Column: Housing debate needs to get facts straight

By Michael Smolens : sandiegouniontribune – excerpt

California needs more housing, no question. But how much housing the state actually needs is a big question.

As a candidate and then governor, Gavin Newsom repeatedly said that the state needed 3.5 million additional homes by 2025. That figure became something of an article of faith and helped drive the debate over what the state needed to do to reach that goal.

Disputed legislation was pushed that would strip local governments of some control over land development to encourage greater housing density everywhere — from heavily-trafficked transit corridors to single-family-home neighborhoods.

A study released in August not only raises doubts about that 3.5 million figure, but says the actual need is more like 1.5 million housing units. That’s still a lot, but if it becomes part of the ongoing debate, the lower figure could potentially change the political dynamics surrounding it… (more)

A lot of figures used in future growth projections were based on assumptions that California should expect a steady growth in the economy based on the high tech industry and a robust world economy. Given the number of citizens leaving the state, and the decline in small businesses and traditional jobs, and the current decline in immigrants and seasonal workers, it is important to consider a less robust growth in population than was originally projected. That would mean a lot less demand for the high-end housing that has driven the rush to build more dense housing. Recent votes against higher taxes are also a cause for alarm to those who anticipate a non-ending source of capital for public infrastructure projects. The political appetite for growth and density is declining as social problems take center stage and greed and corruption are exposed. We need new leadership to take the stage, put away the twenty year plans, and deal with today’s reality.

SF Lawmakers’ move to reform CEQA narrows, is still divided

SF Lawmakers’ move to reform CEQA narrows, is still divided

By: Joshua Sabatini : sfexaminer – excerpt

The gap narrowed Monday  between dueling proposals to change rules for environmental appeals of construction projects, but weighty issues remain unresolved.

For weeks now, a debate has raged at the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee over how to reform the appeals process under the California Environmental Quality Act, also known as CEQA.
Under the state law, projects that would have a significant impact on the environment must undergo extensive environmental analysis to determine how to mitigate those impacts. Smaller projects can do other mitigation work or receive an exemption. The CEQA decisions are appealable to the Board of Supervisors.
Supervisor Scott Wiener proposed an appeals reform months ago and Supervisor Jane Kim has a more recent counter proposal. The two supervisors sit on the committee and have been hashing out their legislation with board President David Chiu arbitrating. Monday was the third hearing on the legislation.
While Chiu offered more amendments to Wiener’s legislation in an effort to reach a consensus that could then go to the full board for a vote, the larger debates remain unresolved. They include when the clock should start ticking for someone to file a CEQA appeal — either at the project’s first approval or any time through the final approval. For some advocates, waiting until final approval is pivotal.
“The thing that keeps that developer at the negotiating table is the CEQA appeal,” said Eric Brooks, a community advocate engaged in the negotiations. “That’s just reality. We need that.”
Also, debate continues on how The City would determine whether changes to a project are significant enough to allow for an opportunity to appeal… (more)

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