Facts and Fiction of the City of Sonoma's Urban Growth Boundary (UGB)
Fiction: The UGB prevents the creation of affordable housing.
Fact: The UGB is a land-use measure to determine where we build not what we build. Voter approval gives residents a say in how the city grows. Affordable Housing is built by non-profit and for-profit housing developers, not the City of Sonoma.
Fiction: There is no land available within the UGB for larger affordable housing developments.
Fact: The city itself owns a vacant, undeveloped eight-acre parcel of land within the UGB that can be developed with housing. There is room for nearly 1,000 new housing units within the UGB under current city housing policies and zoning. The city staff confirmed this fact in a presentation to the Planning Commission on Sept. 10, 2020.
Fiction: The UGB creates too many limitations on affordable housing.
Fact: Housing policy contained in the General Plan, Housing Element and zoning laws enacted by the City Council, not the UGB, determines what type of housing gets built where.
Fiction: The UGB helps NIMBYs stop affordable housing development.
Fact: Every fully funded, large affordable housing development application in the City of Sonoma has been approved during the past 30 years and has included neighborhood input.
Fiction: Land availability is what creates affordable housing.
Fact: It's money that's needed to create affordable housing, and every large affordable housing development over the past 30 years has been made possible by financial contributions by city government. The elimination of redevelopment agencies eliminated funding for government subsidized housing, and until funding is replaced, the city will not be able to subsidize affordable housing.
Fiction: The UGB stops housing creation for teachers, fire and police employees, and other critical service workers.
Fact: Market rate housing is created by for-profit developers, and they control the type of housing created, its price and the market it serves. The UGB has no bearing on how housing is used or for whom.
Fiction: The UGB is a housing measure.
Fact: The UGB is an environmental, climate-smart land use measure intended to preserve open space, agricultural uses, and wildlife habitat. It is also needed to encourage climate-smart city-centered growth to enhance climate resiliency by limiting sprawl and making it easier to walk and bike to school, jobs and shops.
Fiction: The UGB raises land prices.
Fact: The UGB prevents over-heated land speculation at the edges of the city.
Fiction: The UGB prevented Habitat for Humanity from building affordable housing.
Fact: Habitat for Humanity never submitted any formal development application to the City of Sonoma or the County of Sonoma. The parcel in question is outside Sonoma's UGB and required County action for a lot split; approval by LAFCO was required for an annexation application to be submitted to the City of Sonoma. None of this happened prior to the financial collapse of the local Habitat for Humanity. Sonoma's UGB was never a legal hurdle.
Fiction: The UGB discriminates against affordable housing.
Fact: To the contrary, the proposed UGB contains the strongest land use mandate in city history, requiring that 100% of any land added to the UGB must be used for affordable housing, and that 51% of that land must be used to provide housing for low and very low income residents.
Fiction: The UGB measure has “poison pills” that makes it impossible to allow affordable housing outside the city.
Fact: The UGB measure specifically allows the City Council to allow affordable housing outside the UGB without a vote of the people under certain conditions with a 4/5th vote after analyzing whether it can be accommodated inside the UGB. This protects the voice of of the voters and ensures that any exemptions are for 100 percent affordable housing.
Fiction: The UGB is racist.
Fact: The UGB simply sets a boundary line beyond which the City of Sonoma cannot expand without a vote of the people. It actually creates a more diverse and integrated community by prioritizing new housing of all income levels close to town near schools, shops and jobs, not forcing affordable housing out to the edge of town. Diversity has slowly been increasing in the city during the period of the UGB.