wetlands, oak tree preserves) that have the potential to impact the development viability of the identified sites. This site-suitability analysis must demonstrate that the existence of these features will not preclude development of the sites identified in the inventory at the projected residential densities/capacities as indicated in the housing element.
- The housing element should also describe the status of the sites regarding the environmental determinations, along with any adopted mitigation measures that have been made or are pending for the areas identified, pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The housing element need only describe those environmental constraints where documentation of such conditions is available to the local government.
The analysis could identify which sites would likely be subject to negative declarations or mitigated negative declarations versus any sites that are not covered by an applicable environmental impact report. For example, many of the sites identified in the land inventory may qualify for one of the exemptions pursuant to CEQA (Public Resource Code Sections 21083.3(e), 21159.21, 21159.22, 21159.23, or 21159.24). The housing element should also describe whether any of the sites identified pursuant to Government Code Section 65583.2 are subject to pending litigation on environmental grounds that could impact their availability for development during the planning period (the circumstances should be described in the element).
- The analysis could also describe housing element policies or objectives that will result in outcomes with environmental benefits. The element could describe how specific sites in inventory or particular programs or policies will avoid or minimize environmental impacts that might otherwise occur. For example, planned siting of affordable, infill housing or higher-density, transit-oriented development accessible to employment and services are supportive of objectives to minimize vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and greenhouse gas emissions and air quality objectives.
Also, while housing element law requires a general analysis of environmental constraints, local governments will find it beneficial to describe site specific environmental conditions when demonstrating site suitability and realistic buildout capacity.
Adequate Infrastructure Capacity
Government Code Section 65583.2(b)(5) requires a description of existing or planned water, sewer, and other dry utilities supply, including the availability and access to distribution facilities. Parcels included in the inventory must have sufficient water, sewer, and dry utilities supply available and accessible to support housing development or be included in an existing general plan program or other mandatory program or plan, including a program or plan of a public or private entity providing water or sewer service, to secure sufficient water, sewer, and dry utilities supply to support housing development. This does not impose any additional duty on the city or county to construct, finance, or otherwise provide water, sewer, or dry utilities to parcels included in the inventory.
Provide an analysis in the housing element describing existing or planned water, sewer, and other dry utilities supply, including the availability and access to parcels on the site inventory (including any parcels identified for rezoning), distribution facilities, general plan programs or other mandatory program or plan (including a program or plan of a public or private entity to secure water or sewer service) to support housing development on the site. The housing element must include sufficient detail to determine whether the service levels of water delivery/treatment systems and sewer treatment facilities are sufficient and have the capacity to accommodate development on all identified sites in order to accommodate the RHNA. For example, the water supply should be a reliable supply that meets federal and state drinking water standards. Please note sites identified as available for housing for above moderate-income households can still be in areas not served by public sewer systems.
The analysis should indicate whether the housing development potential would require expansion or improvement of existing facilities or new infrastructure development, and should identify the requirements of all applicable agencies, including the county, special districts, and any regional bodies. Where mitigation of particular infrastructure constraints is beyond the capacity of the local government alone (e.g. regional, water-facility construction or levee repair), the housing element should describe what role the local government is (or will be) playing to support mitigation of the constraint. If the requisite infrastructure capacity is not available upon adoption of the housing element, the housing element must include program actions (e.g. implementation of capital improvement plans, financing through general obligation or special district bonds, etc.) to address infrastructure capacity limitations or shortfalls.
The housing element must include sufficient detail to determine whether the service levels of water delivery/treatment systems and sewer treatment facilities are sufficient to accommodate development on the identified sites.
Chapter 727, Statutes of 2005 – Water and Sewer Service Priority
Chapter 727, Statutes of 2005 (SB 1087) establishes processes to ensure the effective implementation of Government Code Section 65589.7. This statute requires local governments to provide a copy of the adopted housing element to water and sewer providers. In addition, water and sewer providers must grant priority for service allocations to proposed developments that include housing units affordable to lower-income households.
- Planning and housing department staff should coordinate with the local public works department to identify infrastructure improvements planned and prioritized as part of a local capital improvement program. The capital improvement program is a long-range, major public-infrastructure and planning tool for municipalities and often includes an assessment and strategy statement of the jurisdiction’s policies and financial tools to manage the physical development of the community.
- If a portion of the sites identified pursuant to Section 65583.2 are included within an “infill opportunity zone” pursuant to a congestion management plan (Government Code Section 65089(a) and 65088.4), the applicable development conditions or exemptions from traffic level-of-service standards should be described.