State housing bill is the wrong strategy
Updated: Jun 2, 2018
POSTED: 09/13/17, 10:25 AM PDT | UPDATED: ON 09/13/2017
Publication: Marin Independent Journal: Editorial
Housing under construction near Dublin in the East Bay. (Gary Reyes — Bay Area News Group) 2017
Senate Bill 35 is one of the Legislature’s attempts to answer California’s housing crisis.
The problem is there are a lot more households than housing. In some cases, California has grown jobs, but not the housing those workers need.
That has caused longer, more tortuous commutes and growing pollution.
The state Legislative Analyst’s Office took a look at the issue and estimated that California needs approximately 180,000 units to keep pace with its population growth.
Right now, California is building less than half of what is needed to catch up.
As SB 35’s author, state Sen. Scott Wiener, says the Legislature needs to dismantle hurdles that stand in the way.
Among them, California’s planning process, which can and has been wielded to stop housing from being built. It’s true that in Marin many projects never go beyond their blueprints because of local politics.
Wiener’s bill would put some enforcement teeth in the state-mandated housing quotas, which is needed, but also erodes local control over the location, size and design of developments.
Marin’s state Sen. Mike McGuire voted against the bill, saying it undermines local control.
McGuire is right.
Instead of rewriting construction rules from a Sacramento statewide viewpoint, the Legislature needs to figure out how to help communities such as Marin overcome the biggest hurdle to building affordable housing — the cost of real estate and not having a lot of space for responsible growth.
In Marin, the cost of building housing is exponentially greater than in Modoc County. Dismantling a reasonable and responsible planning process is not going to change that equation.
In addition, much of the county’s acreage is parkland or protected agricultural land.
The planning process can probably use streamlining, but not by guaranteeing approvals to development in the wrong locations, densities that are out of place or growth that will worsen traffic congestion.
It is not surprising that the mayors of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose and leaders in Silicon Valley support this bill. The commercial development they are approving grows a workforce that needs housing. It also drives up demand, prices and rents for Bay Area housing.
They should see to it that their cities build that housing instead of demanding that much-smaller Bay Area cities relax local rules to solve their problem.
There is no question that Marin needs to do its share in meeting the state housing need.
Marin towns and cities and the county need to be held accountable for the protection of existing affordable housing. And when approving plans for job-creating office, commercial and institutional development, there needs to be discussion about also providing housing for those workers.
It has to be more than political lip service. The state needs to put teeth in its housing quotas. It needs to turn up the heat when it determines those quotas have not been met. Legislating short-cuts around local design and siting standards is not a sustainable strategy.
SB 35 is a market-driven solution, providing developers with a state-blessed end-run around local decision-making. Perhaps lawmakers need to spend more time listening to those decision-makers than builders and big-city politicians.
Building more housing across Marin is not going to make housing affordable. It likely would mean there would be more $1 million homes and high-rent apartments.
SB 35 is the wrong remedy for a real problem. Wiener and his colleagues need to do more to spur local decision-makers to focus on building affordable housing rather than providing short-cuts in the planning process for one-size-fits-all development.
Assemblyman Marc Levine should join McGuire in opposing this half-baked plan.
To read original article posting, click here: http://www.marinij.com/opinion/20170913/marin-ij-editorial-state-housing-bill-is-the-wrong-strategy