AUGUST 11, 2009




AUGUST 11, 2009

7:00 P.M.

The regular meeting of the Livingston Planning Commission was held in the City Council Chambers on Tuesday, August 11, 2009.  The meeting was called to order by Chair Blevins at 7:00 p.m.

Commissioners Present: Chair David Blevins, Vice-Chair Ramon Avila, Commissioner Roy Soria, Commissioner Kaye Greeley, Alternate Commissioner Manoj Bains.

Commissioners Absent: Commissioner Leticia Soto

Staff Present:        Administrative Assistant Filomena Arredondo, Community Development Director Donna Kenney, and Assistant City Attorney Jeffrey Massey.

Others Present:              Council Liaison Martha Nateras, Council Member Margarita Aguilar, Mark Niskanen, John Anderson, Pastor William Ruth, Susan Ruth, Luis Flores, Jean Okuye, Katherine Schell-Rodriguez, Angelina Torrez, Maria Cortez, and others in the audience.             


The pledge of allegiance to the flag was recited.                     



Motion by Vice-Chair Avila, seconded by Commissioner Bains, to approve the minutes from the regular meeting of June 9, 2009. Motion carried 5-0.


Motion by Vice-Chair Avila, seconded by Commissioner Bains, to approve the minutes from the special meeting of July 22, 2009. Motion carried 5-0.


Susan Ruth, 1518 Nut Tree Road, invited everyone to the Livingston Community Network 4th Annual Multicultural Festival scheduled for Sunday, August 23, 2009, from 12:00 Noon – 9:00 p.m. at the Livingston Memorial Park. This is a fundraiser event to award scholarships to Livingston students. She explained this is their biggest fundraiser event of the year. All the entertainment is free; they mostly rely on sponsors for this event. She added that last year the Livingston Community Network was able to hand out 31 scholarships. They have had lots of community support. When they hand out scholarships, they like to tell the students that the community believes in them and supports them.



This item is a reconsideration of a Conditional Use Permit for the Merced County Hunger Task Force to create a community garden at the Walnut Sports Complex. This project was denied by the Planning Commission in public hearing on May 12, 2009.

Staff presented the staff report and stated that this project was brought back to the Planning Commission because there is additional information that was not made available at the May 12, 2009, regular meeting. The City Council had moved forward and approved the City Manager to go into a contract with the Hunger Task Force in order to provide the garden. Community Development Director Kenney was not present at that City Council meeting and since the contract went directly through the City Manager’s office, she was unaware of the contract at the time of the May 12, 2009, Planning Commission meeting.

Staff added that since the May 12th meeting, City staff has been working with WalMart, the project directly to the south of the Walnut Sports Complex. They have expressed interest in working with the City to use and enlarge the existing drainage basin on that site. There have not been many discussions on the Development Agreement, so nothing has been negotiated yet as to what sort of improvements they may make on the City’s behalf in order to use the drainage basin, but those talks are ongoing and staff wants the Planning Commission to be aware of it.

Pastor William Ruth and several of his supporters were present to speak on behalf of the community garden project. He provided information handouts on community gardens to City staff and Planning Commissioners.

Pastor William Ruth, Chairperson of the Merced County Hunger Task Force,

1518 Nut Tree Road, thanked staff and the Planning Commission for bringing this item back for reconsideration and for giving him the opportunity to answer any questions. He feels it is very important for the City to understand what a community garden is and to get involved in the project.

He defined community garden as being a piece of land gardened by a group of people. He referred to the pictures in the handout from the Santa Monica community garden. What they want for a community garden is a place or places where a group of folks can grow fruits and vegetables for their own consumption and also for the community. This group thinks community gardens help fight obesity because they feel that obesity is caused by the lack of access of fresh fruits and vegetables. Pastor Ruth is working with a group of local farmers who will be offering advice and also expertise to this garden project.

