A “residence” is where people live
If you sleep in the same place every night, eat in the building, have mail delivered, receive visitors and pay rent to live there, is it reasonable to call this place your home?
The answer seems obvious. However, it took a judge to explain this reasoning to officials of the city of Simi Valley who had refused a permit for an assisted-living complex arguing that such a facility was not a residential project.
In rendering an interim decision against the city’s denial, Ventura County Superior Court Judge Mark Borrell explained the rationale behind his decision. “The common sense of ‘residential use’ is not difficult to grasp: ‘residential use’ is where a location is used as a residence,” he wrote.
Faced with this simple reasoning, Simi Valley City Council relented last month and reluctantly voted to approve the Melrose West seniors’ community of 108 units proposed for construction on Cochran Street. “We’re stuck,” complained Board member Dee Dee Cavanaugh. “The state tells us what to do. “
The state law in question is the Housing Liability Act. He has been in place for 39 years and he says that local governments cannot refuse or make unworkable housing projects that meet local development standards.
This is the case of the Simi Valley assisted-living project. The land is zoned for medium density residential development in which residential care facilities are a permitted use. The project meets city standards in terms of aesthetics, landscaping, height, setbacks and parking.
In all respects, the project conforms to local development standards – policies written and approved at the local level. However, the planning commission and the city council rejected this project because, well, the reason given was that they did not believe that the assisted living units were qualified as residences.
Speaking to council, City Manager Brian Gabler put forward a questionable justification in an area where monthly mortgages of $ 5,000 are not uncommon. “The city is wondering,” he said, “how a facility that is a commercial operation that charges $ 5,000 or more in rent per month can be considered housing for all.”
The changing demographics of Ventura County and California are forcing us all to rethink the definition of “residences”. The Census Bureau estimates that 16% of county residents are now 65 or older, up from just 10% in 2000. Statewide, seniors are expected to make up 20% of the population by 2030.
Housing all of these people is going to require a mix of options, including those in which residents are relieved of the chores of preparing and cooking meals, laundry and other chores. Assisted Living provides these things, along with group activities, exercise rooms, transportation assistance, and other services.
Many assisted living complexes, including the one being considered in Simi Valley, also include memory care units where some residents may need to transition or have a spouse who needs a level of care. higher for dementia.
The California Health Care Association notes that the number of Californians residing in assisted living units increased from 83,000 to 106,000 from 2012 to 2016, and that double-digit annual percentage growth is expected to continue.
Make no mistake: this project is a housing project, which meets a growing demand from a growing proportion of county residents.
Cities around the state are once again furious that the state appears determined to remove local control over housing. They are now targeting their opposition to a bill sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom last week that would require cities to approve duplexes on lots zoned for single-family dwellings.
This Simi Valley case does not help their argument. The city exercised local control over the establishment of its housing guidelines, but when a project meeting those guidelines came in, it was rejected because city officials refused to recognize it as a development. residential.
As Burrell J. suggested, the concept of what constitutes housing should not be so difficult to grasp.