At the end of discussion about further amendments to the city’s housing element at Tuesday’s City Council meeting (video and agenda), Councilmember Carolyn Torosis brought up the question of what city can and cannot do in regards to possibly transferring a portion of the city’s state-mandated new housing requirements to another city. This has become a hot discussion item after news broke that City Manager David White, Councilmembers Phil Brock and Lana Negrete and other city staff met with staff for the City of Palmdale about the possibility of Santa Monica paying Palmdale to take a portion of the city’s new housing requirement.
White clarified the timeline of the discussions last year. As noted in the update to the initial story at Santa Monica Next, the interim city manager of Palmdale reached out to discuss both city’s housing needs. No commitments were made at the meeting for two reasons: there’s no mention of such a transfer in the city’s current housing element and staff had not received permission from the full Council to engage in any negotiation. After the story broke last month that Palmdale City Council had authorized their staff to proceed with discussions, White reached out to the City of Palmdale to clarify that from his perspective he did not have the authority to engage in any negotiation.
Given that such a transfer is not legal under existing state law, Councilmember Oscar De La Torre, Mayor Gleam Davis and Torosis questioned White and City Attorney Douglas Sloan about what is legal and what is not legal for the city, city staff and elected officials to do (or not do).
Sloan clarified that neither the initial meeting nor meetings with state officials about changing state law would be illegal. Sloan also opined that it would NOT be illegal for White and other city staff to meet or even negotiate with staff from Palmdale without further action by the City Council. The full City Council would be required to approve any final action after negotiations with Palmdale were finalized assuming that the whatever deal was struck was compliant with state law.
However, White doesn’t seem interested in moving forward with Palmdale as things currently stand. “Given that Council has adopted a housing element and the legal framework, I would not be comfortable getting into advanced conversations without Council directive,” he concluded.