Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Risks of Buying a Home That’s Too Big

Thoreau's Cabin at Walden Pond was 10' x 14'

The Risks of Buying a Home That’s Too Big

The larger the house, the more you’ll pay in utility bills, property taxes, insurance and repairs (and the more you’ll have to clean).

By Robyn A. Friedman

Dec. 27, 2017 11:02 a.m. ET

Tempted to buy the largest house you can afford? More square footage typically means more money—and that means higher mortgage payments, taxes, utilities and maintenance.

Young couples buying a starter home are often coached to get something bigger than they need to anticipate a growing family. Others think large homes have better resale value.

“The biggest house isn’t necessarily the best house or even the best investment,” says Mari Adam, a certified financial planner in Boca Raton, Fla. “An older, smaller home with a shorter commute, bigger lot or greater remodel potential may appreciate more,” she says. “In fact, many fancy new homes can lose value quickly if a developer builds newer homes nearby, while older areas may have more enduring land value.”

While it’s OK to plan for future needs, the ultimate decision should be based on what you can realistically afford.

Allow yourself some extra room—a spare bedroom and bath for guests or for a parent who might move in if necessary in the future—but don’t pay for extra rooms that you will never use, says Ray Rodriguez, regional mortgage sales manager for the Metro New York Market for TD Bank. “You want enough space to live comfortably, but you don’t want to heat, clean and pay taxes on space you aren’t utilizing,” he says.

According to the National Association of Realtors, a real-estate trade group, the median size of an existing single-family home purchased in 2017 was 1,930 square feet, down from 1,950 square feet in 2016.

‘Rather than purchasing the largest home you can afford, think about how that home fits into your lifestyle.’

For new construction, the National Association of Home Builders reports that the median square footage of a new single-family home in 2016 was 2,419, a slight decrease from 2,473 in 2015.

But while home sizes may be trending down—likely due to affordability issues—home buyers aren’t particularly fond of the “tiny-house” trend. An online survey conducted in October of 1,019 Americans age 18 and older by ValueInsured, a Dallas-based firm that offers home buyers a product called down-payment insurance, found that 36% of those surveyed think people who purchase tiny homes are likely to regret their decision.

Purchasing a house that’s too big can also get in the way of your retirement. Once your children leave home, you could end up living in—and paying for—a McMansion that’s largely empty. That will cost you more in utility bills, property taxes, insurance and repairs. Ms. Adam, the certified financial planner, estimates that a moderately high-end home in South Florida could cost $100,000 or more to maintain each year, even with no mortgage. A homeowner would need $2.5 million in assets to generate that income every year, she says.

Here are a few things to consider when shopping for a home:
• Consider trade-offs. Rather than purchasing the largest home you can afford, think about how that home fits into your lifestyle. “People like to travel more, and they may decide they don’t necessarily need a massive house if it comes at the expense of them being able to go out and travel,” says Patrick Ryan, senior vice president and managing broker of Related Realty in Chicago.

• Think small—and remodel. Another option is to purchase an older or smaller house and then create the home of your dreams through renovation. Mr. Rodriguez purchased a 2,000-square-foot home built in the 1960s that was located in a desirable neighborhood. “We knew going in that we would have to renovate because it didn’t have modern amenities,” he says. He saved money for two years and eventually added 1,400 square feet to the house, ultimately achieving the size home he originally wanted but couldn’t afford.

• Long-term returns. The money saved in buying a right-size home could pay dividends in the future—literally. A $20,000 savings each year over the life of a 30-year mortgage could result in a nearly $1.2 million nest egg if invested in a stock market portfolio earning 4% a year, Ms. Adam says. The annual savings, when compounded over time, is likely to exceed the appreciation in your home’s value over the term of the mortgage.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Senator Wiener, has another ridiculous Housing Bill that could lead to the massive urbanization of Marin County

Senator Wiener, has another ridiculous Housing Bill.  

ALERT: This bill will affect ALL HOMEOWNERS near the Highway 101 Corridor.

 In suburban Mill Valley California, essentially ALL of the homes in the flat lands will have no density requirement and a height limit of 55 feet.  In a word, it will force the redevelopment of a quaint town into a high density urban area.

