A Key Tactic: Sue the Suburbs

By J. K. Dineen : sfchronicle – excerpt

Citing a state law that limits cities’ power to reject developments, lawsuits sometime result in new housing projects, sometimes just a big payout…

The campaign to tackle the Bay Area’s housing crisis by forcing residential development in reluctant communities started with a simple idea: Sue the suburbs…

Pro-housing activist Sonja Trauss, a pioneer in the YIMBY movement, was reading about a controversial 315-unit affordable apartment project in Lafayette in 2015 when she learned about a 1982 state law she’d never heard of before: the Housing Accountability Act.

The law said municipalities must approve a housing development as long as it is consistent with local zoning rules and general plan objectives, would not create a public health hazard or take water from neighboring farms, and would meet state environmental standards…

The California Renters Legal Advocacy Fund, or CaRLA — a group Trauss and her YIMBY allies formed in 2015 — is waging the sue-the-suburbs campaign. CaRLA has used the Housing Accountability Act to sue on behalf of developers in Sausalito, Berkeley, San Mateo, Sonoma, Dublin and Lafayette…

Earlier this year, a group of elected officials and other concerned citizens formed a new group called Livable California, with a mission to “protect California cities” and “oppose state overreach and big money influence.” The group started after a February town hall meeting at the Taraval Police Station in San Francisco and has several hundred members, including candidates for local office in Pleasanton, Cupertino, Orinda and San Luis Obispo…

Livable California co-founder Susan Kirsch of Mill Valley said the group has gained momentum among people who believe that the top-down push for housing development — and big money flowing into the YIMBY movement — is “eroding representative democracy and local decision-making.”

“The consensus was that we are getting clobbered,” said Kirsch. “There has been an amassing of power into the hands of state and regional government. We are not NIMBYs or anti-housing; for us the issue goes back to democracy and local control.”… (more)

Interesting to note that Trauss was trounced by the neighborhood she tried to represent at the SF Board of Supervisors. Even though her opponent was outspent, by double-digits, the district that Jane Kim represented and failed to support in her big against Scott Wiener, chose the least offensive and density-loving of the three candidates. In fact none of the YIMBY candidates won in San Francisco District Supervisor races. The citizens also supported “Prop C” that was opposed by Wiener and the Mayor Breed, proving that their is still a faintly beating heart in the city by the Bay that has not been bought by pro-development supporters.


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