‘Let’s Halt Centralized Zoning and Land-use Directives Coming Out of Sacramento’

by on September 23, 2021 · 3 comments

in California

A Response to U-T Opinion: “California housing crisis finally gets bold response it needed. Thanks to Newsom, Atkins.”

By Danna Givot

The September 17 UT Editorial Board thank you to Newsom and Atkins is shallow and uninformed.  Foremost, it fails to recognize that California has an affordable housing crisis, not an overall housing crisis.  The real gaps in California housing are at the lowest end. The free market is providing sufficient housing for higher income households.

The editorial failed to recognize that there are no provisions in either SB9 or SB10 for the production of any “affordable” housing.  It is fair to assume that the market will do what it does without government incentives – produce more market-rate housing, which will not meet the needs of California’s low-income households where true housing shortages exist.

The article raises serious concerns about drastic changes in communities and speculative building by hedge funds and neglects to address them in any way. The authors anticipate the bills “may disrupt and diminish the quality of life in some communities,” but writes this off as a reasonable trade-off for the “potential to improve the quality of life of millions of Californians.”

Where exactly is this potential improvement in quality of life coming from?  It’s implied that any increase in housing stock will lead to a decrease in housing costs.  This has been disproven by a 2018 Federal Reserve study as well as actual densification in Vancouver, NYC, and Seattle, to name a few cities.  Scholars Richard Florida and Patrick Condon also dispute the truism that simply increasing housing supply will lead to a decrease in housing prices.

Prof. Florida concludes that “…Markets – and neighborhoods – for luxury and affordable housing are very different, and it is unlikely that any increases in high-end supply would trickle down to less advantaged groups.”

Zillow Chief Economist, Dr. Svenja Gudell, agrees:

“There is a growing divide in the rental market…. Very high demand at the low end of the market is being met with more supply at the high end, an imbalance that will only contribute to growing affordability concerns for all renters.”

After quadrupling the density of housing in Vancouver, Dr. Patrick Condon noted no decrease in housing costs and concluded, “No amount of opening zoning or allowing for development will cause prices to go down. We’ve seen no evidence of that at all. It’s not the NIMBYs that are the problem – it’s the global increase in land value in urban areas that is the problem.”

If increased housing density alone would produce more affordable housing, then New York City would boast the most affordable rents in America and that isn’t the case.  Sacramento should learn from the mistakes of others before irreversibly altering California’s single-family neighborhoods.   SB9 and SB10 are not panaceas for California’s “affordable” housing shortage.  In fact, they are likely to make it worse, not better.

It is time to get Sacramento out of the zoning business and return those powers to local jurisdictions.  The Californians for Community Planning Initiative will amend the State Constitution to make zoning and land-use local affairs, and halt the centralized zoning and land-use directives coming out of Sacramento.

Please consider supporting this initiative that will overturn SB9 and SB10 and restore zoning to communities. See Californians for Community Planning

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Tessa September 23, 2021 at 3:41 pm

As a long term renter in O B, I see no benefit for those like me. There are places to rent, but it’s their price tag that’s tough. So – more granny flats that are even pricier because they are new, or “greener”? More of us on crowded streets with minimal parking? Who is the beneficiary here?


Danna Givot September 23, 2021 at 4:39 pm

The city of San Diego continues to maintain that accessory dwelling units (ADUs, aka “granny flats”) are “naturally occurring affordable housing.” What you are observing is consistent with what Neighbors For A Better San Diego has been saying all along, that these are going to be market-rate units as opposed to providing the “affordable housing” that San Diego truly needs for its residents. To answer your question, the beneficiaries are the developers and investor/speculators who are allowed to build multiple ADUs (more than required by the state) without paying a penny to the city in fees to help support our neighborhoods’ aging infrastructures. Who is paying the price? The current residents of the neighborhoods whose taxes (or rents via pass-through from landlords) will go up to cover the infrastructure burden the ADU builders are not being charged for and who will have increasingly greater challenges finding parking. When the end result is no “affordable housing,” San Diego should be amending its ADU code to address these unintended consequences and to actually create the affordable housing the city intended.


Paul Webb September 23, 2021 at 4:45 pm

This writer gets it exactly right. The strategy(?) posed by Sacramento and San Diego city hall is basically, build a lot of residential structures and maybe something good will happen. This is a recipe for disaster. It’s like you open up a recipe for baking a cake, and it says “bake a cake.”

What might be nice would be if we looked as the actual housing needs across the income spectrum (as the housing commission has done, by the way) and identify which portions of that spectrum are having their needs met by market forces and which aren’t. It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to know that the very low and low income members of our community are the worst off in terms of housing, particularly rental housing. When you know and can quantify the needs of each group across the spectrum, then we can create goals for satisfying each need, i.e., build housing that is suitable for all income levels in a targeted, measurable and sustainable way.

I’m a believer in data driven planning and implementation. Identify how many units are needed in each price range using generally accepted definitions of “affordability” based on income levels. Then identify strategies for providing that housing. Establish goals and work to reach those goals.

I think that many will recognize that the current approach does exactly the opposite – let people build what they want, wherever they decide to do so and then magically the costs of housing will come down. Our friends and neighbors who are earning minimum wage are never going to be able to afford market rate housing in San Diego.

I’m not advocating for Cabrini-Green style vertical slums, but there has to be solution that provides subsidized housing for the less fortunate individuals and families.


Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: