After fielding public concern Tuesday, Murrieta City Council approved a document that satisfies the state’s requirements for allocating land to accommodate low-income housing.
Council voted 4-0—with Mayor Pro Tem Kelly Bennett absent—to certify the City of Murrieta’s Housing Element 2014-2021 and submit it to the State Department of Housing and Community Development.
The more than 400-page document is to be incorporated into the city’s General Plan.
It rezones three parcels of land—two on Jefferson just north of Murrieta Hot Springs Road and one on Adams Avenue between Ivy and B streets—to accommodate the development of apartment complexes that have a minimum of 30 units per acre.
While the four residents who spoke during Tuesday’s public hearing acknowledged the city had to fulfill state housing requirements, they wondered at what price.
Resident Mike Matteson voiced opposition to the pegging of the Adams Avenue property for high-density housing. He said there were already enough nearby apartments, and that more would create even heavier before-and-after-school traffic near Murrieta Elementary.
“This needs to be shared throughout the city,” Matteson said. “I can not believe the city would sit there and let all this high-density into this one area...You have got high density stacked on high density stacked on high density in that one area.”
Mike Rennie, who owns property in west Murrieta near Historic Downtown, said the city should be working to preserve that area’s historic beauty—not add high-density housing.
“This Old Town Murrieta is changing and it is disturbing to me,” said Rennie, a local vintner and farmer since 1972. “...Unfortunately this area is no longer resembling the ‘Gem of the Valley.’”
Another longtime resident, Robert Carrigan, who owns property south of Los Alamos Road just west of Hancock Avenue in an area identified in the Housing Element as a transit overlay district—a mix of commercial and 30-units-per-acre residential development—said the higher the housing density gets, the lower the quality of the area will go.
“It is going to lower the quality of life for everyone out here, including you, Councilmen,” Carrigan said.
Council members said they had done the best they could in whittling down the number of affordable housing units—from 6,000 to 1,500—the city was required to make provisions for.
Councilman Randon Lane in particular said this was achieved by him negotiating with Southern California Association of Governments, the regional agency that works with cities to determine their housing quotas.
“The City of Murrieta is between a rock and a hard place,” Lane said. “But we have to try and work within the limitations that we have…And we have a planning department that has gone through a very long and involved process.”
Several public hearings were held on the matter, City Planner Cynthia Kinser said.
As to the claim by one resident that high-density housing was being concentrated in the Historic Downtown area, Kinser said they are spread throughout the city. The only multifamily developments currently pending in the city are one near Clinton Keith Road and Interstate 215 and one off of Murrieta Hot Springs Road, northeast of Via Princesa.
She also noted that while the Housing Element, as required by the state, identifies land for future high-density housing, the projects do not get built until when and if a developer comes along.
“We are not actively pursuing more multifamily (housing) than we need,” Kinser said. “We are really looking at improving our business corridors.”
Councilman Alan Long commended city staff and his fellow Council members for their efforts.
“If I had my drothers they’d all go away and I wouldn’t have any state or federal agency telling us what we can build here,” Long said.