The San Fernando City Council has decided to extend its moratorium on any new application filing, processing, approval and issuance of permits for multiple-family dwelling projects until January of 2018.

An emergency ordinance was approved at the council meeting on Monday, Dec. 5, on a vote of 4-1. Councilmember Antonio Lopez was the lone dissenter.

A moratorium was first adopted on Feb. 22, in part because of a growing battle over new and increased development. City officials said they wanted a moratorium to have time to study and review San Fernando’s infrastructure — including sewers, streets and water — to see if said infrastructure could support new housing and construction.

That moratorium was scheduled to end on Jan. 18, 2017. The next council meeting is not until Jan. 17, 2017. There would not have been enough time to conduct a public hearing and propose another moratorium before it expired.

Because there is a maximum of two years for a moratorium, this is the last extension the City of San Fernando can impose.

Available affordable housing remains a hot-button issue in San Fernando: those against another moratorium say there is a critical shortage of housing, and and this could further delay new multiple-family dwellings until 2020. Supporters contend that, even though many of the studies have been complete, including the inspection and cleaning of the sewer system, there are other pressing questions that still need answers.

Mel Wilson a property owner and realtor, warned of “a housing shortage all throughout our region” that was not going to get better in part “because there is a supply restriction here in the City of San Fernando.”

The current moratorium, Wilson said, “is a real impediment for folks to create more housing that is affordable. The normal housing market would be about six months inventory of homes on the market. Today, we have about 2 1/2 months of inventory on the market. You’re getting multiple offers for any property that comes on the market.

“Home values are escalating at an unsustainable amount. And rental rates are off the charts. Part of this is caused by the moratorium the council imposed on development here in San Fernando.”

Councilmember Sylvia Ballin argued “there are already too many apartment buildings” in San Fernando.

“We’ve had problems with our four water wells, and the demand with the addition of any multi-family housing,” Ballin said. “And the feeder schools cannot take any more children right now.

“LA Unified has identified Vista del Valle in San Fernando —  though part of it is in LA — as feeder school where new kids will go from the new townhouses being built on Foothill, between Hubbard and Maclay. They are building 200 four- to five- bedroom units. And the middle school will be San Fernando Middle school. We don’t have the teachers or the facilities — I don’t think they can take the strain. Then what happens if we approve 750 or 1,500 multiple family units. Where do these kids go to school?”

Mayor Robert C. Gonzales said he supported extending the moratorium because there “we’ve had so much public outcry over affordable housing and housing in general, that I felt it was important to get all the facts to the community’s questions. One of the biggest remaining issues is the developers fees study. That hasn’t been completed. We want to be fair, but also sure we’re charging enough as a city.”

Gonzales said that particular study should be finished by mid-2017.

He also said the council could end the moratorium earlier, depending on the study results.

“I thought it was important to extend to the max to make sure we have ample time to get all the studies done correctly. Make sure we have the right stats to make the right decisions for our infrastructure,” Gonzales said.