Pastor Ruth went over a list of benefits of having a community garden:

·        Improves the quality of life for people in the garden

·        Provides a catalyst for neighborhood and community development

·        Stimulates social interaction

·        Encourages self-reliance

·        Beautifies neighborhoods

·        Produces nutritious food

·        Reduces family food budgets

·        Creates opportunity for recreation, exercise, therapy, and education

·        Reduces crime

·        Preserves green space

·        Creates income opportunities and economic development

·        Reduces city heat from streets and parking lots

·        Provides opportunities for intergenerational and cross-cultural connections

Jean Okuye, 10181 W. Olive Avenue, presented a PowerPoint presentation on community gardens that she visited in the Waikiki Island of Hawaii. This program is very successful. Their garden plots are in residential areas. There is a large park with restroom facilities that people can use. They have 110 – 5’ x 17’ plots, with a small walkway between the plots. Water access is provided at a rate of $19 per year to help pay for the water consumption. The people are responsible for supplying their own topsoil and for bringing their own tools. They have a volunteer committee which meets monthly. They have a long waiting list and if the people in the waiting list attend the meetings, they earn points and when someone doesn’t take care of their plot, he is given a warning and if he still doesn’t take care of his plot, the plot is given to someone else who will take the responsibility to plant the garden and take care of it.

The PowerPoint showed pictures of the plots and the nursery tool shed. There are houses right next to the plots. You can’t even tell this is a public community garden. It has an open fence on both sides and warning signs are posted so people don’t go in there if they don’t belong there.

Bylaws are also posted. Some people have ornamental plants in the middle and potted trees in their garden. There is an area with a few benches for people to sit. Many people just like to go there and socialize.

Cindy Lashbrook, 12230 Livingston-Cressey Road, thinks the sports complex is a good location because there are a lot of resources there for the whole family. The parents can start gardening while the kids are playing or practicing and the kids can become part of the family’s economic system.

Pastor Ruth gave a brief description of the role of the Hunger Task Force in Merced County. It started about six years ago as a group of community based organizations that were looking at a way to supply food for the hungry people in Merced County. They met to try to build communication between the programs and to offset any duplication of efforts. One of the first projects of the Hunger Task Force was to organize the existing Merced County Food Bank which is located in Merced. Inside the warehouse, they built a cleaning room where they bring down the big bulk foods and put it in smaller containers and give out to the needy families. Most of the pantries in and around Livingston and other parts of the County get their food from that food bank. The Hunger Task Force has put on three food summits and out of those food summits, they have a Saturday food program at the Salvation Army. They also arranged it so that people can help themselves. At their last food summit, they came up with three strategies: to increase farmers’ markets, community gardens, and corner stores. They are really trying to encourage committees to go for community gardens mainly to give people access. They are looking at community gardens in and around apartments and parks – preferably parks because they offer bathroom facilities for the gardeners and also a place for kids to play. 

Susan Ruth said she has been listening to Pastor Ruth over the years talking about some of their dreams to incorporate the support and help of available resources in town.  They are city people and they know little about farming, so what are they doing with anything dealing with farming? If you look at the resources available and the relationship that can be built with the farming community and the city people, it can be something pretty powerful. Livingston has a wonderful Future Farmers of America program at the high school. That could be a great involvement. Even Elementary School Superintendent, Henry Escobar, said he wanted to get involved with the community garden. There are people in town who are very committed if the City would just get behind it and push it and let Livingston be known as a community garden town. What a powerful image that could be and what a beautiful way to bring people together.

Pastor Ruth explained that there is also an educational win to this project. There are ways to grow a lot of vegetables and fruit in a small place and use fresh intensive cultivation ideas where they double dig, so the roots go straight down instead of around because they are disking the dirt. Also there is a component about teaching how to build soil or compost.

Commissioner Bains asked if the committee is planning to design the community garden.

Pastor Ruth responded that it is difficult to say right now because they are only the steering committee and they want the folks to come up with the guidelines.

Cindy Lashbrook said the entire garden will be designed before they start it. Depending on the size and shape, it can actually be almost a piece of landscape and not just little strips. If people are involved, it could be great. Maybe someone from the Planning Commission or the City Council wants to be part of that program. This could be a beautiful artistic thing and a real blending of where they can have people come together, eat, play, plant, and have a good time.

Commissioner Bains asked how will they determine who gets a plot.

Pastor Ruth said in the beginning it would be word of mouth and it would be on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Commissioner Bains questioned if they have a plan for moving the garden if asked to do so in as little as 60 days, since this is a temporary use of the property.

Pastor Ruth responded that they would prefer more like 180 days notice, but if it’s an emergency, they could do it in 60 days. If they get to use one or two or three acres then they would make sure that they grow seasonal fruits and vegetables and things that could be possibly moved. This is important because it gives them a foot in the door and it helps them organize people who are interested and then from there look for more permanent land. He added that they are also requesting that the City give them a break on the water.

