Pacific Grove struggles to provide affordable housing

Pacific Grove struggles to provide affordable housing

PACIFIC GROVE, Calif. - Pacific Grove is about to get new affordable housing units in town, but there are only three of them. 

Construction is underway right now on 301 Grand Avenue. The city's Architectural Review Board is considering whether to send the project to the planning commission on Tuesday to approve how the building will look. 

The three housing units are up on the second floor of the mixed-use building and 424 square feet (ca. 39 m²) each, one bedroom, one bathroom.

"They are small units, it's a small site," said Alyson Hunter, a Pacific Grove senior planner. 

The city is entering into a 50-year agreement with the property owners to ensure those who rent the apartments qualify as low-income. For example, households of two people making a combined annual income of about $53,000 or less would qualify, according to a city chart.

Housing is expensive in Pacific Grove, and affordable units are as scarce as the water there. 

"We don't have a tremendous number. We only have one large actual income housing project, it's the senior project...senior, kind of multi-family, down near Lover's Point," said Hunter. 

"One of our challenges is we're an older, built-out community," said Ben Harvey, the Pacific Grove city manager. "We don't have a bunch of so-called 'brown earth' where we can start from scratch."

Like all cities in California, Pacific Grove is required to meet certain affordable housing standards. Failure to comply means they forfeit state funds. 

The city manager says they have resorted to turning old city parcels into mixed-use buildings. But the council has stopped short of any sort of rent control or assistance. 

Staff, however, is currently working on what is called an inclusionary zoning ordinance, which can incentivize developers to build more housing. 

"Where you relax certain standards so that additional units can be created at that location," said Harvey. 

The city says state standards are sometimes hard to follow; one size doesn't fit all. But they say they have the political will to try.

The city says the three units on Grand Avenue are currently the only affordable housing units being built in Pacific Grove right now. 

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