Saturday, December 6, 2014

Juicy excerpt from CVP response to housing element

This juicy excerpt is from the Community Venture Partners comment letter re the Draft Housing Element: 

The Future of Marin as "Planned" 

“Don’t Worry” Is Not A Legitimate Planning Principle

Ms. Leelee Thomas, Principal Planner of the Marin County Planning staff, and Supervisor Rice, in particular, continue to perpetuate falsehoods about the impacts and ramifications of
designating a parcel of land by listing it on the Housing Element site inventory list.

As recently as on November 29, the Marin Independent Journal, in its article entitled “Online Petition Seeks to Slash Marin Housing Plan,” Supervisor Rice is quoted as follows:

Rice cautioned that "folks need to remember that the sites included in the housing element site inventory reflect existing development potential. Inclusion in the housing element does not
change a parcel's likelihood or potential for development."

As with Susan Adams before her, Rice constantly perpetuates the “spin” that inclusion of a site in the HE site inventory list is essentially a meaningless exercise that has no implications as to
whether or not that site will ultimately be developed. She has repeated this statement at public appearances this year and in her email updates to residents.

However, nothing could be further from the truth.

In his FIRST AMENDED VERIFIED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE in the matter of MARIN COMMUNITY ALLIANCE, et al. vs. COUNTY OF MARIN, Marin County Superior Court Case No. 1304393; on, page five, item two, beginning on paragraph 19, the petitioners’ attorney, Michael Graf, explains some of the ramifications of placing a parcel on the Housing Element site inventory list.

He states the following:

2. Limits on Agency’s Ability to Reduce Density of Housing Element Projects.

19. Once a parcel is presented as accommodating high density development as part of a Housing Element inventory under Government Code § 65583(a)(3), a local agency may not permit the
reduction of such residential density below that which was utilized by HCD in determining compliance with housing element law, unless the agency makes written findings supported by
substantial evidence that (1) the reduction is consistent with the adopted general plan, including the housing element; and (2) the remaining sites identified in the housing element are adequate to
accommodate the jurisdiction's share of the regional housing need. Govt. Code §65863(b). If a court finds that an agency has violated this section, the court shall award to the plaintiff who
proposed the housing development “reasonable attorney's fees and costs of suit.” Govt. Code § 65863(e).

20. The Government Code provides a limited exception to its restriction on a local government’s police power authority to disapprove a housing development listed in the Housing Element
inventory, but only if the local government makes written findings supported by substantial evidence on the record that A) The housing development project would have a specific, adverse
impact upon the public health or safety; and B) there is no feasible method to satisfactorily mitigate or avoid the adverse impact other than the disapproval of the project or requirement that
the project be developed at a lower density. See Gov. Code § 65583(g)(2). A "specific, adverse impact" means a significant, quantifiable, direct, and unavoidable impact, based on objective,
identified written public health or safety standards, policies, or conditions. Id.

21. The Government Code also provides that affordable housing projects utilized to meet the local agency’s allocation of affordable housing under Government Code § 65884 shall be “by
right,” (Emphasis added.) meaning that the agency’s review of the project “may not require a conditional use permit, planned unit development permit, or other discretionary local government
review or approval that would constitute a ‘project’” requiring any CEQA review. Govt. Code §65583.2(h)-(i).

22. These provisions are further strengthened by the Housing Accountability Act (Government Code section 65589.5), which prohibits an agency from disapproving a housing development
project for very low, low, or moderate-income households, or conditioning approval in a manner that renders the project infeasible for development for the use of very low, low, or moderate-
income households, including through the use of design review standards, unless it makes at least one of five specific written findings based on substantial evidence in the record. Further, a local
government is prohibited from making a finding regarding zoning and general plan inconsistency to disapprove a development if the jurisdiction identified the site in its housing element as
appropriate for residential use at the density proposed. Govt. Code § 65589.5(d)(5).

In summary, what these regulations stipulate is that once a parcel is designated on the Housing Element inventory list, it is almost impossible to remove it or deny a qualifying developer
the “right” to develop it with high density housing to the maximum limits available. Further, that developer is not subject to the local requirements of conditional use permitting or “other discretionary local government review” under CEQA, including “the use of design review standards” for affordable housing projects.