Commissioner Greeley thinks that is a big request since the City is having water issues right now. She commented that where she lives in the Monte Cristo subdivision, they have a community garden. She has a small 6’ x 10’ plot. She agrees that it is very effective in bringing people together. It is nice to go out and pick tomatoes and eat them fresh, but they do need water.

Pastor Ruth said this is an educational program, too. They will be teaching water conservation tips and other tricks that gardeners have figured out to save and conserve water, so this will be very cost effective. They will be using the latest techniques. He added that there is a program called Merced Share which is for home gardeners who have an abundance of a certain vegetable. You can go on their website or call a number and tell them that you have an abundance of that vegetable and they will tell you what day to bring them in and everybody else from all over the town will also bring their excess, and then that afternoon they come and pick up all the excess vegetables. Those are the kinds of things that they are looking for and that will benefit everybody. The beautiful part of it is that the whole thing is free.

Commissioner Greeley thinks it’s a good idea for them to share the cost of the water.

Pastor Ruth stated that in addition to the water bill, there will be an entry fee.

Cindy Lashbrook stated they were hoping that the money from the first year could go towards the development of the garden and then after that, it would come to the City to help pay for the water.

Discussion followed regarding best location for the garden.

Commissioner Soria commented there are people planting community gardens along sidewalks already such as Chavez Auto Shop on Campbell Blvd. He added that there is vacant land on other areas such as the six acre school property on 6th  Street, between “F” and Park Streets. He does not think the Sports Complex is a good spot.

Pastor Ruth said the idea originally came from the City Council about two years ago. He first mentioned it to the Mayor at that time, and then City Manager Richard Warne said the City had 12.6 acres available. About one month after their conversation is when Pastor Ruth contacted them to ask for the location of the 12.6 acres and that is what started everything. Also, it was on the City Council agenda and the City Council voted unanimously to allow them to use the full 12.6 acres and now they are saying the use will be temporary and so the reason they are here tonight is to salvage any part of the initial conversation.

Commissioner Soria said he had nothing against the community garden, but he would prefer that it be located somewhere else. If something comes up, the City will need the land right away and not in 180 days. If this were to happen, he would feel very bad to have them pull up the garden right away. He mentioned the 2.5 acres on Olive Avenue.

Pastor Ruth said they would need access to water and they will need the land tested. He feels there would be some lead time for them to pack up and go somewhere else, if need to. Development just doesn’t spring up.

Commissioner Soria stated these 2.5 acres are agricultural land. An almond orchard is right beside it and there is a house right beside the property line, so they would have water available. He added that there are also 56 acres available on Washington Boulevard.

Pastor Ruth replied that Washing Boulevard is far out of town and they need places in the neighborhoods.

Lengthy discussion followed.

Commissioner Soria asked staff how close is the WalMart project from developing.

Staff replied they are within two months of completing the Notice of Preparation for the environmental document. Once that happens, they will be able to move forward with the site and design review and the development agreement and go before Planning Commission and City Council. This means that reasonably they could have their approvals after the holidays, maybe March or April. At that point, they would need to provide improvement plans to the City Engineer which would take about 2-3 months to get through his office before they could pull the building permit to actually start digging, so it could be early next summer when they are actually digging in the ground.

Commissioner Soria said it is July already and Pastor Ruth and his group are barely coming before the Planning Commission.

Pastor Ruth responded this is not his fault.

Commissioner Soria questioned how soon they will get started planting if a CUP is granted.

Pastor Ruth responded that he thinks in three to four weeks.

Cindy Lashbrook commented this all started out with the 12.6 acres being available and now it is just a portion. She asked if an area has been designated yet.

Staff responded the area near the south property line of the 12.6 acres, which would be the north property line of the WalMart parcel, is what has been designated for four baseball fields and those baseball fields are supposed to be a bit lower to accommodate rain water in the winter time and then they will be used for baseball in the spring, so it would be the southern portion of that 12.6 acres.

