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.


This is the truth about Brisbane

By Brisbane Citizens for Responsible Development : brisbane411 – excerpt

Video clip of Heminger saying “We (sort of ) told the truth to Brisbane” – from savemarinwood

A developer is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a campaign to triple Brisbane’s housing on the Baylands. They’ve convinced state legislators to threaten Brisbane with legislation that hijacks the City’s review process while forcing us to change our General Plan and approve all of these homes with limited oversight.

The truth about this land has been lost in the noise of the housing debate.  Brisbane is not against housing or growth.  In fact, Brisbane just approved a 12%+ increase in new housing development. Here’s the truth: while the Baylands should  be developed, the risks to health and human safety are too high to make it a place that families call home. Here’s what the developer neglected to mention:

The complex area known as the Baylands was originally the San Francisco Bay. The railroad (now Caltrain) was built in 1905 through the bay.

A large portion of land west of the tracks was partially filled in when San Francisco dumped the rubble from the 1906 earthquake.  All of the fill east of the tracks to 101 freeway was an unregulated dump where San Francisco’s garbage filled in the bay from the 1920s until 1967. See it here.

A major part of the Baylands was home to the Southern Pacific heavy rail maintenance yard, where the EPA found such high levels of hazardous chemicals and heavy metals that they insisted the site be fenced in to keep people out…

Here you will find the facts about the ongoing story in Brisbane.  Read our March 2018 PRESS RELEASE here... (more)

The Millennium Tower lawsuits will lead the way as the number of mistakes due to bad engineering and fake tests skyrockets around the bay. We have maps of landfill. Building on these filled, toxic soils is the epitome of dumb when we know they are building on toxic unstable land and some of us will be around to stand as witnesses when the time comes. So maybe writing all those letters pointing out the obvious to the decision makers is not such a waste after all.

The only safe choice is to move development away from the waterfront to higher, non-toxic ground. There is still un-built land inland between the Bay and the Ocean if they have to be on the peninsula. There is also a lot of land further East if those communities want to grow. I don’t want to send our problems to another Bay community that wants to live in peace.

The Canary in the Coal Mine

Livable California goes to Sacramento to argue against SB 828

LC1by: Susan Kirsch : marinpost

A five-member team traveled to the State Capitol on Monday, May 21 and met with Senator Ricardo Lara, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, aides of Appropriations Vice Chair Senator Patricia Bates, and the aides of Senators Jim Beall, Steven Bradford, Jerry Hill, and Jim Nielsen.

Our team consisted of Jorge Castaneda (Coalition to Preserve LACoalition to Preserve LA), Tes Welborn (Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council), Michael Goldman (Sunnyvale City Council memberSunnyvale City Council member), Susan Kirsch (Livable California), and Ileana Wachtel (Coalition to Preserve LA)

Our message was clear.

Reject Scott Wiener’s SB-828, which changes the methodology for calculating Regional Housing Need Assessments (RHNA) quotas.

Unfortunately, as of Friday, May 25, Senate Bill 828 had survived with a mishmash of amendments. Even with those amendments, the bill remains riddled with problems, most of which is that it lacks any plausible reason to even be considered.

Sunnyvale City Council member Michael Goldman pointed out the fallacy of the one-size-fits-all bill that would require every city and county to zone for housing at all income levels, as a magic solution to our affordable housing crisis.

As Goldman stated,

“Cities don’t construct housing, developers do. Cities can’t make developers build low income housing. Threats to penalize cities for not meeting RHNA quotas don’t have impact when it is the builders who are not building. Land in the South Bay is selling for $7M to $10M per acre. At this rate, it is impossible to get developers to construct affordable housing without subsidies from the state. In addition, housing is a net drain on city finances while office space is a net plus.”

Haight Ashbury community leader Tes Welborn described how residents are already stepping up with housing solutions. San Francisco passed a bond measure to tax themselves in order to get funding for more housing.

“SB-828’s top-down, heavy-handed approach ignores the work of cities like San Francisco, Wiener’s home district,” Welborn said, pointing out that Wiener didn’t talk to his constituents about the bill. “It caters to developers’ profit motives and escalates tensions between cities, counties and the legislators, rather than foster a collaborative approach to meet housing needs.”

Ileana Wachtel and Jorge Castaneda, Coalition to Preserve LA, presented facts and figures from the West LA Community Plan Area that show unbuilt zoning capacity that meets housing needs at all income levels. “The zoning already exists,” Wachtel explained, “but developers fail to build, holding out for greater profit margins.” Wachtel added, “This bill threatens to permanently, unnecessarily destroy open space, industrial land, and parklands.”

I wrapped up the presentation with a recap of why the Senate Appropriations staff report recommended allowing this bill to die in committee. The bill increases state expenses over $2.3M in the first two years and then adds an estimated annual expense of $741,000.

But more troublesome, the bill doesn’t make provisions to cover the local costs to implement it. The bill concludes,

No reimbursement is required . . . because a local agency or school district has the authority to levy service charges, fees, or assessments sufficient to pay for the program or level of service mandated by the act.

In other words, it is an unfunded state mandate.

Considerable administrative expenses and the costs of providing public services will all be passed on to local cities and counties (and local taxpayers), but they will need to fend for themselves to find the money, while developers will reap bigger and bigger profits.

Perhaps it’s this irresponsible scenario that prompted the California Chapter of the American Planning Association, in their letter of opposition to SB-828, to write,

New RHNA requirements that simply can’t be met would set up local governments to fail.

Livable California is grateful to the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and their staff for meeting with us.We’re inspired by working together to combine the power and diversity of Northern and Southern California; large and small cities; and elected and volunteer community leaders.

Good government is possible when we work for it on a regular basis. It’s not enough to cast our votes in an election and think our part is over.

If you’d like to know more about Livable California, visit our website at

You’re invited to join us as we strive to work smarter, not just harder.

Thanks for your efforts to stop the spread of state control over local jurisdiction over local land use issues. The future we take the power away from the communities the less influence we have over how our government functions. Leaders are only leaders when they serve the people. They lose their power and influence when they try to force unwanted changes on their constituents.


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