In light of this Supervisor Rice’s statements and unwavering assurances to not “worry” make a mockery of the intentions and authority of the Department of Housing and Community
Development and our state housing laws by implying that the Housing Element sites inventory list is without legal or procedural consequence. The State Housing Regulations clearly convey
certain “rights” to developers. That is in fact their intention and purpose. How Ms. Rice comes up with her novel legal theories is quite puzzling until we consider the repeated explanations and
recommendations made by Mr. Crawford and Ms. Thomas and County planning staff.

It remains a mystery why planning staff never mentions the legal framework or any of the pertinent facts enumerated above. It’s a question that the Supervisors and the public should be asking. However, when well-known and stringent legal requirements are ignored or downplayed, one can only wonder if a policy agenda is being pushed with the hope that average citizens remain uninformed.

Joel Kotkin: What will our Latino future look like?

Joel Kotkin: What will our Latino future look like?
Will our newly legal immigrants have the same opportunities for home ownership as you?

/ Staff columnist
President Obama’s amnesty edict, likely to be the first of other such measures, all but guarantees California’s increasingly Latino future. But, sadly, for all the celebration among progressives, the media, Democratic politicans and in the Latino political community, there has been precious little consideration about the future of the newly legalized immigrants, as well as future generations of Latinos, in the state.
Although some publications, notably the New York Times, regard California as something of a model for the integration of the undocumented, the reality on the ground is far less attractive. Even as Latinos, now the state’s largest ethnic group, gain greater influence culturally and politically, many are falling into a kind of racial caste system.
California has roughly one-third of the country’s undocumented immigrants and, in some locales – notably, Los Angeles – they constitute roughly one in 10 residents – or some 1 million people – 85 percent of them from either Mexico or Central America. As of now, these residents, longtimers and recent arrivals, pose, among other things, a potential challenge to local governments trying to serve a new base of largely poor, and generally poorly educated, migrants.
Today, public agencies in Los Angeles County, notes former county supervisor Pete Schabarum, are facing a “an already impossible fiscal dilemma” and now will need to spend an additional $190 million, without hope of federal compensation, on the newly legalized population. The stress on other key institutions, such as schools and hospitals, will also grow, particularly if more foreign nationals, suspecting the likelihood of amnesty, are encouraged to come here.
In the past, we could have looked with confidence at this new population as a net plus. But that may no longer be so much the case, given the current economic direction of California. It has become increasingly difficult in the state for many industries – such as agriculture, manufacturing, construction and logistics – that traditionally have employed Latino immigrants. In contrast, the one industry favored by Sacramento’s political class – the technology firms synonymous with Silicon Valley – has not engendered much progress for Latinos, whose incomes there have dropped while those of whites and Asians have grown.
Perhaps most alarming, few among California’s Latino politicians have a strategy to reverse these trends. Rising Latino figures, such as newly elected Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, have chosen to link themselves with gentry liberals, such as billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer. They have embraced the gentry’s regulatory and energy agenda – cap and trade, subsidies for “renewable” energy and hostility toward suburban housing – which conflicts directly with the economic interests of Latino voters, particularly those benefiting from President Obama’s immigration directives.
This stance may make de Leon the toast of the town in San Francisco, Marin County, Malibu and other white gentry havens. He recently celebrated his elevation to the Senate’s top post with an opulent party at the Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles, an event derided by the liberal Sacramento Bee as an “ostentatious display” and a “special interests ball.” Not so worthy of celebration are the economic conditions facing many of his constituents. Large swaths of his district, such as East Los Angeles, suffer high rates of unemployment.
One key here has been the decline of manufacturing – down 34 percent statewide the past 15 years – as Latino politicians seem to barely shrug as employers flee ever-higher taxes, regulatory constraints and higher electricity prices. Manufacturing, which accounts for a larger share than any other sector of the region’s economic output, has lost more than 300,000 jobs in the Los Angeles area since 2001.
Another key blue-collar sector, construction, is up 12 percent, but is far from recovering the 40 percent of jobs it lost statewide during the recession.
These losses have taken away many of the traditional avenues for upward mobility. As a result, some predominately Latino communities, from the Central Valley to Compton, suffer double-digit unemployment. Overall, the Latino unemployment in California is above 10 percent while the rate in pro-industry Texas is under 7 percent. Latinos in California are also considerably less likely to own their own business than their Lone Star State counterparts.
Long-term California Latinos’ prospects are most undermined by the ailing state education system, whose reform is generally opposed by the Latino political class. The new state Senate leader, like many other Latino politicians, spent much of their careers working for, and then reaping rich support from, public-sector unions, notably the all-powerful California Teachers Association. Not surprising, de Leon proudly backed the successful CTA candidate in the recent race for state superintendent of schools.
The unions and politicians may have gained by this association, but not so a great many Latino youngsters. A recent article in the National Journal noted Latinos in the same San Jose neighborhood that produced Cesar Chavez still suffer terrible schools, with one-third of third-graders unable even to read. Amazingly, California’s Latinos are even underperforming their Texas counterparts, despite lower school funding in the Lone Star State.
This belies the common assumption among progressives, here and elsewhere, that the Golden State is an exemplar of social progress while the Lone Star State is a reactionary backwater that is toxic for both immigrants covered by President Obama’s decrees and legal Latino residents. Compared with the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Houston Independent School District, faced with similar demographics, has twice won the Broad Education Prize and, in relative terms, seems a model of flexibility and innovation.
Equally important, the newcomers face daunting challenges entering the property-owning middle class. Due in part to regulatory restraints, less than two in five Latinos in Los Angeles or San Francisco own their home, compared with large majorities of Latino homeowners in places like Phoenix and Houston.
It now takes more than 12 times the median Latino household income to buy a home in the Bay Area and more than nine times in the Los Angeles-Orange County area. In contrast, the multiple is roughly three in metropolitan areas such as Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Phoenix and Atlanta

