FOUNTAIN VALLEY HOUSING
PLEASE NOTE: Slater Avenue is a proposed development subject to change until approved by the Fountain Valley Planning Commission and City Council.
In order to understand how the residential needs of Fountain Valley are planned for and ultimately met, it’s important to look at two different documents: the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) issued by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and the Fountain Valley General Plan.
The Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) is mandated by State Housing Law as part of the periodic process of updating local housing elements of each city’s General Plan. The RHNA quantifies the need for housing within each jurisdiction and is used by communities like Fountain Valley for land use planning, prioritizing local resource allocation and to determine how best to address identified existing and future housing needs resulting from population, employment and household growth.
The Fountain Valley General Plan is a broad planning guideline issued by the City of Fountain Valley that includes the City’s future development goals and provides policy statements to achieve those development goals. The General Plan is used to guide the growth and development of the Fountain Valley community both now and in the long term. This Plan serves as the foundation for establishing goals, purposes, zoning, and activities allowed on each parcel of land to provide structure around future development. The General Plan has been the foundation of city planning since the early twentieth century.
Let’s look at what each of these documents means for the future of Fountain Valley housing and how the proposed Slater Avenue development can help the City work towards meeting its residential targets.
FOUNTAIN VALLEY REGIONAL HOUSING NEEDS ASSESSMENT
It is widely recognized that California is suffering from a housing supply crisis. When housing supply falls short of demand, the quality of life for all community residents can suffer. Local governments play a critical role in planning for and providing housing for residents.
The Regional Housing Needs Assessment has allocated 4,832 housing units to the City of Fountain Valley. The Assessment identifies that just under 3,000 of these units should be placed on lands zoned at higher densities. While the City is currently appealing its RHNA allocation, the numbers are not expected to change significantly. This means that the City must plan for and incorporate higher density developments – which will necessitate the introduction of high-density zoning – a code that’s currently absent from Fountain Valley.
The proposed Slater Avenue development will help the City begin to meet its RHNA allocation by providing a significant number of residential units in one mixed-use development. The City has recognized the need to provide additional housing in proximity to and in combination with entertainment, retail and office uses. In the Fountain Valley City Council Candidates Forum meeting conducted on September 14, current City Mayor, Cheryl Brothers commented “one thing we might need to do is look at our zoning for residential… for higher density residential … (to meet) the numbers being given to us by the state. There will be penalties eventually if those numbers are not met. And we don’t have enough zones currently for that. That might be one area that we would need to look at with great care. Higher density housing is where our children could afford to live when they’re ready to move into their own residence and that’s always foremost in our minds – keeping our young population here in town.”
FOUNTAIN VALLEY GENERAL PLAN UPDATE
The Fountain Valley General Plan was last comprehensively updated in 1995. For more information, please review the City’s website here. The City’s General Plan contains seven State-mandated elements including a Housing Element.
The Housing Element “identifies and assesses the City’s existing and projected housing needs and provides an inventory of constraints and resources relevant to meeting these needs. The Housing Element must also identify how the City will meet its share of the regional housing need, commonly referred to as RHNA.” In other words, the Housing Element of the City of Fountain Valley’s General Plan must include an outline of how the City intends to meet its RHNA allocation.
It is clear that the City must include arrangements for a significant increase in all types of residential housing in its General Plan.
The Slater Avenue property is one of 14 “Opportunity Sites” specifically identified in the FV General Plan Update. This property has been identified as appropriate for a potential land use change to help the City meet housing demand and RHNA requirements.
There is abundant demand for more housing in Fountain Valley
Office-based businesses need to attract skilled, educated workers
These workers want affordable housing in a convenient location with walkability, public transport and proximity to dining and entertainment
There is little demand for new upgraded office space
There is little demand for new retail beyond restaurants and entertainment
Fountain Valley’s annual Pension Fund debt payment recently increased by $1 million
The report recommended the General Plan Update should:
Focus on residential development with vertical or mixed use retail, dining and entertainment
Focus on walkable, mixed use spaces
Promote the types of developments that will correct the City’s structural budget imbalance
Contribute to the City’s long-term fiscal health
The City’s consultant PlaceWorks published a Market Study in July 2019. Below are highlights of their report:
The Market Study also noted:
Demographics of the City and broader Orange County are shifting. As Baby Boomers retire, a smaller number of young urban professionals will take their place. This will result in a labor shortage - and cities around Southern California will be competing to attract these professionals.
Cities that are best equipped to attract skilled and educated workers will, in turn, attract more new businesses and new business investment thus contributing sizable revenues to the City.
Demand for housing will only increase over time. Retiring Baby Boomers looking to downsize will be attracted to the convenience, lifestyle and location of the new Slater Avenue development.
Millennials are entering the housing market in greater numbers. They will continue to utilize multifamily rental housing for many years.
With a preference for more urban housing options than previous generations, Millennials will also be attracted to the additional benefits of the proposed Slater Avenue development.
WHAT IS IN IT FOR THE COMMUNITY?
Fountain Valley needs to address the structural imbalances between municipal revenues and the cost to provide public facilities and fund retirement plans. Simply put, the City needs to find valid and sustainable new sources of revenue.
The recent Coronavirus pandemic and resulting shutdown has exacerbated this imbalance. Conservative state estimates indicate that tax revenues for all California cities will be down at least 20 percent.
The proposed Slater Avenue development would provide significant immediate and ongoing financial help to Fountain Valley in the form of:
Millions of dollars in one-time fees including development impact fees, school fees and permitting and plan check fees
Hundreds of thousands of dollars in new sales tax revenues ever year
Significant increases in property tax revenues
These additional revenues will then be available to the City to expand and create new programs for the benefit of all Fountain Valley residents and employees.
Community Lifestyle Benefits
Community benefits will include:
A new restaurant with outdoor dining to activate the corner at Slater Avenue at San Mateo Street
A public gathering space at El Corazon and San Mateo Streets to encourage community interaction
A high standard will be set for future Fountain Valley development