News

Guest Opinion: Sacramento's war on the suburbs

The end of single-family neighborhoods in California is no longer a theoretical possibility, it is a reality.

Julie Testa.

Last year Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation (approved by our state legislators) that allows accessory dwelling units (ADUs) -- otherwise known as “granny flats” -- in single-family zoned neighborhoods, with no public notice or hearings. That legislation overrode local laws and City Council authority that provided review to protect neighborhoods from unreasonable intrusion and burdens. Speculators can purchase your neighbor’s house and add three additional dwellings (above the garage, in the garage and back yard, for example) without consideration of your privacy, parking or community impacts.

This year, a package of bills that will do far greater harm is rushing through Sacramento under cover of COVID-19. These bills are intended to increase housing density almost everywhere, eliminating public input, overriding local development standards, negating environmental protections, and even reducing or eliminating on site parking requirements for new buildings.

These bills also will give market rate and luxury housing developers power to override local zoning and land use requirements.

One bill, SB 1120, would allow speculators to split single-family lots in half and build as many as four new homes on each half. Where there was one home, with ADUs, there could be eight.

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Many of the bills remove infrastructure fees and mitigations that cities rely on for impacts and city services, with no affordability requirements in exchange, doing virtually nothing to increase the supply of that desperately-needed affordable housing.

Another bill, SB 902, authorizes a simple majority of City Council members to overturn local voter-approved initiatives to zone for up to 10 units on protected land.

California has a growing shortage of affordable housing. In 2011, the state discontinued local redevelopment agencies, which were the funding sources for 80% of affordable housing. Instead of restoring that funding, legislators have shifted blame to cities and even families who live in single-family homes, offered developer incentives, and used density bonuses.

Market forces make building affordable housing unlikely without subsidies. The results are developer giveaways and more market-rate housing than needed, while the affordability gap grows.

These bills are being passed during an uncertain time; increased unemployment and economic uncertainty due to COVID-19 has already led to a shift in the housing market.

With remote-work options, people are fleeing high rents and high-density areas -- exactly the kinds of communities these bills will create. With virus concerns they prefer less crowded, more affordable cities and states -- with backyards.

What can you do?

* Tell State Legislators to recognize the uncertainty of our post pandemic future and oppose the Nine Bad Bills: SB 902; SB 1120; SB 1385; SB 995; SB 1085; AB 725; SB 1120; AB 2345; and AB 3040.

Senator Steve Glazer has historically been a strong supporter of local control. Email and ask him why he voted yes on the critical housing bills. His Orinda office phone is (925) 258-1176.

Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan will vote soon. Email and ask her to support local control and vote no on these bills. Her San Ramon office phone is (925) 328-1515.

* Email your city or town councilmembers to oppose the Nine Bad Bills.

Contact the Governor’s Office and ask him to veto the bills when they make it to his desk.

Learn and stay informed join Livable California, a non-profit dedicated to smart, sane, and affordable housing in the state.

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Julie Testa is a member of the Pleasanton City Council since 2018 and an advocate for local control. She is founder of the California Alliance of Local Electeds (CALE), a statewide alliance of local city officials that collaborates on proposed state legislation and other local and statewide issues.

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Guest Opinion: Sacramento's war on the suburbs

by /

Uploaded: Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 4:07 pm
Updated: Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 10:09 pm

The end of single-family neighborhoods in California is no longer a theoretical possibility, it is a reality.

Last year Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation (approved by our state legislators) that allows accessory dwelling units (ADUs) -- otherwise known as “granny flats” -- in single-family zoned neighborhoods, with no public notice or hearings. That legislation overrode local laws and City Council authority that provided review to protect neighborhoods from unreasonable intrusion and burdens. Speculators can purchase your neighbor’s house and add three additional dwellings (above the garage, in the garage and back yard, for example) without consideration of your privacy, parking or community impacts.

This year, a package of bills that will do far greater harm is rushing through Sacramento under cover of COVID-19. These bills are intended to increase housing density almost everywhere, eliminating public input, overriding local development standards, negating environmental protections, and even reducing or eliminating on site parking requirements for new buildings.

These bills also will give market rate and luxury housing developers power to override local zoning and land use requirements.

One bill, SB 1120, would allow speculators to split single-family lots in half and build as many as four new homes on each half. Where there was one home, with ADUs, there could be eight.

Many of the bills remove infrastructure fees and mitigations that cities rely on for impacts and city services, with no affordability requirements in exchange, doing virtually nothing to increase the supply of that desperately-needed affordable housing.

Another bill, SB 902, authorizes a simple majority of City Council members to overturn local voter-approved initiatives to zone for up to 10 units on protected land.

California has a growing shortage of affordable housing. In 2011, the state discontinued local redevelopment agencies, which were the funding sources for 80% of affordable housing. Instead of restoring that funding, legislators have shifted blame to cities and even families who live in single-family homes, offered developer incentives, and used density bonuses.

Market forces make building affordable housing unlikely without subsidies. The results are developer giveaways and more market-rate housing than needed, while the affordability gap grows.

These bills are being passed during an uncertain time; increased unemployment and economic uncertainty due to COVID-19 has already led to a shift in the housing market.

With remote-work options, people are fleeing high rents and high-density areas -- exactly the kinds of communities these bills will create. With virus concerns they prefer less crowded, more affordable cities and states -- with backyards.

What can you do?