Friday, December 5, 2014

Bjorn Lomberg "What do global problems cost us?" "Global Priorities

Friday Night Music: "Four Dead in Ohio" CSNY Mix/Larkspur Armor plated Humvee with Turret

Twin Cities Police Officer in tactical gear at the November 11, 2014 community meeting held by Supervisor Katie Rice.
I was shocked to see the amount of weaponry he was carrying for a community meeting where the average audience member was older than sixty five years;  At least five officers were present and situated at opposite corners or the room.  Were the police expecting trouble?  Is this an over the top reaction by Katie Rice who's unpopularity in the district is growing?  Judy Arnold, had apologize for her rhetoric in October 2014  accusing Marin as being taken over by shadowy right wing groups from the Tea Party. After the election, the supervisors increased security at the Marin Civic Center.
Has paranoia set in with the Supervisors and the police?

Can anyone tell me why Larkspur-Corte Madera Police need armor plated Humvees with a machine gun turret?
Are they afraid of the citizens?  Perhaps, they want to put down the Larkspur Rebellion?  

This week's events in Ferguson, MO. with the Military police tactics against protesting civilians and journalists made me think of the Kent State Massacre where unarmed, protesting college students were gunned down by trigger happy National Guardsmen. That awful tragedy burned into our history reminds us that we must never take our civil liberties for granted nor allow the police to become a military force against the civilians. Yet even in quiet Marin, our police forces have military grade attack vehicles and firepower.

Angry Cyclist skit on Portlandia (Have you seen this guy in Marin?)

There is a Revolution brewing in Rhode Island!

The plan is coming to Rhode Island Martha Stamp tells story about the theft of their property from Eminent Domain and warns that it is a battle of the Takers coming for the Makers. The danger of socialism embedded in these plans (aka. "Social Equity") The danger to our liberty We should follow the lead of the states that are leading the economic recovery. Get involved and do the right thing for your community.

NPR: Forget Golf Courses: Subdivisions Draw Residents With Farms

Paige Witherington is the farmer at Serenbe Farms, a 30-acre certified organic and biodynamic farm adjacent to a housing development outside Atlanta. It's one of more than 200 or so subdivisions with an agricultural twist nationwide.

When you picture a housing development in the suburbs, you might imagine golf courses, swimming pools, rows of identical houses.

But now, there's a new model springing up across the country that taps into the local food movement: Farms — complete with livestock, vegetables and fruit trees — are serving as the latest suburban amenity.

It's called development-supported agriculture, a more intimate version of community-supported agriculture — a farm-share program commonly known as CSA. In planning a new neighborhood, a developer includes some form of food production — a farm, community garden, orchard, livestock operation, edible park — that is meant to draw in new buyers, increase values and stitch neighbors together.

