Column: Suburban sprawl wins again in the battle against California’s housing crisis

By George Skelton : latimes – excerpt


It’s fitting that major legislation to fight urban sprawl by forcing denser housing was killed by lawmakers from Los Angeles County, the nation’s sprawl capital.

Particularly fitting is that a leader of the L.A. death squad represents the San Fernando Valley, the epitome of sprawl.

He’s Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), a native Angeleno who helped whack a bill pushed by a lawmaker from San Francisco, arguably the state’s most densely populated city.

OK, perhaps Senate Bill 50 was a bit heavy-handed, utopian and unrealistic, asking too much of Californians who love their ranch-house culture. There were credible arguments against the bill: loss of local control to the state and the prospect of cramming apartment buildings into single-family neighborhoods…

“In my neck of the woods,” the senator also says, cities “are not bad apples. We’ve approved thousands of new housing [units], but it’s not being built.”

Dan Dunmoyer, president of the California Building Industry Assn., confirms that 550,000 housing units have been approved across the state, but so far they’re just vacant lots.

“The cost to build them is greater than the market,” he says. Dunmoyer blames local government fees — for sewers, schools, parks — and labor costs. “It’s not profitable to build right now.”…

There’s plenty of credible research to prove that the greenest building is the one which already exists. This is especially true of the remaining solid pre-1960 structures built of old-growth redwood which are still standing when their ticky-tacky new neighbors are falling down. Tearing them down to build luxury condos for the profit of speculators carries an enormous cost in non-renewable climate-altering resources. Developers won’t tell you that, however. (more)

The author covered a lot of territory. Reason for the slow-down in development is the market, and you can’t blame local communities for the market. Fortunately, that is the message that got through to the state legislators and may stop the Senator’s next round of bills. Watch SB 899 and SB 902, the two placeholder for the next round of Scott Wiener bills.

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