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Tri-Valley cities unsuccessful in their RHNA appeals

Appeals from four Tri-Valley cities to reduce their Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) assignments were recently denied.
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Photo from this summer shows construction underway on new multi-unit housing not far from other recently opened apartment complexes in Dublin. The city of Dublin -- like its three counterparts in the Tri-Valley -- fully lost its appeal asking for revised RHNA assignments.

Appeals from four Tri-Valley cities to reduce their Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) assignments were recently denied, affirming that each jurisdiction will be required to plan for -- but not necessarily build -- more than 17,000 new housing units combined.

The cities of Pleasanton, Dublin and San Ramon, as well as the town of Danville, all argued during recent hearings for the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) that their proposed new housing allotments during the 2023-31 sixth housing cycle presented too many challenges. Under the RHNA process, Bay Area cities are required to identify sites to accommodate their share of assigned housing units.

Pleasanton Mayor Karla Brown told the Weekly, "There is a shortage of housing, and it is difficult for some folks that want to live in Pleasanton to find a home," but said "an allocation of 5,965 dwelling units is excessive for a town of about 80,000 residents."

City staff asked to lower Pleasanton's RHNA allocation by 20%, or 1,193 units, to a new total of 4,473 units, according to Brown, "based on many vital local factors" and other "issues of concern" including "limited clean water supplies, and limited land available for more housing, which may require the removal and conversion of business buildings currently used for local jobs."

In the appeal, the city also highlighted its "super commuters" that are known for driving long distances to jobs in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley.

"As the city works hard to control our greenhouse gas emissions, it is counter intuitive to require residents to endure excessive vehicle commute routes," Brown said.

Dublin's appeal was also denied, a decision that Mayor Melissa Hernandez said in a statement "is discouraging in light of the work that we have already done, and what we are planning to provide, in terms of a variety of housing options for many different income levels in our community."

Representatives for Dublin argued unsuccessfully that 2,267 of 3,719 assigned units -- 1,449 above-moderate units and 818 very-low, low and moderate income units -- should be reallocated to other parts of the Bay Area, in light of the city's 44% population increase from 2010 to 2019.

"We will continue to move forward, preparing our Housing Element to accommodate the RHNA as required by state law," Hernandez said.

Danville also sought to reduce its RHNA share of 2,241 units by 600 to 800, citing limited public transportation and other factors. Officials said, "The likelihood of success for any RHNA appeal is very low due to two main factors: the narrowly defined legal grounds for an appeal and because any reduction in one city's RHNA means it must be offset with increases to other cities."

"Although the town of Danville is not required to build housing, it is the responsibility of local governments to plan for housing by ensuring that there are sufficient lands to accommodate the housing assignment," officials said. "This is accomplished by updating the Housing Element to identify the parcels where housing could be built.

Officials plan to solicit input from residents on housing sites via the DanvilleTownTalks.org platform during the next phase of community outreach.

San Ramon also disagreed with its draft allocation of 5,111 units but instead focused their appeal on perceived "flaws in the RHNA process and data utilization that has resulted in a disproportionate housing numbers," instead of requesting to reduce their allocation by any specific amount, and cited its "jobs-rich community."

However, deputy city manager Steven Spedowfski told the Weekly. "I believe the decision is pretty much finalized at this point. We don't have any additional comments. I have not heard anything about a challenge, at this point I do not expect any additional actions from San Ramon."