California bill would mandate denser, taller housing near transit


San Francisco senator and assemblymember push for “transit-rich housing bonus”

Andre M
A new bill introduced in the California state legislature Wednesday by San Francisco Assemblymember Phil Ting, San Francisco Senator Scott Wiener, and East Bay Senator Nancy Skinner would cede developers a transit-housing bonus for taller denser developments near major transit hubs.
SB 827 would spare new housing developments from certain restrictions if they qualify as “transit-rich housing.” The initial version of the bill defines such housing as “parcels [...] within a one-mile radius of a major transit stop or a one-male radius of a high-quality transit corridor.”
California law defines a “major transit stop” as:
A site containing an existing rail transit station, a ferry terminal served by either a bus or rail transit service, or the intersection of two or more major bus routes with a frequency of service interval of 15 minutes or less during the morning and afternoon peak commute periods.
For new housing built near such a hub, the bill lays out a variety of potential shortcuts through the permitting process, including:
The bill would exempt a project [from] maximum controls on residential density or floor area ratio, minimum automobile parking requirements, design standards that restrict the applicant’s ability to construct the maximum number of units consistent with any applicable building code, and maximum height limitations.
Patricia Chang
Via a press release, Sen. Wiener called the bill—and two other housing-related bills introduced today, one of which would mandate that cities keep more strict track of population growth and adjust housing requirements accordingly and another that would make it easier to build housing for farm workers—a necessary tool for speeding housing construction.
“After nearly 50 years of bad housing policy—policy designed to make it incredibly hard and expensive to create housing—we began the long process of righting the ship,” said Sen. Wiener.
The proposed law first goes to the State Senate’s fiscal committee for consideration.

Los Angeles County is being AMBUSHED by Huge Development in Residential Areas. Marin is next.

Who Approved That?   (Link to KCET Website for full screen)

California State Senator Wiener is proposing a radical new law that mandates high density development in Marin. Citizens will have no recourse. Here is an important video published by KCET Public Television in Los Angeles. to show you what we can expect.

The crane mutiny: how Sydney's apartment boom spun out of control

The crane mutiny: how Sydney's apartment boom spun out of control

Building apartments along transport routes in Sydney was meant to create a more sustainable city. But only developers seem happy with the results
Reserve Bank figures show 78,000 new units were approved between 2012 and 2015, an increase of 18% on existing apartment stock. Photograph: Mike Bowers for the Guardian

Mike Ticher

Wed 3 Jan ‘18 13.00 ESTLast modified on Wed 3 Jan ‘18 13.01 EST

Across the road, a giant crane has been working on a new block of apartments on the site of a former service station. Another is going up down the road, where the bank used to be. More units are planned for the local RSL site and for two factories within a few hundred metres, and on dozens of other sites in my inner-western Sydney suburb that were previously industrial buildings, commercial premises, car parks or waste ground.

Go a bit further afield and the pace of medium- and high-density redevelopment is mind-boggling. Across Sydney’s inner and middle-ring suburbs, from Rockdale and Wolli Creek in the south, through the inner west, out to Parramatta, up to Ryde and on to the suburbs along the north shore train line, the city is changing before our eyes.

All Australia’s state capitals have seen versions of the same phenomenon but the pace and scale of change in Sydney is exceptional. On the face of it, creating more densely populated neighbourhoods along existing transport corridors makes perfect sense – it has been the policy of successive state governments for the best part of 30 years, in various guises. The downsides of encouraging the city to sprawl across an ever larger area are obvious. Bringing more people within reach of the city, with greater density around local hubs, should in theory be more environmentally sustainable, reduce car dependence, alleviate property price pressures and help create the diverse, vibrant neighbourhoods most residents want.

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But that theory is not working out.

A poll published in Fairfax Media in October found 66.4% of residents agreed that Sydney was “full” and development should be pushed outside the metro area. Across the suburbs, local groups are fiercely resisting plans for more building. In the south the proposed development of the Sydenham-to-Bankstown rail corridor has become a lightning rod for discontent. A plan to build 2,600 units in towers of up to 28 storeys in the inner west has run into outraged opposition under the slogan “Marrickville, not Mirvacville”. In October an even larger proposed development at Rhodes East, on the Parramatta river, was savaged by the local Liberal state MP, John Sidoti, who said some of what was proposed was “just plain wrong”.