"These projects are becoming more and more mainstream," says Ed McMahon, a fellow with the Urban Land Institute. He estimates that more than 200 developments with an agricultural twist already exist nationwide.

"Golf courses cost millions to build and maintain, and we're kind of overbuilt on golf courses already," he says. "If you put in a farm where we can grow things and make money from the farm, it becomes an even better deal."

In Fort Collins, Colo., developers are currently constructing one of the country's newest development-supported farms. At first blush, the Bucking Horse development looks like your average halfway-constructed subdivision. But look a bit closer and you'll see a historic rustic red farm house and a big white barn enclosed by the plastic orange construction fencing.
The Bucking Horse subdivision in Fort Collins, Colo., will include a working CSA farm, complete with historic barn, farm house and chicken coop.The Bucking Horse subdivision in Fort Collins, Colo., will include a working CSA farm, complete with historic barn, farm house and chicken coop.Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

"When we show it, people are either like, 'You guys are crazy. I don't see the vision here at all,' or they come and they're like, 'This is going to be amazing,' " says Kristin Kirkpatrick, who works for Bellisimo Inc., the developer that purchased the 240-acre plot of land.

When finished, Bucking Horse will support more than 1,000 households. Agriculture and food production are the big draws, Kirkpatrick says. Land has been set aside for vegetables. There will be goats and chickens, too, subsidized by homeowners. Soon they'll be hiring a farmer for a 3.6-acre CSA farm. There's also a plaza designed for a farmers market, and an educational center where homeowners can take canning classes.

In short, the neighborhood plan is infused with the quaint, pastoral, even romantic view of farming.
"Our public restrooms are in an old chicken coop, and it'll be half public restroom and half chicken coop," Kirkpatrick says.

After World War II, Americans escaping crowded cities flocked to the suburbs. Most suburbanites didn't want to be right next to a farm, and so restrictive zoning pushed livestock and tractors out of new residential areas. Now, says Lindsay Ex, an environmental planner with the city of Fort Collins, municipalities are being forced to change their codes.

"We used to have residential separated from agriculture, and now we're seeing those uses combined," says Ex.

And that can be a great deal for small-time farmers, says Quint Redmond, who runs a company called Agriburbia, which operates farms within suburban developments across the country. In development-supported agriculture projects, he says, the developer, or homeowners association, ends up making the big farm purchases — not the farmer.

"The best possible thing for a farmer is to have the infrastructure ready," he says. "That is where most farming goes upside down or goes broke."

Not to mention that the neighborhood is filled with people who already have an interest in local food, so "there's a real market for that farmer," Redmond says.

The marketing of these new neighborhoods appears to be working — at least at Bucking Horse, where the developer says 200 single-family lots were snatched up within days of going on the market. Values of existing homes have jumped 25 percent since construction began on the agricultural amenities.
"Once we saw this and the plans they had for it, we were really sold on the lifestyle," says Lindley Greene, who moved to Bucking Horse in March with her husband and two young sons.

Once the neighborhood farm is up and running, Greene says, she'll be volunteering to get her hands dirty.
"We love the idea of it," she says. "To have it right here — not have it in our backyard, but still in our backyard — is awesome."

This story comes to us via Harvest Public Media, a public radio reporting collaboration that focuses on agriculture and food production.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"You are a RACIST if you question our Plan!"

RhodeMap RI Meeting Explodes Into Controversy

Thursday, November 13, 2014
A video showing the RhodeMap RI meeting from Wednesday, November 12 shows consortium members of the economic plan calling meeting attendees opposed to the plan "racist" and "Ku Klux Klan."  
The video opens with text saying, "Panel member calls opposition Tea Party racists...when no one identified themselves at tea party patriots."
RhodeMap RI is billed as a "coordinated and forward-looking effort by the state to make Rhode Island a better place to live and work by mobilizing state and community assets in a whole new way.  Through RhodeMap RI, the State seeks to strengthen our economy, meet current and future housing needs, and plan for future growth through the development of an integrated plan that will also include strategies for transportation, land use and environmental protection."
The video shows Social Equity Advisory Committee member Joe Buchanan pointing at the opposed off-screen, saying, "I don't see a person of color over there -- you don't know what goes on in our community."
A moderator asks Buchanan to stick to talking about the plan, to which Buchanan replies, "You tell the Ku Klux Klan that," referring to the opponents.  
Opposition Responds
"The next step now is next Thursday morning.  [The plan] was adopted by the consortium, now the state planning council will vote to adopt it in the state economic plan.  I think they do allow public comment, and we'll be there again," said plan opponent Mike Stenhouse with the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity.  "Obviously they got caught off guard yesterday, they don't know how to defend this because they're indefensible." 

