Blog To City Council: Santa Cruz YIMBY Comments on Scotts Valley Draft Housing Element (for adoption)

Letter sent to Scotts Valley City Council for agenda item on adoption of Housing Element

Dec. 20, 2023

To: Scotts Valley City Council

RE: Housing Element adoption on 12/20/2023 Agenda

The Housing Element process is intended to make sure all California jurisdictions undertake a good-faith effort to plan for the housing needs of their communities over the following eight years. We agree with HCD’s assessment that Scotts Valley’s October Housing Element does not substantially comply with state law and do not believe the changes on the revised December draft substantively address HCD’s findings. 

The city should not adopt a noncompliant Housing Element and expect to be exempt from the consequences of said noncompliance. Attached is a flier which reviews some potential impacts of noncompliance.

Our feedback to the city on the December draft carries over from our November 21st letter to HCD and city staff (attached). We will reiterate some of the major points which remain unaddressed with additional context from HCD’s December 19th letter.

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing

HCD comment(s): [T]he element must include a significant suite of programs to promote housing mobility or housing choices and affordability throughout the City. These programs should not be limited to the RHNA and, instead, target significant and meaningful change… Given the fair housing conditions in the City and the location of RHNA sites, the element will need to include significant actions to promote housing mobility (e.g., housing choices and affordability) throughout the City to promote inclusive communities.

Without substantial changes, such as additional rezoning in R-1 single family neighborhoods, Scotts Valley perpetuates segregation and exclusivity.

Missing middle housing to add density in these R-1 neighborhoods must go beyond ADUs and SB9 - it should include rezoning and other incentives for duplexes, quadplexes, cottage courts and multiplexes. Gentle density can be done simply using SB10 and would allow Scotts Valley to equitably distribute new housing, especially in Census Tracts 1 and 2.

Pipeline Projects

HCD comment(s): For example, the element could address anticipated timelines for final maps submittal or detail the remaining steps and anticipated timelines for completion. The element could also discuss the City’s completion rate on pipeline projects from the last planning period, analyze any infrastructure schedules, outreach with project developers on potential timelines or other relevant information.

Pipeline projects are incredibly important to the city meeting its housing goals, existing projects make up roughly 20 percent of site inventory units and 34 percent of RHNA. Due to the significance of these projects, Scotts Valley should be doing everything in its power to ensure they move forward and actually get built during the 6th cycle.

We would like to see anticipated timelines for development of these projects and a commitment to work with the developers to navigate any barriers which can be addressed by the city which may be delaying the process. 


We wholeheartedly agree with HCD’s recommendations for expanding revisions to development standards across the entire city, not only proposed rezoned sites. 

  • In Program H-1.6, H-1.7, and H-1.8 the city should better explore to what extent its density restrictions are a constraint to development, especially of affordable housing. With the city’s highest density residential zoning district capped at 20 du/acre, this is likely a significant barrier. We recommend a higher base density than 40 du/acre for Mixed-Use parcels along transit corridors. These programs should also occur sooner than 2027, nearly halfway through the 6th cycle.
  • In Program H-1.7, the city should commit to adopting a further reduction in residential square footage in mixed-use developments if the proposed rezoning does not result in developer interest as evidenced by at least one formally submitted project application where total unit count meets or exceeds the units expected in the site inventory.

The current Housing Element looks to re-assess progress and programs towards meeting RHNA goals (largely) in 2028, which kicks the housing crisis down the road. Four years of housing inaction by Scotts Valley will have a real and negative impact on those who already struggle to afford housing here. Analysis should be started as soon as possible so the city can properly address constraints and programs should be added to address known constraints (such as those HCD lists) now. 

Public Participation

The Housing Element before you this evening is one that has (as of 12/20) not been published on the city’s Housing Element website nor had its changes reviewed by the Planning Commission or HCD. While a 7-day public review period is only required prior to submitting a Housing Element to HCD, we believe this goes against the spirit of public review and participation and is concerning when considering HCD’s critique on this matter in both their December 19th and October 3rd letters. “Moving forward, the City should employ additional methods for public outreach efforts in the future, particularly to include lower-income and special needs households and neighborhoods with higher concentrations of lower-income households.” (October 3)

If the council moves forward with the staff recommendation and adopts an unseen, unreviewed, uncertified Housing Element, Scotts Valley is further justifying the need for our state representatives to supersede local control to enable housing production. We cannot do nothing and expect our housing crisis to fix itself, cities like Scotts Valley must do their part. Without meaningful action, Scotts Valley will continue to become more unaffordable and existing residents will continue to be squeezed out.

We would be more than happy to discuss our concerns and suggestions with staff or councilmembers. Scotts Valley can and should be a place people from all walks of life can call home. Santa Cruz YIMBY can be reached at