Affordable housing can happen in Cambria


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More than half of the room at the Cambria Community Services District meeting on Feb. 28 was filled with residents who supported an amendment that would make affordable housing a possibility in the area.

Business owner and Cambria Chamber of Commerce member Fidel Figueroa was among the supporters. He was speaking on behalf of himself and other business owners who couldn't be present, Fidel said, adding that there is an extreme need for housing for their employees.

"I know this from my first-hand experience of my own business that some employees are driving 60-plus miles a day for work to the Cambria and San Simeon area. There are four or five families in a single-family residence in Cambria, and there are 55 families living in converted motel rooms in the area," Figueroa said.

The district unanimously approved an amendment to its municipal code regarding affordable housing that gives the board a mechanism to determine whether an affordable housing project can proceed.

According to a staff report, the amendment would enable the board to allow a project for extremely low-income, very low-income, lower-income, moderate-income, or workforce housing to connect to the Community Services District's water system—subject to the county's growth management ordinance and any other required approvals by the other governmental agencies.

During a district meeting last month, someone questioned how San Luis Obispo County's Affordable Housing Program worked in relation to Cambria. In December 2018, the SLO County Board of Supervisors agreed, in principle, to a three-year plan that involves a variety of new fees, possible taxes, and county contributions that could bring in $2 million to $4 million each year for affordable housing.

Tim Carmel, the district's legal counsel, said he believed people didn't realize that affordable housing could move forward in Cambria, despite the moratorium on building.

"So that, in and of itself, may have discouraged affordable housing. What this ordinance has done is it has a provision in there that says specifically the intent to serve letters can, at the board's discretion, can be issued and a project can move forward subject to available water," Carmel said.

Cindy Steidel, a district board director, said the community should understand that affordable housing does not mean uncontrolled growth.

"We control our own destiny with regard to the quantity and timing of how these things happen, and that's further strengthened in the district code revisions," Steidel said.


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