On Wednesday, Stenhouse had said of RhodeMap RI, "What we see is a coordinated national-state-local scheme where federal agencies are poised to seize unprecedented levels of control over local land-use and housing issues.  Property owners and local officials are about to lose sovereignty over their own affairs to the federal government."
"This demonstrates the point that I've been making that RhodeMap RI isn't about economic development but rather about a radical social equity agenda," said Stenhouse of Wednesday's meeting altercation. "This isn't an economic plan for the people of Rhode Island."  

Rhode Map: Economic development clashes with social equity

Posted: Nov 12, 2014 2:58 PM PSTUpdated: Nov 12, 2014 2:58 PM PST

A far reaching plan to direct economic development and housing construction in Rhode Island has caught the attention of personal rights activists, and they are calling for a slowdown.
The plan is called Rhode Map RI. Backers of the plan say a comprehensive economic development vision must include an element of social equity.
"We try to level the playing field for people with less education, lower job skills training," said Kevin Flynn, Rhode Island' associate director of planning.
But opponents fear the central planning will result in a loss of rights.
"Things like racial quotas and the amount of affordable housing units per city. So the idea that the federal government will take control over local housing and land use decisions, many of which will infringe on local landowners rights with little debate, that's what's of concern to us," said Mike Stenhouse of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity .
The plan will be presented to the state planning council Nov. 20. If adopted, it would require executive action, and perhaps some legislation, to put it into effect.

Middle Class to Subsidize “Affordable Housing” for Poor —Creating a Caste System in California

Middle Class to Subsidize “Affordable Housing” for Poor in Mountain View—Creating a Caste System in California

 a-  A+ 

Editor's Note: This is what we will be experiencing in the Dixie School District where homeowners will face higher taxes to pay for government services and schools so that the county can provide subsidized housing.  The medianincome of the surrounding neighborhood is slightly above what people who qualify for affordable housing.  It is likely that people will pay MORE TAXES to subsidize people who earn MORE than them. This doesn't sound like "Fair Housing", does it?
Why is California in a Depression? Look to Sacramento and the State mandate that the middle class pay higher prices for homes and rent in order to subsidize the poor and illegal alien housing. This adds to the economic push of the middle class to Texas, Tennessee and other rational States. As the subsidies go up, affordability of housing for the middle class—and the quality of homes for the middle class—goes down.
“Mountain View is considering raising fees on new construction to fund affordable housing, a move developers say would shift projects to other towns. But City Council members say the move is necessary because of a decrease in government funding for the projects.
Last month, the City Council proposed increasing a range of affordable housing fees and is now gathering community input ahead of a public hearing on Dec. 9. The city requires that developers pay the fees to help build more affordable houses for low-income residents.”
The more the subsidies, the higher the cost for the middle class. This is really an effort to make California the “India” of the western world—a caste system of just two classes—the very rich, the very poor—with a lot of poorer paid illegal aliens.

