California’s housing wars just starting

By Editorial Board : sfchronicle – excerpt

The Legislature’s long-delayed response to California’s housing crisis narrowly passed in September in a flurry of last-minute nail-biting and arm-twisting. Judging by the reception that has greeted one of the new year’s first housing bills, that was nothing.

The legislation, by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, would overrule local zoning in favor of high-density residential development near mass transit. Sounds wonky enough, but fans of the idea have already declared that it would “change the shape of California housing” and, indeed, solve the housing crisis. Detractors, meanwhile, called it a “declaration of war on every urban community in California,” comparing it to the law that enabled Andrew Jackson’s Trail of Tears; and even posited that transit officials have been running empty buses up and down Berkeley’s Ashby Avenue just so developers can have their way with the surrounding neighborhoods once the bill becomes law…

A recent impasse over rent-control expansion in Chiu’s committee means a ballot-measure fight over the issue could be the backdrop of any debate over housing in the Legislature. The prospect of such an ultimately counterproductive response to the crisis makes legislators’ task that much more important…

It’s a problem that won’t be solved readily or easily, but the debate itself is yielding signs of progress. Officials in Brisbane, who have for years rejected a proposal to build thousands of homes on a closely watched site in San Francisco’s shadow, decided to reconsider this week, citing the mere “threat of … legislative action.”… (more)

The article makes no mention of the major cost of living increases that accompany the unlimited growth doctrine, pushed by Scott Wiener in SB 827, that is threatening the security of the middle class, gentrifying our neighborhoods, and pushing many people out of their homes onto the sidewalks and closing many businesses.

State control over local governments and land use is no more welcome than federal mandates on the states. Citizens want to control their lives and any government interference is unwelcome no matter what the excuse. Recall efforts are underway to replace at least one state legislator and more are threatened by angry constituents.

San Francisco’s former Mayor Newsom who is running for governor should not count on support from the home town he is suing over the right to override their waterfront decisions by claiming they are too stupid to manage their waterfront. (We understand this is one argument his attorney used for why the state should take back control of development of the waterfront the state handed over to the city to manage a few years ago.)

Voters are taxed out. An anti-tax movement is sweeping through the liberal political spectrum that normally supports raising taxes for social causes. Bills such as SB-827 that link dense development to transit rich corridors may turn off funding for public transportation as communities that oppose dense housing mandates strive to avoid being labeled transit rich. This sets up an interesting dynamic that unites the efforts of people fighting gentrification with those opposed to the policies of the SFMTA. This result in big changes at City Hall as well as in Sacramento, where the real damage is being done.

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The latest Silicon Valley housing idea: On a landfill

By Richard Scheinin : mercurynews – excerpt

Environmental watchdogs OK plan for 1,680 units at City Place

Are we this desperate for land that we need to build on a dump? Can’t wait to see the marketing materials and disclosure statements on this one. This is not the first I have heard about building on landfill. Major problems with shifting soil would seem particularly concerning in an earthquake zone. Maybe you can sell housing to non-natives, but, it may be hard to convince people to buy on landfill after watching the effects of Loma Prieta  on the Marina and other “filled areas” in San Francisco. CEQA is becoming a big toothless grin on the face of our state. I think Ruth Shikada’s comment sums it up rather well, ““But as long as we stay the course and continue to do the research and prepare the documents … then we’re going to see housing on that site.” In other words, we can afford to hire more consultants and attorneys than the pubic so we will win in the end. She left out the politicians who are busy cementing their power over the public this season in Sacramento. SB 35 is a developer’s wet dream.

SANTA CLARA — It’s not your typical site for a new housing development: a former landfill, containing an estimated 5.5 million tons of municipal waste dumped over a quarter century in the heart of this city.

But it’s looking more and more as if the Related Companies’ plan to build a $6.7 billion mixed-use complex with up to 1,680 units of housing across the street from Levi’s Stadium will come to fruition. The project represents the largest housing project ever proposed atop a landfill in the Bay Area, regulators say, and perhaps in the entire state.

Environmental overseers have accepted Related’s massive technical document, which includes elaborate safety systems to block the escape of combustible methane gas and other dangerous vapors, and to prevent groundwater contamination… (more)

Q&A Gabrief Metcalf: Is the housing crisis too big to solve?

When Gabriel Metcalf suggested at a forum on affordable housing that cities should be penalized by the state for failing to build enough housing, he drew gasps from fellow panelists.

It’s not that the other panelists disagreed with Metcalf, who as president and CEO of SPUR, is one of the Bay Area’s better-known housing advocates. It’s just that no one else had been willing to make the suggestion.

