Plenty of land; no availability

Living in Inyo County may be paradise to some but finding a place to live in paradise is an exceptionally tough nut to crack. With grant funding, County Planner Catherine Richards and consultants accepted the challenge and brought the results to the Board of Supervisors last week.

Surrounded by open land owned and managed by federal agencies or Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the task was to put together a vacant lands inventory. There’s plenty of it; availability is the issue.

The goal of the Senate Bill 2 funding is identifying land appropriate for affordable, or workforce, housing. Another issue is the gap between “affordable” and what the “workforce” can really afford in a tourist economy.

Inyo Mono Advocates for Communication Action worked with the City of Bishop on the purchase of land from LADWP for the Silver Peaks affordable housing project. Bishop was the official purchaser of the land and had to give up water rights as part of the arrangement. That procedure worked since the land had access to the Bishop water system.

Multi-plex and other solutions for higher density housing.

Richards presentation to the Board included further snags: infrastructure and services availability, “little interest from builders to provide affordable housing choices” and State regulations that prohibit subdivision outside local fire service boundaries. All this pretty much limits vacant lands inventory available for affordable housing to existing, developed communities, most of which are pretty much built-out.

The conclusions reached by Richards were similar to the house issue solutions proposed by the city of Bishop: zone changes to allow for multiple-uses in areas currently zoned commercial with the hope multi-housing units could be used as fill-in and encouraging Accessory Dwelling Units in residential zones.

So, what would easing up on the sticky requirements for ADUs look like? Some of the ideas included allowing two per parcel with requirements they would be used as short-term rentals, changing set back requirements, more mobile home parks, providing larger septic tanks for multi-dwelling set-ups and removing the need for Conditional Use Permits and the Planning Commission process CUPs require.

Board discussion focused on off-street parking, drive-way width and garage conversions. Supervisor Jeff Griffiths’ observation: “Every regulation makes this more difficult,” he said. “Less challenging is better.”

County Administrative Officer Clint Quilter hit the nail on the head. “We need to know where the community’s at or we’ll get blow back.”