Mountain View May Raise Developer Fees to Fund Affordable Housing

By Yuqing Pan, Peninsula Press, 11/29/14
Mountain View is considering raising fees on new construction to fund affordable housing, a move developers say would shift projects to other towns. But City Council members say the move is necessary because of a decrease in government funding for the projects.
Last month, the City Council proposed increasing a range of affordable housing fees and is now gathering community input ahead of a public hearing on Dec. 9. The city requires that developers pay the fees to help build more affordable houses for low-income residents.
Fees for affordable housing construction are already generating resistance from developers. The California Supreme Court is expected to rule on a legal challenge to a San Jose ordinance that had required housing developers to include affordable units for low-income buyers on new projects.  Some Mountain View  City Council members have suggested that the city wait until that ruling before adjusting their own fees, but other members think the city shouldn’t wait.
“We should at least begin the process of upping those fees now. If the Supreme Court comes down and says ‘no,’ then we suspend the rule. But if we don’t [increase the fees] now, we are going to lose another two years worth of fees,” City Councilman Mike Kasperzak said.
Mountain View attempted to increase affordable housing fees during the last housing boom in 2005, but the effort failed.
For new office construction, the council is considering roughly doubling the $10.26 fee per square foot. Fees on for-sale housing and rental apartment buildings could also see a rise.
“We need more affordable housing,” said City Council member Ronit Bryant. “Housing prices in Mountain View have been so high for so long, the city is losing its diversity, in terms of people at different income levels.”
Bryant is advocating taking advantage of the building boom to support affordable housing. The city is currently reviewing more than 20 new development projects.
But Patricia Sausedo — a policy consultant at the Building Industry Association of the Bay Area, a coalition of developers — said it was unfair for the city to just look “at development industries to resolve what is really a social issue in Silicon Valley.”
Sausedo warned that a fee hike could discourage developers from building more houses in Mountain View, where there is already an inadequate supply to meet demand.
“Developers will go to locations where there isn’t such a fee. If you look at all the cities in the Bay Area, there are many cities that have no impact fees,” she said in an interview.
It could mean higher housing prices in the future, Sausedo said.
Kasperzak said he believed developers would continue to build in Mountain View regardless of the fee.
“It is possible that developers may think it’s too expensive to build, but right now there’s still too much money to be made in housing around here,” Kasperzak said.
Mountain View isn’t the only city that has affordable housing fees. Cupertino, Palo Alto and Sunnyvale also implement similar fees, with Palo Alto being the most aggressive.
“It’s simply that the developers are going to take less profits, honestly,” said Lydia Tan, senior vice president of real estate advisor Bentall Kennedy (US) LP, who has 25 years of experience developing affordable housing.
The question then becomes a matter of balance between the need to provide more affordable housing and how much developers can bear. Tan suggested that the city scale up the fees over time to give developers some leeway.
Kevin Zwick — CEO of Housing Trust Silicon Valley, a nonprofit organization that loans money to affordable housing projects — said he was glad to see Mountain View taking the need for affordable housing seriously.
Mountain View is also the only city in Santa Clara County that charges a fee on rental housing, which started in 2012.
“Mountain View is leading the way in our county in showing that you can both raise a significant amount of funding for affordable housing, while at the same time making sure that residential and commercial development still happen,” Zwick said.
Affordable housing fees became crucial when both state and federal funds were slashed in recent years.
State redevelopment agencies provided nearly $1 billion every year for local affordable housing projects across California before they were disbanded in 2012, according to Zwick.
Mountain View was able to use $10.6 million of redevelopment money to build the Franklin Street Apartments before the dissolution. The complex has seen more than 400 applications competing for 51 units — so many that the city had to close the wait list.
Elena Pacheco, 56, a part-time teacher in Mountain View, said she had been on the waitlist for affordable housing for seven years, but still has no clue when she could get it. Until then, she rents an apartment on California Street for $3,000 a month and shares it with two roommates to afford the rent.
But last December, Pacheco got an eviction note from her landlord, giving her two months to move out. Several days after receiving the note, Pacheco passed out at work and was later diagnosed with a brain tumor. After a legal fight with her landlord, she was able to stay, but was given a $700 rent increase.
“When you talk about Mountain View, people think you are so lucky. All these giant companies, and everything is so cool. Not for me, not for my hardworking people,” Pacheco said.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Oh great. Now the housing crisis can’t be solved. And the tech folks are afraid to talk in public

Oh great. Now the housing crisis can’t be solved. And the tech folks are afraid to talk in public

