City of Lodi sees no choice but to be proactive with zoning law

·4 min read

Aug. 27—Even if Lodi's planning commission or city council do not approve amendments to the zoning code, a new law that aims to increase affordable housing units would still have to be followed, a city staffer said Wednesday.

The Lodi Planning Commission that night voted 4-0 to approve two new sections to the zoning code that will allow multiple units on certain residential lots and permit property owners to split some lots in two.

"We can adopt a local ordinance, but if we don't, then the state law still takes effect," City Planner Eric Norris said. "So we think what we have here is an improvement that still has all the required components from state law, but also has some tweaks we've added to make it more specific for Lodi."

The zoning code changes are in response to SB 9, also known as the California HOME Act. Signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year, the bill took effect on Jan. 1 and seeks to increase the supply of affordable housing across the state.

The zoning code's new "Two Unit Urban Residential Development" section allows the development of additional dwelling units, as well as accessory dwelling units, on residential parcels.

However, these new or accessory units will not be allowed on properties within a historical district, flood zone or on prime farmland, and must not require the demolition or alteration of existing affordable housing or rental housing.

In addition, new development must set aside 10% of a site for open space, and structures must match the architectural style of existing buildings.

The new "Urban Lot Split" chapter allows landowners or developers to split an existing lot in two, as long as the new lots are at least 40% the size of the original lot or 1,200 square feet, whichever is greater;

The new lots must be able to accommodate two 800-square-foot dwelling units, and each must have water, sewer, storm drain, gas and electric service.

Under both new sections of the zoning code, new dwellings cannot be used as short-term rentals.

Commissioner Manjit Singh expressed concern that new developments approved under SB 9 would place a burden on Lodi's existing infrastructure.

"Where I live is already enduring heavy rain during storms," he said. "We already have flooding in the streets. I know with the pumping station where (the water) goes into the retention basins, those are full too, so water starts backing up from the streets. It goes up to our garage. I know this is a law, but if you implement it you're going to see more applications."

Norris said under SB 9, the application process for new developments will be "ministerial," meaning planning division staff will approve or deny applications, not the planning commission or city council.

Applications can be denied if a "specific adverse impact" would result and there was no feasible way to mitigate or avoid it.

Impacts include potential sewage overflow or excess storm drain capacity in certain neighborhoods.

Community development director John Della Monica said when developing the new zoning code chapters, staff looked more at where SB 9 could not serve, not what parts of Lodi it could serve. He said there are ways individuals can mitigate potential infrastructure burdens through amenities like on-site storage or underground water tanks.

"This is really designed around those who wish to develop," Della Monica said. "It gives us an objective criteria to be able to say 'unless you can prove you can come up with something that mitigates the impact, you will not be allowed to install an ADU or primary residents because of that impact.'

Neighborhoods in Lodi that would be negatively impacted the most by these new developments are located in older residential areas in the western portion of the city, as well as the northwest and southwest areas of town.

Della Monica added that the city's public works department was comfortable that the infrastructure in the remaining areas of the city could handle any housing development increase. The Lodi City Council will consider approving the new zoning code chapters at a future meeting.

Commission chair Mitch Slater was absent from the meeting.