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By Roz Rogoff

About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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House Sharing

Uploaded: Feb 17, 2014
The San Ramon City Council is holding a Public Workshop at 7 pm Tuesday, February 18, 2014, "To Gather Public Input on Issues and Concerns Related to the Update of the Housing Element and Land Use Changes within the Crow Canyon Specific Plan Area."

I wrote a Commentary about this in my original San Ramon Observer to oppose putting a housing overlay on Beta Court, which could have forced out the established Service Commercial businesses located there. I am still against putting a housing overlay on Beta Court but that doesn't seem to be an issue this time around.

This Workshop is also a special Joint Meeting of the City Council and Planning Commission. Why is this even necessary to consider? Many residents are unaware of the pressures put on cities to meet state and regional housing requirements.

Councilman Dave Hudson frequently talks about ABAG and RHNA as if everyone knows what these cryptic acronyms mean. ABAG is the Association of Bay Area Governments and RHNA is the Regional Housing Needs Allocation. The RHNA requirements for San Ramon are at the bottom of page 2 of the staff report linked above.

The income levels are shown as a percent of the Median Household Income in San Ramon. The most recent study I could find shows this as approximately $120,000. That would make Very Low Income from 0 to $60K. My income when I was working full time 15 years ago was about $60K. Now it's about half that, so I qualify as Very Low Income.

When these housing numbers came up a few years ago, I wrote a commentary in my original San Ramon Observer website about Housing Snobs. I was surprised and disappointed by the attitude of some residents against those of us who don't earn over $100K a year.

I'm not the only Very Low Income person living in my neighborhood. Many homeowners bought our homes 15 to 30 years ago before real estate prices went out of sight. Also many of the low wage earners living nearby are renters. They rent a room from the homeowner or rent the house as a group and share the house and rent.

The most egregious example of house sharing was across the street from me. That house was purchased to be a rental when the real estate prices were at their height. The owner then partitioned it into many small spaces to rent.

She must have had a dozen people living in an 1100 sq. ft. house. She had at least two units in the garage and even rented the shed in the back. Despite cramming so many people into such a small house, every one of the people I met who lived there was nice.

The house next door to me was originally rented to a family. When the couple divorced, he stayed in the house and sublet the rooms to two other guys. They were all nice neighbors. They had to move when the owner needed to move back in, but regardless of who is living near me I have rarely had any problems with any of my neighbors, rich or poor.

Renting a room in a private home, or sharing a home among several separate renters is the way most Very Low Income residents can afford to live and work here. Renting out rooms is an easy way for many homeowners to afford to live here themselves.

This seems to be a better solution to providing affordable housing without what ABAG calls "impact correction," which is a factor built into ABAG's methodology, "to allocate a higher proportion of lower income households to San Ramon in order to balance the regional income distribution across the region." House sharing is a more natural way to balance income distribution without imposing housing numbers on cities for artificial income distribution.

I don't know if there is a way to add house sharing to ABAG's RHNA numbers instead of mandating higher numbers of Very Low, Low, and Moderate Income housing developments in our required Housing Plan. I plan to attend the workshop on Tuesday to find out.
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Posted by Ms. bunny, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 18, 2014 at 9:03 am

I believe the dynamic you\'re speaking of Roz, house sharing/subletting is becoming far more reality after the Great Recession of 2007-2009 than ever before. Most Americans who know anything about history? Know that up until well past the turn of the last century? It wasn't uncommon for families to share houses and/or take in parents/inlaws family members. During the Great Depression of the late 1920's and later during WWII, my mother\'s large family (9 children) had two marry and bring their spouses to live for a time to "get by" in their home in Southern California. Every one pitched it. It was most common. I see other families around me doing this once again and it's fine (whatever works!) I think income is just ONE factor renewing this trend all over the US, though I surmise this type of census count is hard to include for agencies. What will create more of an interest in this type of "count" ? -Will be the decreasing availability of natural resources like water and power. Just my opinion...

Posted by Westerner, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 18, 2014 at 10:13 am

The problem with the low income housing mandate from these government agencies is that it distorts the entire housing market. When housing is set aside for low income people at artificially low prices, the developers must make up for that loss by raising housing prices for everyone else. Renting out rooms in houses is a good idea and is in line with free market principles.

Posted by Forever White, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Feb 18, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Of all the efforts to stop the state-mandated addition of low-income housing, this one takes the cake, Marie Antoinette style. Some will think of just about anything to keep those durned others away from us. Let them share houses! But please, please, please don't build houses for them in Fortress Pleasanton. Isn't the BART system bad enough?

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Feb 18, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Ms. Bunny,

Yes this trend is a revival, or maybe just a continuation, of how people lived for years. My Grandmother lived with us when I was growing up. One of my regrets is not getting to know her better. I don't know about decreasing natural resources, but I know that the School District underestimated the number of elementary school children in Dougherty Valley because younger families were sharing housing and there were more children per house than anticipated.


The other issue with me about these low income developments is they can turn into defacto ghettos. One of the reasons I objected to a housing overlay on Beta Court was that it segregated the low income residents in an industrial area. This is exactly what causes blight and makes it difficult for residents of those "projects" to escape the stigma.


You describe the reason why it is wrong to warehouse people in low income housing instead of integrating them into residential neighborhoods like mine. I don't live in a ritzy part of San Ramon (as Ms. Bunny knows), but we live in a nice part of San Ramon and as I said in my blog, I don't know or care who's renting a room or a house, everyone I know around here is a good neighbor.


Posted by BART Rider, a resident of another community,
on Feb 18, 2014 at 2:01 pm

You make a good point Roz about keeping people out of those darned low income housing warehouses. Because that's what they are, face it, just warehouses. And the only reason people line up to buy them is because there just aren't enough garages and sheds for rent in Roz's neighborhood.