Cindy Lashbrook stated placing the community garden at the Sports Complex would diversify what is happening there. The kids playing sports can use a different lesson. The whole family can be out there. The parents can watch their children practice and then turn around and work in the garden and then go home and make dinner and it would be a much healthier dinner than what they would get otherwise. She added that they want to be part of helping the community and one thing about the Sports Complex is that it is a place people are drawn to because they are going with their children, so this is just another reason for that to be the right place for a garden and it has restroom facilities, too. Also, there are houses around it. If they plant the garden on the edge of town, it will be less likely to be utilized. However, they wouldn’t want to tear it up right away. It would be very intelligent to put it in a spot that would be the last to be used and also look at unused areas in the park as it is developed.

Vice-Chair Avila asked if they have a specific age group in mind to plant the community garden.

Pastor Ruth responded that they are looking at a cross generation and also a Multi-racial group of folks. He added that they will be recruiting from churches, schools and other places.

Vice-Chair Avila thinks the hours of operation should be starting at 6:00 a.m., especially in the summer months.

Pastor Ruth stated they hope hours of operation can be flexible.

Pastor Ruth stated that the season for some seasonal crops is about 180 days and that is why they are asking for 180 days or longer than 60 days to move their gardens.

Discussion followed regarding harvesting.

Chair Blevins asked what kind of fencing they will be using.

Pastor Ruth responded they want to use the cheapest fencing – maybe chain link, if possible; however, they will go with Council’s recommendation. He added that they want something stable, but something that will discourage vandals.

Chair Blevins asked how much land they think they will need.

Pastor Ruth responded between 1-3 acres.

Chair Blevins stated his only concern is this being a temporary use. He would like to see the Sports Complex coming sooner than later and he would hate to see them have to pull up the garden in the middle of the season.

Chair Blevins asked if this item is going to City Council for final approval.

Staff responded that the Planning Commission has the authority to approve Conditional Use Permits, so this will not go to the City Council unless it is appealed. She explained that the City Attorney advised her that the City Council does not really need a Conditional Use Permit on its own property, but traditionally, the Planning Commission has heard Conditional Use Permits so that the public has the opportunity to make public comments.

Chair Blevins opened the Public Hearing at 7:53 p.m.

Pastor Ruth thanked the Planning Commission for their generosity and their time and also for their consideration on this Temporary Conditional Use Permit.

Angela Torres, P.O. Box 381, Livingston, stated that it was unfortunate that there was a lot of misunderstanding over the community garden. She thinks that is, in part, the reason it was denied the first time. She added that Pastor Ruth has come to present his plan and that of the Hunger Task Force. She thinks this plan is really going to unify the community and the new generations and she is personally going to be there with her granddaughter to help them plant the garden. If the Planning Commission supported Pastor Valencia’s tarp and even Mayor Varela came to support the project, the same consideration should be given to Pastor Ruth. This is all for the community. She thinks the 3-acre land that Mr. Soria mentioned is not a good spot for a community garden. Nothing will grow there. She said she is not a farmer, but she has worked in the fields and she would not want to eat anything that is grown there. There are no water or toilet facilities there. There is land everywhere, but all of it lacks the water and the facilities needed. If they ever have to pick up and go, she will be the first one there to help Pastor Ruth, and she knows others will do the same.

Luis Flores, 707 Almondwood Drive, said he would be the second one in line to help Pastor Ruth. He is a huge supporter of community gardens. He went to UC Berkeley and they had community gardens there. It’s a great thing to have and a great teaching tool. We are in the Central Valley and this is an agricultural town. The benefits of the community gardens are many and he cannot see why the community garden could not be implemented into the Sports Complex design. Gardening can be a sport. The Sports Complex is years in the making; it will not come anytime soon. It will be ridiculous if the Planning Commission doesn’t support this project.

Margarita Aguilar, 333 Live Oak Way, stated she was speaking as a Livingston resident, as a school educator, and as a mother. She stated the majority people of this community are farm workers and they have some skills and experience growing crops already. They know what it is to have a community garden. The issue here is the Conditional Use Permit for the 12.6 acres at the Sports Complex and not anywhere else, so she hopes the Planning Commission keeps that in mind. There is other land out there, but they are not talking about that land right now. They are only talking about the community garden at the Sports Complex. As an educator, she thinks this is educational. It is hands-on activities. This is a good experience for students to learn to be responsible and get off the streets. The hours will vary so kids can get involved. The area is very visible. It’s an area that the school could visit. She thinks it’s a good opportunity for the community to come together and get involved. She asked the Planning Commission to keep in mind this is for the children – for the new generation. Kids may not have the money to register for sports, but this is free. This is for the community and it has been approved. If Pastor Bill Ruth and the community need help, she will be there to help. She is certain that there are many parents in the City who are just waiting to get the okay to come and help out if given the opportunity.