We talked to Metcalf to discuss the region’s housing crisis and some strategies that might fix it. As the head of SPUR — the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association — Metcalf is in the thick of the housing conversation. That makes sense: Over the decades, SPUR — which has offices in San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland — has helped catalyze some of the region’s critical policy moves, from the founding of BART to the preservation of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area… (more)

This is the beginning of the state-wide pitch for truly repressive legislation that will force communities to hand over their land to developers without any “right” to control it or protect them selves. Wiener is already at work on this in Sacramento.

This is why the country has new leadership. The public is wary of this sort of “sustainable” solution to “climate control” when there are many other ways to protect the planet. Clear cutting trees to make room for more towers and crowding people into cities is SPUR’s way of amassing greater wealth and power for the wealthy and powerful.

 

More than a million people in SF? Did anyone ask you?

By Zelda Bronstein : 48hills – excerpt

New regional plan, adopted with little public input, pushes massive growth for San Francisco – with no promise of money for transit or social equity…

Source: More than a million people in SF? Did anyone ask you?

The Housing Crunch Is Our Fault. We Can Fix It.

By Randal O’Toole : cato – excerpt (includes graphs)
(This article appeared in Washington Post on October 13, 2016.)

The only real solution is to repeal the state laws and local plans that created the problem in the first place.

Housing prices are rapidly rising in many urban areas. Prices in the San Francisco Bay Area are higher today — even after adjusting for inflation — than they were at the height of the 2006 bubble. Data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency bears this out:..

Yet this is not a nationwide problem. Prices in many other areas remain quite reasonable. Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth are the nation’s fastest-growing urban areas, yet they remain affordable (which is one reason they are growing so fast). Here are home prices for areas that don’t try to control urban sprawl (again, the data comes from the Federal Housing Finance Agency):…

The difference is that the urban areas with high housing prices have almost all tried to contain urban “sprawl” by limiting the amount of land around the cities that can be developed, using policies such as urban-growth boundaries, urban-service boundaries or concurrency requirements that limit new growth until infrastructure is totally financed. Anyone who understands supply and demand knows that limiting supply in the face of rising demand leads to higher prices…

The only real solution is to repeal the state laws and local plans that created the problem in the first place. That means abolishing growth boundaries and other constraints and allowing developers to build and sell homes outside of existing urban areas.

There is a growing opposition to the dense development theme. SF has ballot initiatives and LA is preparing a moratorium initiative. People do not like living in crowded conditions and do not like being told how to live.
If the Democrats do not take back the Senate maybe they will start to listen to what the citizens are saying instead of telling us how we must change. It is time for Congress to change.

 

 

 

 

Codebreakers: The City Attempts to Streamline Its Epic Planning Rules. Hilarity Ensues.

By Joe Eskenazi : sfweekly – excerpt

The Planning Department’s ongoing effort to condense the codes governing building and development in this city has spanned 18 months. So far. The overall goal, says city planner Aaron Starr, is “to make it easier to use.” A new, user-friendly document weighs in at a svelte 468 pages. This is merely the ordinance amending the actual Planning Code, which stretches to nearly three times that length.

“Easier” is a relative term.

Concerned neighborhood groups, who exist in a perpetual state of concern, are concerned about who, exactly, will have it “easier.” A consortium raised red flags and marched into last week’s Planning Commission meeting with grave concerns over a specific clause within the 468 pages of arcana…

Stoking neighborhood groups’ fears was language they interpreted to shift conversion of a structure into student housing from a feat requiring a “conditional use” hearing to an activity that was “principally permitted.” The pernicious specter of sweeping up ever more American Spirit butts from one’s stoop sent a shudder through the neighborhood activists’ collective spine.

How surprised they were to learn, on the cusp of last week’s Planning Commission meeting, that the language in question regarding student housing wasn’t new at all — but codified via city ordinance all the way back in 2012. “It slipped through,” bemoans neighborhood activist Doug Engmann, a former Planning Commission president.

And yet, claims Starr, the Academy of Art still cannot legally infiltrate your neighborhood: Language in other sections of the nebulous Planning Code expressly forbids conversions of residential units into student housing. There is one caveat, he notes: An educational institution could indeed purchase an apartment and convert it into student housing — if it serves as a convent…

Engmann worries the city’s efforts to render the Planning Code less confusing have actually had the opposite effect. Starr disagrees. Cantankerous neighborhood activists, he says, “are finally able to see what is permitted in their neighborhoods. … And they may not be happy.”

No, they may not be.

“So, in that respect,” Starr says, “It’s a success already.”… (more)