Over 120 homeowners and parents spoke out Thursday night against a proposal that would turn a vacant commercial lot into a zone for high-density housing.
The lot at 4 Orion near Aliso Viejo Christian School is the smaller of two being considered by the city for zoning that would allow 30-50 units per acre of apartments. The second space is at 2C Liberty.
Residents said low-income, high-density apartments would intensify traffic problems, lower home values, overcrowd schools and harm the environment.
City staff said the zoning is necessary to meet state Regional Housing Needs Assessment standards. Not doing so can lead the city into costly court battles, development restrictions and foreiture of state grant money.
No vote was taken during the public workshop. Councilman Ross Chun was the only member of the council to attend the meeting.
Mayor Carmen Cave left after a brief introduction, citing possible violations of state law if her opinion were prejudiced by the workshop. She did not say what state law she might be breaking.
A vote on the issue is not expected until June or later, City Planning Director Albert Armijo said.
- "Once it's rezoned a developer can come up to 67.5 units per acre. Once it's rezoned, if the city challenges the developer in court, the city must pay their own legal fees and the legal fees of the developer," resident Jacqueline Beaumont, who called for a full environmental impact report and inventory of business park land for consideration as affordable housing space
- "We're slated to lose a lot of money, all of us, all of the homeowners," resident Scott Pechstein
- "Everyone feels it's not a question of if, but when (this zoning is approved)," resident Malcolm Gill
- "It affects our children, it affects safety, we're concerned about the environmental impact," resident Christopher Woods
- "The builder will be allowed to build high-density... but just because something is zoned 'high density' it may not be affordable. And (then) the city has to go back in and find more low-income, high-density residential," resident Andrea Mueller
Why the Need
To meet the state's requirements, Aliso Viejo needs to identify 9.13 acres of land for high-density zoning, enough for 274 more low-income units at 30 units per acre, consultant John Douglas said. He said the city is 95 percent built-out, making available land scarce.
The current proposal is to make 4 Orion available for up to 220 high-density units.
Douglas said the city has an incentive to act fast: if a city doesn't update its housing element in a timely fashion, it must repeat the process more often, according to a recent law, he said.
And if it doesn't act it all, a judge could force the city to comply with state requirements, as happened in 2008 in the case of Mejia vs. City of Mission Viejo.
During the meeting, Beaumont said Shea Properties has lobbied for additional units to be built at the Vantis project.
Armijo said Shea had not approached him or anyone else at the city to lobby in favor of this development.
He said Shea had sent the city a letter:
"There's a letter from Shea, it's not public information right now," he said.
He said in the letter Shea said they would be "amenable to abrogate their development responsibilities."
City Attorney Scott Smith said the fact of the letter is not proof the city is trying to hide any communication with Shea.
"Nothing is hidden," he said, adding that disclosing such a letter can be "a tedious process" because of the private business's presumption of privacy.