California developer to use little-known ‘builder’s remedy’ to bypass zoning rules and build 790 homes

By Neil Gerrard23 May 2023

A sign reading 'Alhambra' for the City of Alhambra in California Image: Jey0h at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A Los Angeles-based developer intends to use a little-known provision called the ‘builder’s remedy’ to build 790 market rate and affordable homes in the City of Alhambra in California, bypassing the usual zoning requirements.

The Ratkovitch Company (TRC) said it would use the provision under California state law, which allows projects to bypass zoning requirements if the provide either 20% of low-income affordable units, or 100% of moderate-income affordable units.

The move comes after TRC tried for nearly six years to secure approval through standard City processes, spanning more than 20 public hearings.

The developer’s proposed 790-unit development will consist of 230 townhomes and 560 apartment-style units in three separate buildings on vacant or “underutilised” land at an office campus called The Alhambra.

It would provide “significantly more” affordable housing then the City of Alhambra mandates under its own zoning, which requires 15% of units to be income-restricted, combined between low- and moderate-income housing.

TRC claimed it would help the city get closer towards complying with the current 6th Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) cycle requirements, where it has to permit 6,825 total units between 2021 and 2029, including 1,774 very-low income, 1,036 low-income, and 1,079 moderate-income units.

The Villages would include more than 10% of the City’s entire 6th RHNA cycle housing requirement, as well as more than 15% of the required low-income units, according to TRC.

TRC claimed that Alhambra has previously missed requirements for affordable housing provision under California housing laws. It permitted 532 out of the 1,492 units it was required to permit under the 5th Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) cycle, which lasted from 2013 to 2021—and only seven of the 850 very-low, low-, and moderate-income units mandated

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