Until the evictions stop, protests on the streets will continue
Until the evictions stop, protests on the streets will continue
By Tim Redmond
NOVEMBER 20, 2014 – You know the housing crisis in San Francisco has gone from insane to absurd when the City Planning Department gets in trouble for posting a video saying we need more housing – and the Atlantic suggests that maybe there’s no solution at all.
Then a reporter from TechChrunch holds a meeting to try to get tech people and housing activists to talk – but decides it has to be private so that it won’t blow up.
And sometimes I just want to pound my head against the wall and say: What is the matter with everyone? Are so many people so blinded by free-market ideology and a lack of historical understanding that they think this is (a) the result of Nimbys and rent control and (b) can’t be solved?
Does anyone really think the activists will give up shouting and protesting and meet for a polite chat while thousands are being thrown out on the streets — and the tech world is doing nothing to help?
I will take a deep breath and try to sort this out.
You want historical perspective on why we are in this mess, please take just 20 minutes to watch this video and this video.
Put simply: It wasn’t the SF left, or the anti-growth activists, who created this crisis. It was developers, and city officials listening to them, who pretty much ignored the concept of real city planning – who decided that the market should decide what was built.
When the market – or, that is, the international investors who put money into big-city real estate — wanted office buildings, not housing, office buildings got approved. When the rest of us said: You have to build housing, too, we were told that the money wasn’t there. It was going into offices, where the return on investment was higher.
Could the city have said: No, if you build offices and attract new workers, you have to build housing for them? Of course; that’s what city planning and zoning is about.
But no: A generation of mayors and planning commissions refused to do that.
Now, the market says the money is in very-high-end housing. So those who think the market should define city planning say: Okay, maybe if we build enough of that prices will come down.
Never worked before, won’t work now.
In a small city under immense pressure, the market can’t be the defining factor. Actual planning – which means setting policies determining what the city needs, then zoning for those and only those needs – is the only thing that works.
In other words, a city like this needs to have a very public discussion around what we want to become. Nobody ever voted to create a tech headquarters city in Soma; that happened because venture capital people in Silicon Valley wanted the companies they financed nearby, and the tech workers wanted to live here.
In some ways, they had no choice: If you work at Apple, you pretty much can’t live in Cupertino because they build no housing at all. Same for Mountain View and these other Peninsula cities.
And now the tech world needs housing in San Francisco – because the workers want to be near their offices and the companies want to be able to expand very rapidly. But instead of saying that we just need to build all the new housing that the tech world needs right now, we might want to stop and say: Why are we doing this? Who’s going to pay for it? Is there a limit to how many tech companies the city can handle? Is it wrong to even ask that question?
What cities can do
We have every right as a city to say that no new tech office space can be built unless and until the developers (and by pricing, their tenants) agree that first they will pay to build the housing and transit capacity needed for the workforce. We can say that all new housing has to meet the needs of the existing workforce.  We can say that some land can only be used for light industry and can never be turned into office space – which means that the property values of those sites will remain low enough that blue-collar businesses can afford the rent.
Is that a transfer of wealth from land and building owners who could get rich by selling out to office developers to local businesses that employ people at decent jobs without advanced degrees? Yes. Is that legitimate, legal city planning policy? Yes.
I had a long conversation with Kim-Mai Cutler, the TechCrunch reporter, this morning. She’s spent a lot of time reading and thinking about urban planning and housing, and it was fun to chat with her. She told me that the story in Re/Code wasn’t quite right – the event she held wasn’t a TechCrunch event, it was just her, as a reporter, trying to get people to come together and talk.
And, she said, because of all the anger and vitriol in the city, she was afraid that if it was public and reporters came, tech folks would be afraid to ask questions or make statements that might be reported out of context.
She and I have a different view of how housing policy should operate; she really believes that we need to build a huge amount of new housing, more than the mayor’s 30,000 units, to make room for the exploding workforce of the tech hub, and she thinks that eventually prices will come down. I think the demand is so insatiable, and the out-of-town investment money so big, that we’ll end up building 50,000 pied a terres and second homes that will do very little to bring prices down to the level where a middle-class worker in one of the city’s biggest industries (government, health care, or hospitality) will be able to afford the rent.
I’ve been arguing that this is a case where the market has failed, and will fail – the market build too much office space in the 1980s, until we slowed it down with Prop. M, and the market is destroying PDR space in the city, and isn’t solving the housing problem. The only workable solutions involve full-scale government regulation and intervention.
It’s tough in a city where it costs as much as $500,000 to build a single unit; it’s worse when investors demand the kind of return that will only happen if that unit sells for $1 million or more.
Of course, if the city used public land, or demanded land as part of any deal to build offices, and then used only nonprofits to build housing, the price would drop below $500K. With even modest subsidies, you could build middle-class housing. And there would be no need to satisfy greedy investors who want those high returns.
(By the way, Cutler did agree with me that the young tech workers aren’t going to move into highrise condos downtown. That’s boring; they want to live in the Mission or the Haight or Noe Valley. The big Google bus stops aren’t in front of the Millenium Towers.  And that will be the case no matter how many highrise condos we build. Problem is, there are already people living in the Mission.)
But here’s the larger question about Cutler’s meeting, and an earlier effort by David Campos to get people talking.
It’s never going to happen as long as the epidemic of evictions continues.
What tech can do to help
There are plenty of good people who work for tech companies. Many of them want to be good neighbors, make San Francisco their home and make it a better city. Many of them don’t want to be evil. Many of them worry that the hip cultural community they moving into is being destroyed.
But so far, the folks with the money aren’t helping any local efforts to stop the evictions, which are tearing communities apart. I didn’t see a single tech company or wealthy tech worker put a penny into supporting Prop. G, the anti-speculation tax. With a fraction of the money Mark Zuckerberg is spending on all his Noe Valley property, Prop. G would have won.
I didn’t  see any tech leaders testifying for, or supporting, the Campos legislation increasing buyouts for Ellis evictions. The tech-darling mayor wouldn’t even sign the bill; it became law without his signature.
The anger against tech companies comes from the palpable fear that every tenant and every low-income person on the East Side of town feels every day. Mark Benioff seems to realize that; he actually spoke out against the evictions. But he hasn’t done anything to help.
If we can stabilize the existing vulnerable populations and make sure that people who already live here aren’t forced out for new higher-paid workers, then everyone will calm down and we can talk about long-term housing policy. Until then, the war on the streets is going to continue. It just is.