Chair Blevins closed the Public Hearing at 8:01 p.m.

Commissioners Comments:


No comments


·        He believes that this project and the Sports Complex need to be separated. He is supportive of the Sports Complex, but he knows project can get held up for a while. He has been waiting for the Rancho San Miguel project to develop for about five years now and it has not happened yet.

·        He thinks that 180 days notice is better because it gives them more time to be able to pack up and get ready to move.

·        Asked if the contract states the hours of operation or if that could be changed.

Pastor Ruth responded the hours of operation are not listed in the contract.


·        He is a supporter of the garden, but he is concerned about it being temporary. He would prefer that they stick to the 60-day notice instead of 180 days.


·        Questioned how they are going to determine how much acreage they will use.

Staff said she is not sure how big the four baseball fields are where the drainage basin will be, but between the baseball fields and Dwight Way, there may be a strip of 3-5 acres along the street. She added that she recently spoke with the City Attorney and mentioned to him that the contract approved by City Council for the City Manager to go into states sixty (60) days.

·        Asked if the Planning Commission will get to see another plan for the garden or if they are coming back for a Site and Design Review after this Conditional Use Permit.

Staff responded they are not required to go through a Site and Design Review.


·        Asked what will happen with the soccer people if the Planning Commission approves this community garden and there is no more room for them out there. They already need to increase the soccer field and add another small field. Approximately one year ago, they were looking at 50+ acres to build more soccer fields, but it did not work out.

Staff explained that Mr. Soria is correct. When the City went through and had a Mitigated Negative Declaration for the property, not only did they add in the temporary community gardens as a possible use, staff added temporary soccer fields as well. The City has been approached by these soccer coaches on the availability of some of the land there, but they have yet to return with a set of plans for staff to review.


·        Asked staff how much space where the soccer players looking for.

Staff responded they were looking to put in two to three new fields. The plans actually show two practice fields along Dwight Way near Walnut, but they felt that they would need the larger playing size fields, not the practice fields. They have not come back to staff with any plans, so she really doesn’t know on how much they want.


·        From speaking with Mr. Pulido, he knows they were planning to build soccer fields there, but they now have a different area someone else.

Staff commented that if he was referring to the southwest corner of Peach and Robin, those plans fell through. They had approached the County about getting a Conditional Use Permit for that area and City staff was routed a copy of the project for comments and she submitted a comment that the City would support that use, but her understanding is that those plans fell apart because they had not planned for water for the grass on the fields.


·        Asked the City Attorney if they have to specify the acreage or if that is something that staff will work out.

City Attorney Jeffrey Massey responded the terms in the contract were for the full amount of the 12.6 acres, although it seems that they are only going to be using three acres.

Pastor Ruth stated that was just a sense of compromise. They would like to use the 12.6 acres if at all possible, but in an atmosphere of compromise, they are willing to go with less.

Following the discussion, it was moved by Vice-Chair Avila, seconded by Commissioner Greeley, to adopt Resolution 2009‑08, a Resolution of the Planning Commission of the City of Livingston Approving Conditional Use Permit 2009-04, for the Merced County Hunger Task Force, changing the hours of operation to 6:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. Motion carried 3-2, by the following vote:

AYES:                  Vice-Chair Avila and Commissioners Bains and Greeley

NOES:                  Chair Blevins and Commissioner Soria

ABSENT:   Commissioner Soto


The State of California requires cities to update their Housing Element every five years. The City Council approved a contract with J.B. Anderson Land Use Planning from Ripon, CA, to update the City of Livingston 2003-2008 Housing Element and they have been working diligently with staff the past year to accomplish this goal.

The 60-day review and comment period on the Draft 2009-2014 Housing Element commenced on June 2, 2009, and ended on August 2, 2009.  The 30-day public comment period for the Negative Declaration/Initial Study commenced on July 8, 2009, and ended on August 7, 2009. 

The City has reviewed and considered the environmental effects of the proposed project and has determined that the project will not have a significant effect on the environment, with substantial supporting evidence provided in the Initial Study.  The City hereby prepares and proposes to adopt a Negative Declaration for this project.

Staff presented the staff report and recommended approval of the 2009-2014 Housing Element and Negative Declaration.

