Redding Riverfront Land Could be Utilized for Affordable Housing

In the first of four public workshops on a proposed riverfront land development, the Council will hear a presentation on the process for declaring city land surplus in preparation for sale. A report from the City Attorney indicates that the City could declare the properties as “exempted surplus land” and sell to a developer ready to build at least three hundred housing units, with 25 percent of them meeting affordable housing requirements.

This story is part of Scout’s ongoing coverage of proposed riverfront land development.

The Redding City Council will meet tonight, October 13, for the first of four public workshops regarding the potential development of prime Redding riverfront land. 

The process became the subject of controversy after an unsolicited proposal to develop the land was put on a closed-session agenda of the City Council in September as a real estate negotiation of price and terms. After community outcry, the Council made the potential development process more open to the public and voted in open session to hold a series of public workshops prior to making a decision on the proposal.

Tonight’s workshop centers on the requirements of the California Surplus Land Act and includes a second presentation by the consortium of developers and non-profits seeking to develop riverfront land that includes the Redding Civic Auditorium and Redding Rodeo grounds. Up to 200 acres of riverfront land could eventually be included in the redevelopment process.

A report from City Attorney Barry DeWalt, provided to the Council for tonight’s meeting, specifies that under California’s Surplus Land Act, the city-owned riverfront land could be declared either surplus or exempt surplus to allow for its sale. In either case, according to the report, the land may, but does not have to be, sold. 

In 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 1486, amending the 1968 Surplus Land Act to address the affordable housing crisis rolling across the state. With some exemptions, it requires local agencies to prioritize affordable housing when selling “excess” public lands. 

Under the law, if an agency declares certain parcels surplus it has to send out a notice of availability to designated parties, including affordable housing developers, other public agencies, and the department of Housing and Community Development, and provide them an opportunity to respond first. If the agency receives proposals in response, they have to negotiate in good faith with those entities.

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That’s why, if the Council declares prime riverfront land “surplus,” notice of availability would be provided to a list of “housing sponsors” statewide, who are willing to build residential units with at least 25 percent of those units meeting affordable housing requirements. According to the City Attorney’s report, zoning “does not appear to be a determining factor as to whether the property may be used for residential uses.”  

If one of those “housing sponsors” makes an offer, the City would be required to enter into “good faith negotiations.” If multiple offers are made, the city would be required to give preference to the one offering the greatest number of housing units at the deepest level of affordability. If no offer is made within 60 days, the City can sell the land to another buyer.

An alternative to declaring the land “surplus”  would be to declare it “surplus exempt.” Such a designation requires that the property meets one of the exemptions found in the Surplus Land Act. In this case, the City could use an exemption allowing it to work with a developer to build at least 300 housing units, with 25 percent of them meeting affordable housing requirements. 

According to the City Attorney’s report, the Council could have the riverfront land master-planned to meet this exemption and then put out a request for proposal calling for developers willing to work with them. Michael Lockwood of Populous, one of the developers in the D&D group, said during his previous presentation that the group hopes to incorporate housing into an events venue on the property. It’s not clear how many housing units might be incorporated. Shannon Phillips, a representative of the McConnell Foundation, one of the entities in the D&D group, told Shasta Scout Wednesday morning that it’s too early to determine what housing might be provided on the property. She said the D&D group does not yet have a design for the site and will look to Council to provide specifics if they are given the opportunity to develop a master plan.

But “absent a desire by the City Council to master plan and craft a project meeting the criteria for the above-noted exemption,” the City Attorney’s report reads, “the City Council should anticipate following the process to determine the property as surplus.”  

The City could also choose not to sell the land. Public workshops on the potential sale and development of riverfront land were called for by the Council after the people of Redding asked for more information prior to any decisions being made. Their comments included concerns about whether the land should be sold or developed at all for reasons ranging from environmental issues to public lands access.

A statement on a new City of Redding web page devoted to the Riverfront Land Development process quotes City Manager Barry Tippin: “The City Council understands the importance of discussion and has insisted on robust community dialogue,” Tippin said, and “feels it is critical to dedicate the time necessary to fully understand what actions can be taken, what actions the citizens would like to take place, and how we can best utilize these city assets for future generations.”

Tomorrow’s workshop does not have an open comment period, although comments by the public may be offered following the Surplus Land Act presentation and a second presentation on proposed development by the D&D group. Tippin and City Council members have not replied to a request for comment on whether the workshop as agendized provides opportunity for “robust dialogue” on how the people of Redding would like to utilize their land.

The workshop will be held Wednesday, October 13 at 5:15 pm in the Redding Council Chambers at City Hall.  

10/13/21 9:33: The story has been updated to reflect the McConnell Foundation’s response to a request for comment.

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Our series on Redding’s riverfront land development.

The city’s staff report for the workshop.

How to contact the City Council.

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