It seems nothing can stop the building, short of an economic downturn. But how have governments failed so dismally to persuade Sydneysiders of the benefits of higher-density living? And is it too late to rescue the benefits of a more compact, less car dependent, more sustainable city?
The density push

Australian cities have long been among the least dense in the world. According to weighted calculations by the blog, Sydney had a density of 36 people for every hectare in 2011, compared with 80 in London, 133 in Paris and an astonishing 246 in Barcelona. No one wants Sydney to emulate the less attractive features of the most tightly packed European cities (lack of green space, for example) but there has been a consensus among planners and politicians at least since the 1980s that increasing density in established suburbs makes much more sense than continuing to expand outwards.

Planning is only one factor behind the apartment-building boom. Years of low interest rates and the incentives for investing provided by negative gearing and capital gains tax arrangements underpin every aspect of the Australian property market. But in Sydney successive state governments have encouraged the rezoning of industrial and commercial sites near transport routes, and since 2014 the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment has identified “priority precincts” for high-density development – 28 at the last count – described as having “good access to existing or planned public transport connections” and “suitable for rejuvenation with new homes and jobs”.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show monthly building approvals for apartments in Sydney topped 3,000 for the first time in September 2013, then 4,000 in December 2014 and 5,000 in July 2016, before falling off last year. That meant 78,000 units were approved between 2012 and 2015, RBA figures show, an increase of 18% on the existing apartment stock. In November 2016 the then planning minister, Rob Stokes, announced plans for a further 184,000 homes by 2021, to win “the war against sprawl” with “a real focus on apartments, on terrace houses and on medium-density developments in established areas”.

As a result, by the end of last year, more than 350 cranes were at work in Sydney, more than half of the total in the whole of Australia, of which 85% were involved in residential construction. And in contrast to other Australian cities, they are spread throughout the suburbs rather than concentrating in the central business district. In 2016, for the first time, more apartments than houses were built in Australia, and Sydney, where flats now account for 28% of housing, is well ahead of the average.
The community protest

Public hostility to increasing density comes in many forms and is far from uniform. Research by the Centre for Urban Transitions at Swinburne Universitysuggests that residents of established inner and middle suburbs in both Sydney and Melbourne have “a growing capacity to accept change but at present it is grudging and not strongly endorsed”.

Where is the world's densest city?

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Some grounds for that unhappiness are obvious. Higher density development has not yet fulfilled the hopes of those who claim lack of supply is the key to taming rampant property prices, despite recent signs of the market weakening. But it has contributed to ever greater inequality, according to three reports produced last year for Shelter by the City Futures Research Centre at the University of NSW.

The quality of construction is a further concern. In 2015 Engineers Australia warned that the building system in NSW had “broken down” and a major incident was inevitable as units were being built by developers who were “totally inexperienced”. Hazel Easthope, a senior research fellow at the City Futures centre, says her research has uncovered “an incredibly high incidence of building defects”, including fire safety non-compliance, major leaks and structural cracking in new buildings.
FacebookTwitterPinterest The Eixample district in Barcelona, Spain, is characterised by its strict grid pattern, octagonal intersections and apartments with communal courtyards. Photograph: Daily Overview/DigitalGlobe/REX Shutterstock

But emotions run highest over more existential questions about what higher densities are doing to indefinable qualities such as the “character” of suburbs, and the stresses brought by a dramatic influx of residents without a corresponding expansion of services.

In December the premier, Gladys Berejiklian, told Fairfax she wanted the best of all worlds.

“I for one … don’t want communities to lose their local character,” she said. “I want people to feel they are living in good urban environments with greenery and green space. But also we have to look at opportunities where we can increase supply. People do want to downsize, upsize, have choice of housing.”

Sometimes that circle simply cannot be squared. There is a tension here that to some extent mirrors the broader housing divide between baby boomer property owners and those locked out of the market. Campaigners against development – particularly those arguing for the preservation of “heritage” in leafy suburbs where freestanding houses command astronomical prices – inevitably leave themselves open to the charge that they simply want higher densities pushed into poorer and more distant areas.

In July the chief executive of the Committee for Sydney, Tim Williams, accused north shore residents of “high-octane nimbyism” in rejecting plans for more housing. And some opposition to development has been explicitly hostile to greater density under any circumstances.