Mark Niskanen and John Anderson from J.B. Anderson Land Use Planning were present to answer any questions.

Mark Niskanen introduced their planning firm – J.B. Anderson Land Use Planning, Ripon, CA, and stated they have been fortunate to work with Donna Kenney on behalf of the City of Livingston preparing the Housing Element Update.

He presented a PowerPoint presentation on the Housing Element process. Items discussed included the following:

·        The Housing Element Contents – What makes up the Housing Element Document?

·        Legal Requirements of the Housing Element

·        City’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation – commonly known as (RHNA)

·        City’s Ability to Address the Regional Housing Need

·        Discussion of the Public Review Process – Comments from HCD and Public

·        Revisions to the Housing Element Document

·        Staff Recommendation

·        Next Steps in the Process

The Housing Element Contents – What makes the Housing Element document?

The Housing Element is made up of six various components: The Housing Needs Assessment; Regional Housing Needs Allocation; Land Inventory; Housing Constraints; Review of Existing Element; and Housing Goals, Policies, and Programs.

·        Housing Needs Assessment

An evaluation and quantification of the City’s demographic, population, economic, and employment characteristics. It also contains an evaluation of the City’s existing housing such as the number of single family or multi-family residential units in the City.

·        Regional Housing Needs Allocation Plan

Every seven years, the State, through the Merced County Association of Governments (MCAG), prepares the City’s fair share Regional Housing Needs for the 7-year planning period and based on this Housing Element Update, the City’s Regional Housing Needs has a time-frame 2007-2014.

·        Land Inventory

Inventory of available land within the City to provide for residential development.

·        Housing Constraints

Anything from environmental constraints to governmental constraints. An example of an environmental constraint is a parcel of land that is designated residential zoning and has wetlands on it. Governmental constraints are things such as how long it takes the City to process and issue a building permit, or process and approve a tentative map or a final subdivision map.

·        Review of Existing Housing Element

J.B. Anderson looked at the City’s Housing Element adopted and certified by the State in 2004, specifically the goals, policies, and programs, to determine which programs have been successful and which ones haven’t been successful and why?

·        Housing Goals, Policies, and Programs for the Housing Element Document.

Legal Requirements of the Housing Element

The Housing Element as defined by State law is one of the State mandated seven elements of a City’s General Plan. What separates it from other elements of the City’s General Plan is that:

·        It is required to be updated every five years.

·        It is the only element of the City’s General Plan that requires review and certification by the State Housing and Community Development Department. One of the benefits of obtaining certification is that it increases the City’s ability to apply for secured federal and state funds related to the development of affordable housing.

·        The policies, programs, and goals are required to be consistent with the other elements of the General Plan.

Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA)

The housing needs are broken down by units and also separated by various income categories. Based on data received from the State Employment Development Department March 2009, the City’s Medium Family Income was $32,500, so the extremely low represents the 0-30% of that Medium Family Income; Very Low 31-50%, Low 51‑80%, Moderate 81-120%, Above Moderate 120% +. The units broken down bring a total of 375 Units.

One distinction with the City’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation is that the City is not required to actually construct and build those units. It is only required to plan for and accommodate the development of those units.

Ability to Address Housing Need

Mr. Niskanen explained how they took the Regional Housing Needs and did a land inventory to determine if the City is able to accommodate land for 375 units over the course of the next five years. They broke it down by income groups: Extremely Low, Very Low, Low, Moderate, Above Moderate; the Regional Housing Needs Allocation Numbers; the Units built since January 2007 (building permits the City has actually issued since 2007) – 96 units; the number of Approved Units (the number of units the City has approved since 2007, but haven’t been built) – 478 units; and Potential Units – 518 (determined by taking the City’s inventory of available undeveloped land within the City limits that is designated for residential development and calculated based on the applicable densities for each land use classification). All this basically means that the City has the ability to reach the Regional Housing Needs Allocation with a surplus of about 657 units over the course of the next five years.

Mr. Niskanen noted that a couple of the parcels that were identified in the Housing Element as available parcels for residential development will be removed; therefore, the 518 unit calculation will be reduced by about 75-100 units. However, there is still a good amount of surplus to account for the Regional Housing Needs.

