Not enough land for new houses, council told
How much land is available for residential development in Chico?
This is an important question because, as Jason Bougie of the Building Industry Association told the City Council Tuesday night (Jan. 15), if there’s too little land available and “a housing boom comes, we’re going to see prices skyrocket.”
At issue was a five-year review and annual report on the 1994 general plan written by Senior Planner Brendan Vieg. While required by law, the report’s primary purpose at this point, Vieg told the council, was to provide a baseline for the general-plan update just now beginning.
Among many findings, the report notes that Chico’s “residential holding capacity” (the number of people who can be absorbed if every empty piece of residentially designated land is developed) is 30,178 persons, sufficient to last 14 years at the city’s historic growth rate of 2 percent. Although some of this land will have environmental constraints, sufficient land already has been approved for development—but not yet built upon—to suffice for nine years.
Bougie, the only person from the audience who addressed the issue, said that the BIA had formed an ad-hoc committee to study the report, and it had determined that much less land was available than indicated.
“You’re talking about pieces of land that have been on the market a long time,” he said. “We’ve picked all the low-hanging fruit.”
The fact that there’s enough land to last nine years does not mean that developers are going to build during that timeframe, Bougie pointed out. Some may choose to sit on their land for decades. He said he was aware of several properties—including the large Oak Valley subdivision off Highway 32, which the council approved in 2006—that were unlikely to be developed for many years.
While praising Vieg’s report, Bougie suggested it created a “misleading baseline” and that the new general plan should be based on a realistic assessment of available land. The city needs to talk with landowners, he insisted.
Vieg agreed with that, as did members of the council.
Mayor Andy Holcombe asked Bougie whether the BIA’s ad-hoc committee could provide the city with a report of its analysis of the five-year review, and Bougie said it could.
Planning Services Director Steve Peterson said his staff was happy to meet with the BIA to go over the issue, property by property.