So let’s talk about rent control.
Like zoning policy – and so much else of what cities can do today – rent control as it exists in San Francisco is something of a blunt instrument. It’s far from perfect: People who have lived in an apartment for a long time get a break, but people who just moved here don’t. If the state would allow us to impose real rent control – that is, to maintain the set price even after a tenant moves out – then some of the unfairness would go away. Alas, the state won’t allow that.
Yes: There are tenants who are relatively wealthy who don’t need rent control but still get it. Yes: There are landlords who are less-wealthy who have to accept that burden.
But public policy at the city level is often imperfect – again, the state and federal government won’t allow us to do the things (like a local income tax, a local tax on corporate profits, commercial rent control, and the seizure of vacant property for housing) that would make some of these blunt instruments less necessary.
So we do what we can. Overall, landlords in San Francisco are more wealthy than tenants. Not every single one; there are always exceptions. But overall, that’s a fair rule.
Overall, rent control does something else: It favors people who have been here a long time over people who just got here. And I would like to suggests that that’s just fine.
I know it’s a crazy, radical idea, but at a certain point, in a crisis like this one, you have to give some value to seniority. Unions do it all the time; in fact, seniority is one of the most fundamental tenants of most labor contracts. You’ve been on the job for 20 years, you have more rights than someone who started last week.
And I would say: If you’ve been in San Francisco for 20 years, and helped create and build this community, you have a right to stay here that trumps the right of someone with more money to move in.
The fundamental issue for tech workers – and the politicians who have promoted tech jobs without thinking about housing needs – is this:
You are moving into an existing community. You don’t have the right to force anyone who lives there already to move out.
That means, if you are a decent human being, you will accept that you might not be able to get a sweet flat in the Mission right now. You might have to live in Oakland or Richmond or somewhere else until a place in the city opens up – not by forced eviction but by someone deciding on his or her own to leave, or because the city has built new housing that you can live in. Maybe not in the Mission or Noe Valley, but that’s life. It’s what everyone else in the city has to deal with.
I know the companies want happy workers who want to live in SF near work or a Google bus line, but it’s not fair that a hotel worker – who also has a right to be happy and live near work — has to move to Stockton because someone new with more money came along. And there’s no free luxury bus to take her to work.
Again: This is not about demonizing tech workers. It’s about saying to that industry, which has come to dominate city politics: You have to help this community survive, which means helping control displacement. Right here, right now.
Even if building 30,000 housing units (or however many) would bring prices down, it’s not going to happen overnight. Even if we eliminated CEQA and fast-tracked everything, it would take years to build that much.
Meanwhile, every day another family, another senior, another community member is being forced out. And everyone who cares about this city has to join in that fight.
Here’s an idea for nice meeting: How about Ron Conway and Mark Benioff and all the folks who want to be good tech citizens sit down with the housing activists for a meeting that has one agenda item: How to raise $5 million for a comprehensive housing ballot measure for November that has as its start the use of every possible local policy tool to slow down or halt speculation and evictions. I can think of a lot of activists who would happy to be there.
Because in this dispalcement crisis, doing nothing IS evil.