On the northern beaches, an unlikely coalition of the former Labor premier Barrie Unsworth and the former federal Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop held forth at a public meeting last April about the threats to the beaches lifestyle, Fairfax reported. “High-density living is what most people who live here have come to escape,” Bishop told the meeting. Unsworth attacked the controversial new B-Line bus service along the peninsula – not for its deficiencies as a transport project but as “a Trojan horse” for development.

But most opponents of the current strategy vehemently deny they are against densification in itself.
FacebookTwitterPinterest The Greens fear ‘block after block of cookie-cutter apartment blocks’ will fill the horizon. Photograph: Mike Bowers for the Guardian

The Sydenham to Bankstown Alliance highlights the threat to the character of suburbs such as Hurlstone Park and Dulwich Hill from the priority precinct plans associated with construction of the metro line that is scheduled to replace the train line from Sydenham to Bankstown, eventually linking the south-west suburbs with Chatswood on the north shore.

“The level and scale of development proposed is random, arbitrary and brutal in its approach, resulting in suburbs that will be left with little of the charm, heritage and character which attracted residents to the area in the first place,” the alliance’s website says.

Its spokesman, the former Marrickville Greens councillor Peter Olive, says defence of heritage is only part of the alliance’s case.

“I don’t think that’s overly controversial or a sign necessarily of nimbyism, it’s just saying there are historical buildings here that need to be preserved, historical streetscapes, townships, villages if you like, that should be given some sort of greater consideration rather than having the broad brush of a 400-metre or 800-metre radius circle drawn over it for densification.”

He cites the “very strong reservations” of the fomer administrators of both the Inner West council and Canterbury-Bankstown council (appointed after the government forcibly merged elected local councils), who pointed to shortfalls in open space, impacts on local traffic and inadequate provisions for schools and healthcare in the plans.

“Neither of those two persons are nimbys – they are both state government appointees,” Olive says.

It is the failure to provide infrastructure and services to keep pace with population growth that has really fuelled public discontent, says Hazel Easthope of the City Futures Research Centre.

“One of the things that makes me mad is when I hear people saying in the media, ‘This is just nimbys who don’t want apartments in their area,’” Easthope says.
A heatmap of cranes in Sydney in the fourth quarter of 2017. Photograph: Rider Levett Bucknall

She believes many people would accept more density if it meant they also got more frequent transport services, more school places, a better choice of shops and services and improved housing affordability.

“That’s pretty much the narrative we’re getting. It’s not that people are saying they’re against density. It’s that they don’t believe that all the things they’ve been told are going to come with it are actually going to come with it.”

Corinne Fisher represents the Better Planning Network, an umbrella group for more than 400 local organisations. She says hostility to development stems ultimately from “a complete failure of process” in consulting residents before large projects are announced.

“If you’re going to ask people to accept, in the case of the Sydenham to Bankstown corridor, tens of thousands of new homes, then you need to come out upfront with a financial commitment for the … infrastructure that you are going to contribute to this development. And that really hasn’t happened anywhere.

“Densification can be done well … but you need to respect what people are telling you they love about their neighbourhood and to work with them to protect these features. And that may be that you don’t build so high. At the moment, the people driving the developments, and the heights of the units within any particular precinct, they are not the residents, they’re the developers. There is only one category of people driving the government’s decision making.”

The planning minister, Anthony Roberts, denies that claim, saying collaboration with local councils and early engagement with the community is a “fundamental element” of the planned precincts program.

“This ensures a planned approach to creating new homes and jobs located close to public transport, shops and services, while retaining and enhancing local character.”

Roberts cites the provision of 2.4 hectares of open space and a commitment of $22m in transport upgrades to support redevelopment around North Ryde station as an example of the government’s response to community consultation.

But both Easthope and Fisher say the government has relaxed its control of the densification strategy.

WestConnex: bitter battles mark the road to Australia's urban future

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“If you look back at the 2005 metropolitan strategy, it was quite prescriptive about where the new development would occur,” Easthope says. “And then it didn’t occur in those locations – because the market didn’t support development in those areas. And then if you look at the 2014 metropolitan strategy, it’s much more pragmatic about the fact that delivery of apartments is largely market-led.”

Fisher blames wholesale rezoning and the “outrageous” ad hoc nature of the precinct designations for undermining the Greater Sydney Commission, the body that is meant to coordinate planning for the city.

“The public has no idea how the government is coming to these decisions and they also have no input as to where those priority precincts appear – suddenly there’s an announcement and, the next thing you know, they’re slapped with a proposal for thousands of new homes in their neighbourhood,” Fisher says. “And they basically have to accept the situation.

“It’s farcical, because the Greater Sydney Commission can’t keep up with the announcements.”

The commission declined to comment.
FacebookTwitterPinterest A poll found 66.4% of residents agreed that Sydney was ‘full’ and development should be pushed outside the metro area. Photograph: Mike Bowers for the Guardian
Winds of change?

Politically, the winds are blowing against the pace and scale of development. Labor has promised to tear up the precincts plan if it wins the next state election, due in March 2019. The party positioned itself strongly against “over-development” in Kristina Keneally’s campaign for the federal seat of Bennelong, which covers middle-ring suburbs in the north-west. At the launch of her byelection campaign with Bill Shorten, Keneally twice referred to the Liberal state government having “presided over thousands of unit developments in this area”.

As well as Sidoti, at least three Liberal MPs have expressed unhappiness at developments planned for their electorates. David Elliott, the member for Baulkham Hills in north-west Sydney, was so agitated by the plan for 8,200 new homes in Bella Vista and Castle Hill that he admitted using “unparliamentary terms” while making his case to the planning minister.

And the Greens have been at the forefront of opposition to many proposals for greater density. In a statement their NSW planning spokesman, David Shoebridge, painted an apocalyptic picture of the city’s future if present trends continued.

“Soon cranes litter the skyline, trees are lost and block after block of cookie-cutter apartment blocks fill the horizons. There’ll be no investment in public infrastructure like schools, green space and public transport. There’ll be no place for kids to play, for people to exercise. You won’t be able to get a seat on the train, schools will be so overcrowded they’ll have to stagger play times.”

I think we’ll see some changes as the 2019 elections get closerCorinne Fisher

Whether discontent will translate into more policy changes may become clearer as the election approaches. There are some straws in the wind, such as announcements that new schools will be built to accommodate the growing populations in Ultimo, Surry Hills and Green Square, which will become Sydney’s most densely populated suburb when the massive apartment complexes built there are filled. The huge unmet demand for schools was “essentially the result of assumptions on the part of state government that families with children wouldn’t live in apartments”, Easthope says. “Which were incorrect.”

Olive says the election is the only realistic chance to halt the current strategy and move towards a plan for rail corridors that do not simply duplicate the pattern that brings all lines into the city.

“There needs to be a direct link between any priority planning precinct and new rail lines, services and corridors. The emphasis is on the new – not conversions … If they want to densify a suburb, they need to link it by new rail services, that’s the crucial nexus between a 30-minute city and planning.”

Corinne Fisher says the government will be under increasing pressure to take the heat out of the protests by addressing the infrastructure deficit, particularly in light of its budget surplus and willingness to spend more than $2bn to knock down and rebuild Allianz and ANZ stadiums.

“I think we’ll see some changes as the 2019 elections get closer,” Fisher says. “There’s absolutely no doubt that [overdevelopment] will be a major election issue and the NSW government has lost an incredible amount of credibility and trust among communities. It will have to address this issue. If it doesn’t, I would say that would have a very big impact on how people will vote.”

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Making housing more expensive to build won’t make it more affordable

Making housing more expensive to build won’t make it more affordable

(Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNGA woman holds up a sign during a committee meeting at Los Angeles City Hall on the linkage fee.

PUBLISHED: January 2, 2018 at 8:00 pm | UPDATED: January 3, 2018 at 12:31 pm

Only a politician could believe that making housing more expensive to build will create more affordable housing.

But in Los Angeles, that’s what Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council are asserting. In December, they approved a new “linkage fee” on new development aimed at raising $100 million per year toward a goal of building 1,500 units of new affordable housing annually.

Don’t bother with the math. They didn’t.

The idea of a linkage fee, which exists in some other cities, is to get money from developers whose projects will displace residents in existing housing or generate a need for additional housing, something that could happen if a new workplace was built.

Hardly anybody is building a new workplace in Los Angeles unless it has a drive-through, but play along.