Public Review Process

The public review draft of the Housing Element was released for a 60-day public review period on June 2, 2009. It was also submitted to the State for a 60-day review. That public review concluded on August 2, 2009. Comments were received both from the public and from the State Housing and Community Development Department (HCD).

Based on discussions and correspondence with HCD, Project Consultant and City staff have made some recommended revisions to the Housing Element document.

Recommended revisions

Chapter 2 – Overpayment by Tenure

·        Expanded discussion of overpayment. They took a look at the lower income categories to determine which one of those households is overpaying on the rent or on the mortgage.

Chapter 2 – Analysis of Existing Extremely Low-Income Households

Chapter 2 – At Risk Housing

·        They looked at various projects in town that currently benefit from State and Federal subsidies and checked when the subsidies expire. What they found out positively is that none of the projects in the subsidies are set to expire within the next ten years.

Chapter 3 – Include the definition of “family” per Livingston Zoning Ordinance.

Chapter 3 – Provided a clarification on the City’s Uniform Building Code.

Chapter 3 – Expanded discussion of City’s permit processing for single-family and multi-family residential projects.

Chapter 3 – Evaluated and entered a discussion on the Conditional Use Permit process for the multi‑family projects consisting of 25 or more units within the R-3 zone district.

Chapter 3 – Expanded discussion of on/off site improvements on residential projects.

Chapter 4 – Vacant Residential Land Inventory – Expanded Discussion on Availability of Infrastructure.

·        The State requested that they take the City’s vacant residential land inventory and discuss availability of infrastructure in those parcels.

Chapter 4 – Anticipated Redevelopment Funds and Projected Use.

·        Anticipated, based on revenues that were counted in the last couple years, how much revenue in redevelopment funds the City would expect to received over the course of the next five years.  Also provided a discussion on projected uses on those redevelopment funds.

Chapter 6 – Housing Programs to Meet Housing Needs for Extremely Low Income Households (Programs 8, 10, 14).

·        Clarified some language in Program 8, 10, and 14, that talked about meeting the needs of housing units for the City’s extremely low income households.

Chapter 6 – Programs 10, 11, and 13, the City’s Role in Implementing Various Housing Programs, such as coordination with County Housing Authority.

·        Mostly focused around applying for, securing, and managing a State and Federal Housing Element.

Chapter 6 – Program 20 (Reasonable Accommodations) – Established Timeframe for Program Implementation.

·        They established a solid timeframe for implementation of that program related to reasonable accommodations. Through the City’s Zoning Ordinance, the State has requested that they define the process in which projects are reviewed for ADA compliance.

Chapter 6 – Program 26 – Senate Bill 2, Compliance – Emergency Shelters.

·        This program is down to new legislation adopted by the State in 2008. Senate Bill 2 says that every jurisdiction must permit, by right, emergency shelters and transitional and supportive housing within a specific zone district or they must identify sites to allow the development of those types of uses and those types of issues cannot be tide in any sort of legislative action – they have to be permitted by right. Currently in the City’s Zoning Ordinance, emergency shelters are a conditional use within the R-3 and DTC Zone Districts, so they implemented this through Program 26 saying that within a year upon adoption of the Housing Element, the City would implement through the Zoning Ordinance compliance with Senate Bill 2.

Chapter 6 – Program 27 (New Program) Senate Bill 2 Compliance – Transitional and Supportive Housing.

·        Also a new program that deals with emergency shelters, but it focuses more on transitional and supportive housing. Similar to Program 26, the City will come back within a year, amend the Zoning Ordinance, and allow transitional and supportive housing as a permitted use by right within a specific zoning district.

Staff Recommendation

Staff recommends the Planning Commission recommend approval to the City Council of the 2009-2014 Housing Element and recommend approval of the Mitigated Negative Declaration.

Next Steps

If the Planning Commission approves the Housing Element document, the next step is to go to City Council on September 1, 2009 (tentatively) and upon City Council adoption, the Housing Element will be immediately submitted to the State for a 90-day review and certification process.

Chair Blevins opened the Public Hearing at 8:30 p.m.

Luis Flores, 707 Almondwood Drive, stated he was not aware of the comment period and added that he would like to look at the comments received from the public.

Mark Niskanen noted that the public review draft Housing Element was posted at typical City posting locations and also on the City’s website. In addition, notices were sent out to various responsible agencies.

