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.

Housing-Transportation Slipt in the State Senate

Via email from Calmatters:

HOUSING-TRANSPORTATION SPLIT: A powerful California senator instrumental in the rejection of a disputed proposal last year to strip cities of land use powers near public transit stops will no longer have the housing portfolio in his Senate committee, possibly opening a path for controversial legislation that would hasten dense housing developments in urban areas, Hart reports.

State Sen. Jim Beall, a San Jose Democrat, is losing the housing segment of his former Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing. Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins announced late last month that Beall, who opposed last year’s housing density bill, will now oversee a new Senate Committee on Transportation.

As for the chair of the new Senate Housing Committee? None other than Sen. Scott Wiener, the San Francisco Democrat who spearheaded the controversial housing measure, Senate Bill 827, that died in Beall’s committee. Wiener has already reintroduced his proposal with some changes in this year’s S.B. 50.

In an interview with POLITICO, Beall acknowledged that previously, he’d wanted to continue in his role, but said the change would give him more time to focus on his own housing legislation.

Beall had been chair of the joint transportation-housing committee since 2014. He said he hasn’t fully read S.B. 50 but was concerned last year that Wiener’s bill would have gone too far in changing zoning laws near public transit — particularly bus stops.

“It’s kind of like, are you going to have radical changes in your density based on a small number of people using the bus?” Beall said. “Rail, on the other hand, is more permanent.”

Wiener said he “understands Jim’s concern, because bus stops can change.” But, he said, bus stops must be included for his legislation to have the kind of development impact that the state needs.

If you disagree with this, let the Senators know how you feel.

Mayors talk CEQA changes

By Kevin Yakamura : politico – excerpt

CHANGE OF HEART? While cities were major opponents of controversial legislation this year to help developers build housing near bus and rail lines, big-city mayors say they’re willing to work next year with the California lawmaker behind the idea, reports POLITICO’s Angela Hart.

State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) said he plans to revive Senate Bill 827, which would allow developers to bypass local zoning laws to build taller, more dense housing near public transportation. Despite previous local government opposition, some mayors now say it’s time for the state to step in, even if they have to give up some local land use authority.

“Local control is an important principle…but it’s highly overrated,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg Friday at a housing and homelessness forum moderated by CALmatters. “Local control to what end?”… (more)

Those of us who disagree with this principle, may have to fight the battle all over again. This time, with more fuel from the recent elections. Many people who knew nothing about the state power struggles before, now a lot about it now. The ballot arguments educated a lot of people. Once the fires are out and the homeless count rises, the where to build housing arguments will begin in earnest.


Housing bill could result in 85-foot tall buildings on El Camino

By Elaine Goodman : dailypost – excerpt

A bill introduced in the California Legislature would ease restrictions on housing projects built near transit — bypassing some of the controls over such development by the cities in which they would be built.

Senate Bill 827, introduced last month by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, would remove density limits and parking requirements for housing built close to transit.

It would also set minimum height limits that cities could impose for such development, ranging from 45 feet to 85 feet in some circumstances. A city could increase that height but not go below it…

According to Wiener’s website, the bill is sponsored by a group called California YIMBY, which stands for “Yes in my backyard.”….

City governments oppose the bill

The League of California Cities opposes SB 827, saying it would undermine locally developed general plans (called the Comp Plan in Palo Alto), housing plans and development restrictions… (more)

Opposition from irate citizens around the state convinced the senator to amend SB827, but Many people object to any further interference from the state in local zoning and planning matters under local jurisdiction. Stay tuned for updates as more bills are pouring in. (Technically, the 85 foot buildings could be over 100 feet if the state density bonus is applied to the 85 feet.)

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