Santa Monica City Hall (File photo)

Santa Monica city leaders have begun work on its Housing Element, an eight-year plan outlining how cities will meet affordable housing needs for the next decade and the public has one more opportunity to participate.

The state of California has mandated Santa Monica build 9,000 new units between 2021 and 2029, almost doubling the requirements from last year.

The quota is part of the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, which called on the Southern California region to plan for more than 1.3 million housing units.

Under the new requirements, communities across the state are tasked with producing more market-rate and affordable housing than ever before in an effort to make a dent in a housing shortage that has sent the price of rents and mortgages soaring and thrown thousands of people onto the streets. Housing for low- and moderate-income renters will be particularly tough to produce in the quantities that the state needs, so Santa Monica officials will have to rethink how they produce affordable housing in the next decade.

Cities are required to update their Housing Elements every eight years to document where and how a municipality intends to build affordable housing within its borders. And with Santa Monica’s previous eight year cycle Housing Element for the years 2013 – 2021 is coming to an end, Santa Monica is now planning for the next eight year cycle.

Two Virtual Workshops were held Thursday to allow community members and city staff an opportunity to engage in dialogue, but those who missed the webinar have another chance to participate at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 14.

Officials said Santa Monica did not appeal its quota due to restrictions on the grounds for an appeal and that failure to meet the goals (or pass a new Housing Element) would jeopardize the city’s ability to secure state funding and possibly incur additional fines.

“The Housing Element Update project was launched in the late summer, early fall. Currently, we are in the initial outreach phase… and during this stage we want to hear from you,” Associate Planner Cary Fukui said, sharing residents can participate by reviewing the initial data and research, joining a technical working group or answering the first project questionnaire.

Locals are also invited to attend a virtual study session with the Planning Commission that will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 18, as well as a study session with City Council on Tuesday, December 15, according to Fukui, who said, “Following that, our next milestone will be in March, where — after hearing from you and these technical working groups — we’ll start to develop concepts and options for public review.”

There will likely be more webinars, questionnaires and study sessions after but Fukui said he expects staff to begin drafting the Housing Element Update sometime around June and the final adoption is expected in October.

“We understand that this virtual outreach is very different from what our community is used to,” Fukui said, but staff is always available to be contacted with any questions related to the project.