Would Aunt Tizzy who rents out that room in the back of her house be able to discriminate against potential renters on the basis of color or sexual orientation? Of course she would be able to do so. But that's the point, isn't it? Keep Pleasanton free from those undesirables who the darned "warehousers" wouldn't be able to discriminate against? What a peach you are!

Posted by Peter Kluget, a resident of Danville,
on Feb 19, 2014 at 11:25 am

It always amazes me when people make comments like: "When housing is set aside for low income people at artificially low prices, the developers must make up for that loss by raising housing prices for everyone else."

Do you really think that developers don't ***already*** charge the absolute highest price the market will bear for every unit they build? You're thinking that they sit around setting a "fair" price, and then when required to offset the consequences of their project by paying into a fund for parks, or schools, or include some low income housing they shake their heads and say "Darn. I guess we'll just have to raise those prices, then."


A whole lot of factors go into a developer's decision to embark on the multi-year process of acquiring, building out and selling property. Capital costs, market demand, availability of infrastructure, etc. The fact that the developer will not generally be allowed to build and sell property which impacts the surrounding community without including some form of contribution to offset those impacts is probably the smallest factor of all.

You really should think this stuff through before forming opinions about it.

Posted by Ms. Bunny, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 20, 2014 at 8:48 am

Well do be "amazed" Peter. Roz is very good at throwing out "food for thought". -And? Having worked for half my career for four of the major residential developers in THIS valley? There is some real truth in what she states. Yeah. They do their "homework" alright, they reconcile very often their development with "contributions" to schools, infrastructure or in specious political causes/situations very often? -Influencing city/county decisions made. Geez, who are you kidding here? I could write a book and it wouldn't be real flattering contrary to your focus 'strictly business'. (nee Kaufman and Broad now KB Homes for some pretty obvious reasons...)

Make no mistake Peter, the blogging that goes on here? Is just that: personal opinions of many who've lived and worked in this valley. Again, you point out some truth(s) Well guess what, so does Roz.


Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Feb 20, 2014 at 10:55 am

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Wow, I didn't expect you to be defending me, Ms. Bunny, but thanks for that. K & B started in Culver City when I was living there. I think they built the Studio Estates on part of what was the original MGM Studios. The rest of MGM is now owned by Sony.

Kaufman & Broad wasn't as bad then as it is now, although there were many complaints about their developments back then too. They are putting up a bunch of two story duplexes along Dougherty Road in Dublin. Most of these will probably be bought up for rentals, but I could see a lot of house sharing in those too.

You should write a book. It would be a best seller, but you better have a good lawyer before you do.


Posted by Sammy Cullen, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 20, 2014 at 11:09 am

what -- she need's most? Is, Help! With punctuation:

Posted by Ms. bunny, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 20, 2014 at 11:42 am

Roz...I worked with the lawyers and warranty for Kaufman and Broad for some years...Believe me, I do know "where the bodies are buried" and the problems that ensued due to unethical home building practices/not standing by their warranty program (actually being kicked out of HOWE at one point a couple of years...) on a number of tract homes, some here in this valley. I'll stop right there.

Note to Sammy: Sorry babe, didn't mean to offend your sensibilities! Didn't know we were being "tested" on perfect grammar and punctuation here. I guess I dare not tell you what my degree is in (lol)

Posted by Sammy Cullen, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 20, 2014 at 11:55 am

We do not know your subject of study, but if I had to guess? I'd say Business, of Others.

Posted by Ms. bunny, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 20, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Look whose calling "the kettle black" kid...First you have issues with grammar and punctuation. Now it's upset that we all blog here with our opinions. How old are you anyway, 12 sounds about right! (lol)

Posted by Carl, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 21, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Ms. bunny,

Did you work for Dame Construction?

Posted by Ms. bunny, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 21, 2014 at 8:15 pm

No Carl, I didn't. Don't know much about him except "the name" - for some reason, Blackhawk or that area surrounding comes to mind...

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Feb 21, 2014 at 11:44 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Ms. Bunny,

I had a friend when I lived in Morro Bay who told me she sold real estate in Blackhawk when it was being developed. She said it was built on unstable land. Do you know anything about that?


Posted by Ms. bunny, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 22, 2014 at 9:04 am

Roz, as far as I know? Much of our valley was orchards/marshland up to about 50 years+ ago. Insofar as "unstable land" is concerned? It's well to remember, we didn't have the geotechnical investigative services or ordinances until the early 80's as I recall. I'm quite sure MANY homes are built on such land (i.e., ridges, hillsides, etc.) where there are also sooooooo many fault lines running in more than one direction. For instance, the company I worked for in the late 70's passed up buying the land on which the current Royal Ridge sits off Alcosta in SR. It was riddled with fault lines and there were other issues. As you know, it was eventually purchased; homes built. I doubt they did much in regard to mitigation of any issues other than produce a geotech. report, if even that - at that time. There simply wasn't the knowledge/information/requirements available. I am aware Carl Dame had issues with his homebuilding in the Blackhawk area, but I do not recall the exact nature, only hearing about them through the BIA.

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Feb 22, 2014 at 7:23 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Thanks for the follow up, Ms. Bunny. I guess we are all on unstable land in California!


Posted by Trail of Relevance, a resident of Bordeaux Estates,
on Feb 22, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Well! This has been absolutely scintillating.

Posted by Jack, a resident of Downtown,
on Feb 22, 2014 at 9:03 pm

I believe the problem with Dame's development just outside the gates of Blackhawk, Shadowcreek, was blue water...

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