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By Tim Hunt

Housing proponents push to eliminate single-family zoning

Uploaded: Apr 8, 2021

There’s growing pressure from housing advocates to limit or eliminate single-family zoning in communities across California.
Both Berkeley and Sacramento have enacted ordinances that permit up to four units per lot in single family neighborhoods. It’s an approach that its advocates hope will result in more housing production and reduce upward price pressure.
Of course, it runs smack in the face of why homeowners like the suburban neighborhoods here and throughout the East Bay. It also runs directly counter to what people were seeking during the pandemic. Prices soared in the suburbs, whether here in the Tri-Valley, or in the broader Sacramento area or in San Joaquin County, as city dwellers fled in search of yards and space.
Part of it is demographics as millennials who have driven the city-centric lifestyle and pricing in San Francisco over the last decade are now ready to buy homes and have families. Add in the pandemic, low inventory and the market continues to soar.
And California built fewer homes last year than the year before despite construction being considered necessary. One of Gov. Newsom’s bold goals was building 3.5 million new units by 2025—he’s falling dismally short. There already are several bills in the Legislature in Sacramento aimed at increasing the number of dwelling units. Those plans include high density buildings around transit hubs such as the BART stations. It would be problematic around the ACE station in Pleasanton, while Livermore already has some higher density near its ACE stop.
These plans assume that post-pandemic companies will expect workers back in the office daily and traffic volumes will soar and drive people back to mass transit. Car volumes over the Bay Bridge have increased, primarily single-passenger cars as people avoid BART and other mass transit.
Given the soaring office vacancy rate in San Francisco, it’s questionable whether the volume of jobs will return to the city. The San Francisco Business Times reported Wednesday on a CBRE study that put the vacancy rate at 19.7%, the second record-breaking quarter in a row. Space available for sublet increased by 1.5 million square feet to 9.5 million square feet, about 45% of the available space.
The report noted that demand by tenants increased by 740,000 square feet, the best number since the pandemic began more than a year ago.
Some companies, such as Twitter, already have embraced an all-remote work force. Others, such as Wells Fargo announced they expected workers back in the office as of Sept. 1.
It’s anyone’s guess as to what happens in the next year, let alone the next five years.