* Tell State Legislators to recognize the uncertainty of our post pandemic future and oppose the Nine Bad Bills: SB 902; SB 1120; SB 1385; SB 995; SB 1085; AB 725; SB 1120; AB 2345; and AB 3040.

Senator Steve Glazer has historically been a strong supporter of local control. Email and ask him why he voted yes on the critical housing bills. His Orinda office phone is (925) 258-1176.

Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan will vote soon. Email and ask her to support local control and vote no on these bills. Her San Ramon office phone is (925) 328-1515.

* Email your city or town councilmembers to oppose the Nine Bad Bills.

Contact the Governor’s Office and ask him to veto the bills when they make it to his desk.

Learn and stay informed join Livable California, a non-profit dedicated to smart, sane, and affordable housing in the state.

Julie Testa is a member of the Pleasanton City Council since 2018 and an advocate for local control. She is founder of the California Alliance of Local Electeds (CALE), a statewide alliance of local city officials that collaborates on proposed state legislation and other local and statewide issues.

Comments

Chad H
Registered user
another community
on Aug 10, 2020 at 8:07 pm
Chad H, another community
Registered user
on Aug 10, 2020 at 8:07 pm
10 people like this

This boils down to the long-time saying among urban planners: "Don't buy (a house) for the view if you can't afford the view." I.E. don't blame your neighbors for changing things around you when what is really happening is that your home and yard aren't giving you all the comforts and space that you need. Need more space and less noise? Buy a farm or some acreage.

Further, there are a number of problems with the facts presented here, most notably, it is presented that a homeowner in a typical residential neighborhood could add 3 ADUs to their property. Unless the lot size in your neighborhood is approaching that of a football field, this is not going to happen.

The author suggests that giving homeowners the ability to create more equity in their home and boost their income with a small rental unit is somehow the state shifting blame to homeowners. No one is forcing anyone to build an ADU.

But the good news is that if people desire to live in big living spaces with backyards, and are fleeing dense urban areas, you won't have to worry about any extra people moving into your neighborhood and taking up that precious street parking.


C. R. Mudgeon
Registered user
Danville
on Aug 11, 2020 at 10:52 am
C. R. Mudgeon, Danville
Registered user
on Aug 11, 2020 at 10:52 am
13 people like this

I want to thank Ms. Testa for writing the article, and for raising awareness on the spate of bills under consideration. Housing and zoning rules and regulations are best left to local bodies, at the city and county level, to have better accountability to local residents and taxpayers.


Alex Vasilenko
Registered user
Walnut Creek
on Aug 12, 2020 at 8:08 am
Alex Vasilenko , Walnut Creek
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 8:08 am
5 people like this

Good. This isn’t communism where some government bureaucrat (at any level of government) is going to tell land owners what they can and cannot do with their property. If the market wants more housing people should be allowed to build more housing.

It’s the role of the state to overwrite the city when the city is limiting freedom.

Build. Build. Build. Nowhere in the constitution does it say a neighborhood must stay exactly how it was when it was built in 1930. Times change.


Parent and Voter
Registered user
Danville
on Aug 12, 2020 at 8:28 am
Parent and Voter, Danville
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 8:28 am
9 people like this

It is the State that is limiting freedom when it is requiring towns and cities to follow the whims of Sacramento. They use funding to pressure these towns and cities. Higher density housing creates more traffic, more resource demands (schools, utilities, etc). Personally I like living in the suburbs rather than an urban setting.


Neighbor
Registered user
Danville
on Aug 19, 2020 at 8:05 am
Neighbor, Danville
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2020 at 8:05 am
4 people like this

I suppose the author has not been on the Pleasanton City Council long enough to remember this:

"In 2006, Urban Habitat files a housing discrimination lawsuit on behalf of Sandra DeGregorio (a Latino single mother of two), in the case Urban Habitat v. City of Pleasanton for its exclusionary housing policies. In 2010, the settlement ordered the city to eliminate a cap on building new housing, pass an anti-discrimination ordinance, and rezone for affordable housing – allowing low-income communities more access to high-opportunity jobs, good schools, and two BART stations. In 2012, the settlement directly led to an approval of a major mixed-use affordable housing project. This case highlights how housing, transit, and environmental justice are inextricably linked."

The need for new affordable housing is overwhelming. This isn't communism its simply a measure intended to create housing since municipalities are woefully deficient in their legal obligation to meet State requirements for new housing. California state law recognizes that local governments play a vital role in developing affordable housing. In 1969, the state mandated that all California cities, towns and counties must plan for the housing needs of our residents—regardless of income.

This state mandate is called the Housing Element and Regional Housing Needs Allocation, or RHNA. As part of RHNA, the California Department of Housing and Community Development, or HCD, determines the total number of new homes the Bay Area needs to build—and how affordable those homes need to be—in order to meet the housing needs of people at all income levels.
The new bills are intended to do the job that local governments are failing to do. For example:

This is the July 2020 Housing Scorecard for the City on which the Author is a Councilperson:

Very Low Income % Complete 37.43%
Low Income % Complete 19.95%
Moderate Income % Complete 9.34%
Above Moderate Income % Complete 281.56%
ON PACE? NO
Very Low Income ON PACE? NO
Low Income ON PACE? NO
VLI AND LI PACE? NO
Above Moderate Income ON PACE? YES

The data can be found at Web Link


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