SB-9 A Bad Housing Choice for California

 

 

By Richard Eber

In all of my years spent in baseball I can never recall a team sacrifice bunting a runner from first to second when trailing by five runs in the last inning.  There is a good reason for this.  Such strategy will never work because it is a rally killer by definition

A similar situation exists in the California Legislature where Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and his Progressive cohorts in the Senate continue to promote misguided housing policies.  Considering they have passed some 67 bills without any tangible results, isn’t it appropriate to call a “time out” to revaluate their failed efforts?

Wiener’s formula of eliminating single family homes in favor of stack and pack communities with public transportation reducing automobile traffic, just isn’t working.  Such plans have not resulted to increase the volume of any housing, let alone the low income variety. Even with government subsidies, most developers are not interested in this type of business

On top of that, living under sardine like conditions, is not very attractive for most middle class people who are supposed to purchase these units.  As a rule young couples who reside in apartments prefer to save up to pay for a traditional single home to raise a family. Given this “point of information” reality, why is the State trying to impose such failed urban planning on their constituents?

Typical of how far “out in Left Field” the legislature resides is  SB-9 which was recently introduced in the new Legislative session.  It basically allows 6-8 units to be constructed where one single family home presently stands.  Even worse most of these new developments under SB-9 would be built without having to gain approval from local government.

But wait there’s more! Under this legislation which is similar to Wiener’s failed SB-1120 last year, the ramifications would include:

  • Increased congestion in residential neighborhoods as only one parking space would be required for each unit.   Surrounding areas would be needed to absorb additional vehicles.
  • Privacy concerns for existing residents would be compromised by the increase in new neighbors
  • No limits are set under SB-9 of how many of these developments can be built in a given area
  • Strain on law enforcement,  recreation, and schools on the infrastructure of cities most of whom are filled to capacity.

The question arises if cannibalization of existing single family homes arises under SB-9, what would this do to existing and future housing costs?  According to renowned Professor Patrick Condon, whose new book Sick Cities addresses this problem:

 “I strongly advocate for affordable housing and additional density when it can be shown that this leads to more affordable housing. … And over time, new density reduces auto use and increases walkability. Where I depart from many Yimby advocates: I don’t share their faith that adding density will lower cost. It mostly adds to land price, thus no benefit to buyers.” Unaffordability is caused by “an ever-increasing gap between wages and the price of urban land.”

My friends at the advocacy group Livable California agree with Condon’s assessment stating: SB 9 targets 21M people living in homes they own. It kills single-family zoning to replace owned homes with 6-unit and 8-unit market-rate housing. It drives land sky-high, invites big investors to scoop up homes and destroys single-family neighborhoods.

As examples of what the future might look like under SB-9 we have: we need to look no further than a couple of developments recently constructed in Concord where I live.  Located on a busy boulevard are 12 houses built on a little over an acre of land.  These are beautiful homes featuring up to 4 bedrooms and 3 bathes starting at $850,000.

The only problem with these units is that they have no backyards or even a patio to entertain guests.  Each garage accommodates 2 vehicles but there is no on street parking in front of the homes. Green waste cans are unnecessary because there is no place for plants to grow.  If children live in these spacious palaces, there are no safe places for them to play.

The same developer has another project of 26 units starting at $ 725,000 for 1346 foot town homes featuring a patio where one third of the area is filled with an air conditioning unit.  It is uncertain if a picnic table set and barbecue can fit in this limited space.   

There is nothing wrong with these new residences other than their expense and the fact they are impractical for most families.  However, they offer a glimpse at what  Scott Weiner envisions for California’s future.

To be noted is that all of these new homes are market rate and are out of the reach of low income folks.  It is likely when larger developments are constructed in the future that meet the 25% affordable quotient,  they will have fewer amenities and still be costly even with built in subsidies.

SB-9 tries to in effect place a square peg in a round hole.  Trying to fit more places for people to live in congested urban areas is a model that Sacramento politicians need to re-evaluate.  In the Covid-19 era where more folks are working from home while preferring to avoid  mass transit systems, why do we want to continue such an unpopular model?

In the same breath why are the residents of California being driven from single family homes by Progressive political leaders from crowed cities with differing priorities?  Is it a hate crime for me to suggest the expansion of urban limits for constructing new residential housing to lower land costs?  In this regard compromise is not part of the play book of the powerful Green New Deal-Environmentalist lobby

Is it really the duty of Californian’s to accommodate additional population expansion at the expense of existing residents?  This might be a mute point as the State’s population growth has subsided because of high housing costs, taxes, energy costs, failed public schools etc.  It is obvious that Governor Newsom’s projection of California needing 3.5 new residential units is way out of line.

Taking all of this into consideration, my earlier analogy of bunting a runner over to second when trailing by 5 runs in the 9th inning, seems to fit well with the failed housing legislative agenda in -Scott Wiener-David Chiu-Toni Atkins world.

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.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.


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