Eber: Grass roots opposition to SB 828 and AB 2923


By Richard Eber, California Political News and Views 

Opposition within the legislature has been minimal in passing various bills intended to streamline the permit process to build so called affordable housing. However, not all the natives are pleased. Battle lines are being drawn in suburbia to fight “Big Brother” in Sacramento when they will be trying to enforce SB 828 and AB 2923 in the coming years.

It comes down to a case of “It’s not fair” that ordinarily refers to children complaining about their parents making them perform disagreeable tasks.  Here it is reflected in a grass root political movement of outraged citizens fighting progressive government in Sacramento.

With the ink barely dry from Governor Jerry Brown signing SB 828 and AB 2923 into law, a similar out cry of protests is coming from communities throughout California.  A lot of folks are upset by state taking urban planning decisions away from locals and giving them to unaccountable bureaucratic regional agencies they don’t directly vote for.

The purpose of these bills is to encourage the construction of much needed affordable housing by ignoring local zoning laws and streamlining the permit process.  An outcry is being heard from cities who are unhappy with the impact these new construction  will have on traffic, law enforcement, congestion, schools, recreational facilities and the availability of scare water resources.

There is a consensus that Jerry and the gang in Sacramento is not concerned with the impositions that are made where these megaprojects are being constructed.   Why else would they cast aside local control and have the State take over the planning and permit process.  Nowhere would they ever consider that the failure produce housing starts is a product of the costly inefficient system they created.

The fallout has already begun in Lafayette, a bedroom community located 18 miles north east from San Francisco.  In the past two years voters rejected a 1 percent sales tax to pay for downtown parks, restoring a historic theater, protecting open spaces and increasing police patrols, among other services.  They also voted down allowing construction of a 44 unit apartment building near the center of town.

The reasons for these actions are that the citizens of Lafayette are concerned about the congestion and traffic, especially in their downtown area.  They want to reach shopping and cultural events without being stuck in traffic.  Building a few bike lanes is not going to cut it. Lafayette citizens desire to maintain the status quo which for them “progress is no progress.”

As a result their City Manager Steven Falk abruptly resigned his post saying “Elections have consequences “and one is that Lafayette residents deserve a city manager who is better aligned with their priorities.”  Falk was in favor of having the city comply with regional plans for development.   Others disagreed.

The battle in Lafayette is typical of what we can expect in semi rural areas where residents don’t want to be part of the urban sprawl typical of what can be found in the vicinity of Los Angeles  and San Francisco.

What makes these prosperous smaller communities dangerous for Gavin Newsom and his progressive cronies is that these people can and will fight.  They are not going to stand idly by while the regional planning agencies with their density discounts and sardine architecture construct  towers of new  housing in Project Development Areas (PLA) that don’t fit the current character of the community.

Quite simply Lafayette and many other suburban cities want to preserve their rural lifestyle which includes a low crime rate, good schools, and a family friendly atmosphere where current residents come first.  They simply don’t care about the diversity, Sanctuary Cities or allowing refuges from the big cities dilute their quality of life.

Is this so horrible?  Apparently the power brokers in Sacramento think so.  In addition to trying to force cities (especially near transit hubs) absorb an influx of population, they expect them to pay for infrastructure such as schools, sewer, law enforcement, and pot hole repair without compensation.  The States solution is to have their minions increase local sales taxes to take on additional responsibilities without complaint.

In addition to SB 828, the Governor signed a bill that allows the beleaguered regional transit agency BART in the Bay Area to ignore local zoning laws to build multi unit complexes at their stations and within a half mile of them.  How the uproar and outrage will resonate is yet to be determined.  Indicative of public sentiment is the fact that every mayor in Contra Costa County has gone on record to oppose AB 2923.

It is thought that in 2019, similar legislation to what was passed for BART will be put in place for transit agencies in Southern California to unilaterally build properties where they please.

What can be done to stop regionalism in urban planning? How about hiring Laura Croft Tomb Raider to vandalize the graves of Harvest Mice and red tailed frogs who allegedly resided in what are now suburban areas. Were this done, environmental impact reports (EIR’s) would never be the same. Let’s not forget the poor Tule Elk who found their natural habitat taken away by strip malls, Starbuck’s, and non glutton free fast food franchises!

Seriously, there is no doubt that local communities around the State will be using delay tactics similar to what has been used in the past be environmental groups to prevent these mega projects from being constructed. If past history is any indication, it will take years to mitigate these suits.

If the State does not have the will to execute the likes of Richard Allen Davis after 22 years on death row, how will they be able to contend with a determined group of angry soccer moms?

Beyond using legal stall tactics, the opponents to “Big Government” urban planning need to find another way to inform the State government to back off.    It’s called get rid of the bums who are passing these horrible laws.  If sufficient political pressure is placed upon the likes of Gavin Newsom, David Chiu, Scott Weiner, Toni Adkins, and Anthony Rendon, other members of the legislature may hesitate to act like sheep in passing new restrictive measures.

It might also be possible for the Republican Party of California to come out of their present state of lethargy to present a non progressive alternative to voters that emphasizes reinstatement of local control. We can only hope.

In the meantime look for City Councils in both Southern and Northern California to sabotage unwanted growth their constituents simply don’t desire. Lafayette, in the words of Steven Spielberg “You are not alone.”

Richard Eber studied journalism at the University of Oregon. He writes about politics, culture, education restaurants, and was former city and sports editor of UCSB Daily. Richard is president of Amerasa Rapid Transit, a specialized freight forwarder.

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