In Compliance with State Law, the Norco City Council Approved the Norco Valley Square Development
Post Date: September 8, 2021
In order to comply with housing laws mandated by the State of California, the Norco City Council approved Frontier Homes II, LLC application for the proposed development, known as Norco Valley Square, at the southwest corner of Third Street and Hamner Avenue at a special meeting on Tuesday, September 7, 2021.
The State of California has imposed strict requirements that limit a city’s ability to exert local control over housing projects, such as the Norco Valley Square project. The specific legislation applied to the Norco Valley Square project is the Housing Accountability Act, which severely restricts the ability of the City to disapprove a housing development project or condition it to be developed at a lower density when the proposed project is consistent with the City’s applicable objective general plan, zoning and subdivision standards and criteria.
California cities, including the City of Norco, have very limited options when the Housing Accountability Act is applied. A housing project can only be denied or conditioned for lower density if the majority of the evidence shows that the project will have a significant, quantifiable, direct, and unavoidable impact based on an objective, identified written public health or safety standard, and that there is no feasible way to mitigate that impact. Legal counsel advised the City of Norco that no such finding could be made based on the evidence before the City Council, therefore the City Council was required to approve the project under State law.
While the Housing Accountability Act applies a one-size-fits-all approach without considering public sentiment, local traditions or lifestyles, the City Council and City management have a responsibility to protect the City of Norco from undue financial consequences, and that includes insulating the City from lawsuits that would inevitably be filed if this project had been denied outright. Based on legal counsel, the City would not prevail in those lawsuits and would likely be responsible for the cost of litigation, even risking the imposition of fines, which could be detrimental to the City of Norco’s financial stability.
The Housing Accountability Act does not restrict the ability of the City to attach reasonable conditions of approval to the project. The approved application includes 320 multifamily residential units, a hotel, a food garden, recreational amenities and intermittent outdoor entertainment. To address residents’ concerns, mitigate impacts on nearby residences and improve the project’s compatibility with the surrounding area, the City Council’s approval of the Norco Valley Square project is subject to the following specific conditions:
• The developer’s obligation to dedicate parkland on-site and/or pay in lieu fees shall be calculated pursuant to Chapter 17.14 of the Norco Municipal Code unless the developer and City agree to a different calculation as a part of the Development Agreement.
• To be more compatible with the existing development in the area, the height of the recreation building in the multifamily residential portion of the project shall not exceed 35 feet.
• To reduce the visual impacts on existing properties adjacent to the project, all building pad elevations shall be graded as low as possible while not impacting the functionality of the gravity sewer and drainage systems for the site. The developer shall provide cross-sections of the proposed grading as part of the grading plan check process for the City Engineer to review and approve.
• To improve safety and reduce the visual impact to the existing residences adjacent to the project, a 10-foot tall perimeter block wall shall be installed along the portions of the project site adjacent to all residential uses.
• To minimize potential construction impacts on the surrounding residences, the developer/construction contractor shall use the City’s franchise waste hauler for the collection, transportation and disposal of solid waste, and timely and adequately address any complaints received regarding nuisance conditions stemming from construction debris or other solid waste on site.
In addition to the aforementioned conditions, which round out a list of 90 conditions of approval, the City Council voted to deny the requested variance that would have raised the height of the proposed hotel. The conditions also require the developer to negotiate a Development Agreement with the City of Norco that would further define the terms of the project without restricting the proposed density.
This meeting was the continuation of the public hearing that began at the City Council regular meeting of Wednesday, August 18, 2021. The City Council vote to approve, with conditions, was 4-0. Council Member Aleman recused herself because her property abuts the site of the proposed development.
To view the staff report and meeting recording, visit https://bit.ly/3kZ6cI5.
For more information, contact the City of Norco at (951) 270-5623 or firstname.lastname@example.org.