The Downtown Community Plan’s (DCP) stringent new rules for affordable housing production were almost demolished this week when a pair of councilmembers cast protest votes against the procedural motion to update the city’s zoning laws.

The DCP was ultimately approved during its second reading on Aug. 8 and will become the law of the land but not before a procedural speedbump threatened to derail the process.

Council was tasked with approving several individual ordinances connected to the DCP and to implement a set of requirements for affordable housing production, Council had to update the Zoning Ordinance.

The DCP will require affordable housing production on a per-project basis ranging from 20 – 35 percent affordable depending on the size and location of the project. Housing advocates have said those figures are prohibitively high and worry housing production will simply stop in the Downtown.

Several councilmembers were receptive to those arguments during the July debate including Terry O’Day and Gleam Davis who were present this week. O’Day asked for a renewed debate on the housing requirements but with only Davis’ backing, was unable to secure a majority.

The vote then proceeded on updating the Ordinance with the new requirements. Sue Himmelrich, Tony Vazquez, and Kevin McKeown voted in favor and O’Day and Davis voted against the motion.

Mayor Ted Winterer and Councilwoman Pam O’Connor were absent from the meeting and it takes four votes to approve most council decisions, five when it comes to the budget.

“I just wanted to reflect that I very much support building to the maximum possible inclusionary affordable housing but all the testimony that I heard and subsequent discussion with the community suggests that we will have serious issues getting to actually build any housing under this plan and under other requirements in this code,” said O’Day. “And I hope I’m wrong and I hope I’m proven wrong very quickly but my no vote reflects an opinion I’ve formed after that testimony.”

Davis said she agreed with O’Day and while she supported the DCP, the inclusionary housing policy was important enough to warrant a “no” vote on her part.

Following the vote, staff informed Council that it requires a majority of the council, meaning four votes, to update an ordinance.

Faced with the realization they had just derailed a significant part of the DCP approval process, the Councilmembers present had the option to reconsider the issue at the next meeting or an individual member could change their vote.

Councilwoman Davis said she recognized there would be four votes for the plan if the council were all present and she said bringing the discussion back would be a waste of time for everyone involved.

“I will change my vote to yes as a recognition that if Mayor Winterer were here, he would have voted ‘yes,’” she said.

editor@smdp.com

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