CALEXICO — Responding to concerns from residents of the ritzy Meadows East subdivision, the Calexico Planning Commission and City Council separately rejected a developer’s proposal to build one home considered “affordable” housing.
That would be just one
home, among a sea of homes valued at $300,000 and above, city officials
acknowledge. The development is near Margarita Street and Emil Hashem Avenue
north of Highway 98.
Whether the decisions
stands remains to be seen, said El Centro attorney Ryan Childers, who is
representing developer Rafael Chao of Mexicali. A state law enacted Jan. 1
allows wider latitude with respect to where low- to moderate-income housing can
be built in a city, he explained.
The initial “rejection”
was part of an alternative subdivision map approval by the Planning Commission
following a December public hearing. That approval was upheld 3-0 by the city council
after it conducted its own public hearing Feb. 5.
Council Members Rosie
Fernandez and Mayor Pro Tem David Romero were absent from the meeting.
Chao, who bought two lots
in 2019 within the largely completed subdivision, only wanted to build four
homes, three market-value single-family units on par with the rest of the
neighborhood and one “affordable” unit due to the off size of one of the lots
he purchased, Childers said.
asked Feb. 7 whether a reporter had heard what Calexico Mayor Bill Hodge had to
say during the Feb. 5 meeting.
“I am a proponent of
affordable housing, but not in the middle of a higher residential area, (with
residents) concerned about housing values going down and so forth,” Hodge said
just prior to voting after the close a public hearing on the matter.
Hodge doubled down during
a follow-up interview.
“We voted option A … to
stop affordable housing building there,” the mayor said. “Residents voiced
Although city planning
staff recommended the commission and the council choose one of two options
including the “medium-income” home to help meet state mandates, Calexico City
Manager David Dale said Feb. 7 he certainly understands the residents’
“I do agree with the
homeowners. They don’t want to see home values degrade with nearby low-income
housing,” he said.
Still, Dale acknowledged
there may be new laws “imposed” on the city that might determine the outcome.
Childers was to meet with
Chao Feb. 7 to see how the developer wishes to proceed.
During the council’s Feb.
5 public hearing three people spoke, Margarita Street resident Roberto
Gutierrez, local businessman and former Mayor Alex Perrone on behalf of Meadows
East homeowners, and Childers on behalf of Chao, who did not attend.
Neither Perrone nor
Gutierrez mentioned property values and repeatedly referred to the smaller lot size as being in violation
of, and not maintaining the integrity of, the covenants, conditions and
restrictions for Meadows East, which they said were valid through 2040.
“Please respect the
voters … please listen to us. The lawyer who came tonight, he doesn’t know our
area,” Gutierrez said.
“We didn’t say anything
about moderate income,” Perrone said, adding he and Gutierrez were simply
referencing the “integrity of the CC and R.”
Childers informed the
council the “CC and R,” to his best interpretation, did not make any reference
to lot size, only that each lot “be used for residential purposes.”
According to the Housing
Crisis Act of 2019 that went into effect Jan. 1, the city’s decision could be
challenged and overturned for a few reasons, Childers said Feb. 7.
A requirement that at
least 20 percent of a development consist of “deed-restricted,” rent-controlled
affordable housing in a city could come into play in this case, Childers explained.
Another criterion, the
attorney pointed out, is that barring affordable housing from an area could not
stand up to a challenge even if prohibited by longstanding plans or codes. That
would be if the city has not yet met 50 percent of the affordable-housing goals
mandated by the state. Childers said Calexico has only met 13 percent of the state
City officials were not
immediately available to confirm whether Childers is correct, or whether the
city’s own legal staff is looking into the matter.