Mr. Niskanen gave a summary of comments received which included:

·        Concerns with the City’s current standard and R-1 Zone District related to lot size requirements;

·        Concerns regarding the population projections provided in the Housing Element and the General Plan;

·        Comment from the State Department of Housing and Community Development Department commending Livingston for addressing its housing and community development needs in the Downtown Commercial Districts.

·        Comments from the Merced County Fire Department regarding services provided by Merced County Fire.

·        Comment from Ms. Christie Hendricks from the Merced County Office of Education suggesting various policy language changes with child care in the Housing Element document.

Community Development Director Kenney noted that the letter from the Housing and Community Development (HCD) mentioned that the comment letter they sent the City was the smallest that they have sent out and they congratulated City staff on their document and stated that they enjoyed working with the project consultants.

Cindy Lashbrook, 12230 Livingston-Cressey Road, asked if they can ask for solar energy at this time.

Mark Niskanen responded it has already been included and explained that there is discussion in Chapter 3 related to energy conservation measures specific to residential housing and a lot of it goes back to the Design Guidelines.

Angelina Torrez, P.O. Box 381, Livingston asked if they are suggesting any changes to the residential lot sizes. She thinks that residential lots are already too close together and that can be a fire hazard.

Mark Niskanen responded they are not suggesting anything on lot sizes.

Chair Blevins closed the Public Hearing at 8:36 p.m., there being no further public comment.

Commissioners’ Comments:


No Comments


·        Thanked Mr. Niskanen for his presentation. It helped her understand better.


·        Asked Mr. Niskanen how he is going to respond to comments and suggestions received from agencies and if it is going to be taken into consideration.

Mark Niskanen responded that some of the comments received do not really apply to the Housing Element, specifically the comments received from Ms. Hendricks, Merced County Office of Education, suggesting policy language changes related to child care. That is not a requirement of the Housing Element document. The overall intent of the Housing Element is to make sure that every jurisdiction has not only land, but programs in place to allow the opportunity to buy housing for all economic segments in the City.

Community Development Director Kenney explained that Ms. Hendricks had also submitted those same child care comments through the City’s General Plan Update and the language she recommended was incorporated in the document.

·        Questioned why there is an inconsistency with the population figures in the General Plan and in the Housing Element.

Mark Niskanen explained that the population projections they provided in the Housing Element document are based on the 2000 US Census. In the General Plan (specifically in the Land Use zone), population projections were based on maximum densities allowed per each land use classification and then applying a persons-per-household number to that. The Housing Element, because it’s a 5-year document, is a list and discussion of policies and programs that the City is going to put into place in the next five years. Projections are a component on it, but they are no necessarily a liable component as it relates to the 10, 15, or 20-year population projections. He added that for the sake of consistency, they can change the population figures, but it is not a condition.

·        He thinks that this is a good step in getting more homes and maybe obtaining more grants.

·        This was a lot of information and it was well put together.

Community Development Director thanked the consultants for bringing this document within the time frame scheduled and under budget.

Following discussion, it was moved by Vice-Chair Avila, seconded by Commissioner Soria, to adopt Resolution 2009‑09, a Resolution of the Planning Commission of the City of Livingston Recommending to the City Council the Approval of a Negative Declaration and that Modifications Be Incorporated Into the 2009-2014 Housing Element.  Motion carried 5-0, by the following vote:

AYES:                  Chair Blevins, Vice-Chair Avila, and Commissioners Bains, Greeley, and Soria

NOES:                  None

ABSENT:   Commissioner Soto


Planning Commission


City Staff

Donna Kenney

·        Livingston received $807,000 in “Safe Sidewalk” monies. A big thank you goes out to City Engineer Gottiparthy for the time and effort he put into these grants.

·        Staff visited with the owners that are soon to open the Blueberry Hill Bar and Grill at the Almond Tree building on “F” Street. They went to City Hall to get their sign permits and pick up a business license application.

Filomena Arredondo

·        Dinner fundraiser on August 1, 2009, was a great success. Approximately $2570 was raised. She thanked everyone for their support and participation.

City Attorney

No comments.


The regular meeting was adjourned by consensus at 8:45 p.m., to the next Planning Commission meeting on October 13, 2009.

APPROVED:  October 13, 2009

______________________________                 _______________________________

Chair, DAVID BLEVINS                                    Secretary of the Planning Commission,

                                                                   DONNA M. KENNEY


One thought on “AUGUST 11, 2009”

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