Monday, April 21, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Two plans will have major influence on Fairfield

We would like to wish our readers Happy New Year and we hope we can continue to bring you interesting and informative stories about business and development issues in Fairfield during the upcoming year.

The city’s Community Development Department is about to begin work on the housing element update required by state law. We wanted to make sure our readers know about this project, because public participation is needed to make the effort successful.

Housing is near and dear to everyone’s hearts because let’s face it . . . we all have to live somewhere. And where you live matters. Fairfield already has more than 30,000 housing units and a growing population means that we as a community must plan for new housing and new neighborhoods.

In planning for housing, the goal is to have a balanced community, which offers a range of housing options. A well-planned city will address preservation and renovation of existing housing and neighborhoods as well as planning for new communities. A balanced community will offer varied housing types, including traditional single-family detached homes, townhouses, apartments and mixed-use developments. A well-balanced community also addresses housing which is affordable to all residents of the community.

State law requires all jurisdictions within California to have a Housing Element certified by the state Housing and Community Development Department. The Housing Element defines how the community will address housing needs. Fairfield adopted its current Housing Element in 2009, and the update must be adopted by January 2015 and will be in effect for eight years.

The city’s last update was quite comprehensive, so the amendments anticipated during this round are relatively minor. We anticipate that this update will address changes to state law, update the inventory of available sites for housing development and develop policies and programs related to housing production and preservation. With the elimination of redevelopment, one of the largest funding sources for affordable housing has disappeared, so developing policies to encourage affordable housing preservation and development will be challenging.

The update process will involve public workshops and community outreach. Brian Miller is leading the charge on recruiting community members interested in participating. Call 707-428-7446 or email bkmiller@fairfield.ca.gov to find out how you can help make a difference in planning for the future of housing in Fairfield.

One key project that will affect housing development for years in Fairfield is implementation of the Train Station Specific Plan in northeastern Fairfield (Peabody Road/Cement Hill Rill Road/Vanden Road). Interestingly enough, the master plan for the train station was largely funded by a regional grant, eligibility for which was limited to cities with a certified Housing Element.

The Train Station Specific Plan is a longterm project that includes the ability to achieve up to a maximum 6,800 new housing units. While much of the land in the Specific Plan Area is vacant, the area also contains several businesses and developed industrial properties built under county jurisdiction over the past 40 years. The next step in the train station planning process is for the major landowners and developers to work with the city to prepare more detailed land plans for smaller areas within the overall Specific Plan Area. These smaller area plans will address more specific land use, utility needs and the location of streets, public facilities and parks. The city is  working with some of the major players to outline the specific contents of the initial subarea plans for the first development areas.

Construction of the new train station and the related infrastructure improvements must occur before the community will see any sticks and bricks activity for new housing and commercial development. Although the start of the train station construction has been pushed to summer 2015, some infrastructure work is already underway, with utility relocation work by the city, PG&E and Kinder Morgan Pipelines for water, sewer and gas lines.

Planning for the new community associated with the Train Station Specific Plan area can sometimes create challenges for existing businesses within the study area. The City Community Development Department recognizes the challenge and is currently working with many of these business and property owners to issue city business licenses and interim use permits to allow the smooth continued operation of the businesses pending the planning for the new community. For example, Concrush, the concrete recycling company on Cement Hill Road, will relocate to a site on Peabody Road further away from current residential development.

We love to see new development activity around town and hope the pending update to the Housing Element and the Train Station Specific Plan supplementary focus will help foster stimulating housing and commercial growth.

Economic Notes is an update from Fairfield City Hall written by Brian Miller and Karl Dumas of the Fairfield Planning and Development Department. Reach them at 428-7461 or email at kdumas@fairfield.ca.gov or bkmiller@fairfield.ca.gov.

Brian Miller and Karl Dumas

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