The “linkage fee” in Los Angeles won’t specifically be linked to the impact from a project. It’s simply a new fee for building in the city.

The early draft of the linkage fee, which has been on Mayor Garcetti’s wish-list since 2015, would have imposed the same fee for similar developments regardless of where they were located in the city. But some council members objected to the one-size-fits-all charge.

So the final version divides the city into “high-market” areas like downtown, Venice and Brentwood, and “low-market” areas like South Los Angeles.

The linkage fee for office, hotel, retail and other commercial buildings is $3 per square foot in low-market areas, $5 per square foot in high-market areas.

For residential developments, the fee is even higher: $8 per square foot in a low-market area, $15 per square foot in a high-market area.

The money will go into the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and city officials say they’ll spend it to build hundreds of units of affordable housing.

Unfortunately, the number of Los Angeles residents who are in need of affordable housing is in the tens of thousands, and those are just the people sleeping on the sidewalks.

Meanwhile, the cost of all other new housing will go up, because developers have to pay these huge new linkage fees just to be allowed to build it.

There are two ways that residential developers can avoid the fees. One is by reserving a percentage of units in their projects for low-income renters. The other option, which is also available to developers of commercial projects, is to get out of Los Angeles and build somewhere else.

Many cities in the Southern California region don’t have linkage fees and don’t treat the construction of a commercial or residential building as a sin that requires some sort of political or financial penance.

In some places, local governments even offer incentives for developers and businesses, to encourage building and hiring.

That’s rare in Los Angeles, where the breathtaking decay of the city is considered incentive enough.

The state Legislative Analyst’s Office has done extensive research into the problem of housing affordability in California, including a detailed report released in the spring of 2016 titled, “Perspectives on Helping Low-Income Californians Afford Housing.”

“The scope of the problem is massive,” the report said, “Millions of Californians struggle to find housing that is both affordable and suits their needs. The crisis also is a long time in the making, the culmination of decades of shortfalls in housing construction. And just as the crisis has taken decades to develop, it will take many years or decades to correct. There are no quick and easy fixes.”

The LAO concluded that while “affordable housing programs are vitally important to the households they assist, these programs help only a small fraction of the Californians that are struggling to cope with the state’s high housing costs.”

To build public-subsidized affordable housing for the 1.7 million low-income California households that spend more than half their income on rent would cost more than $250 billion, by the LAO’s estimate.

But the problem is not just math, it’s logic. When it becomes more expensive to build housing, then less housing is built, and what is built is more expensive.

The LAO report said the real solution is more housing construction, and the scale of the problem can only be matched by privately built, market-rate housing.

“Doing so will require policy makers to revisit long-standing state policies on local governance and environmental protection, as well as local planning and land use regimes,” the report concluded.

So there really is something the government can do about housing affordability. It can get out of the way.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Restoring Localism

Brief video about Center of Opportunity Urbanism. They also produced a great white paper on Restoring Localism

San Fran City Planner: End Free market in Housing/Let Government Set Rental Rates/Housing Prices—AND Who Can Live in San Fran

San Fran City Planner: End Free market in Housing/Let Government Set Rental Rates/Housing Prices—AND Who Can Live in San Fran

December 13, 2016 By Stephen Frank 2 Comments

Did you believe the job of a “city planner” was to promote the free market, to allow residents to live where they want and can afford? If so, you are deadly wrong and the San Fran City Planning must have interned in Russia or other totalitarian State, not in a free nation.

“Rahaim said in the letter that his department will address the gentrification concerns by imposing a new set of special development and land use rules in the Mission as well as also other vulnerable neighborhoods, like South of Market and the Tenderloin.

“We know that there is simply not enough housing regionally or in San Francisco to meet our needs. We know that producing housing at all income levels is critical,” Rahaim wrote. “We also know that it will take a broad set of smart, bold strategies to address the totality of the causes and effects of high housing costs and displacement.”

The concerns over gentrification also come as city officials have declared homelessness a crisis. Federal officials last month said the region’s strong real estate market is a reason why homelessness increased in West Coast cities like San Francisco but declined overall throughout the nation by 14 percent since 2010.

How well does central planning work in San Fran? While the rest of the nation had a decline in homelessness is 14%, San Fran increased. This City Planner wants to make it worse—but will say it is the “government plan”. The Soviet Union is dead, San Fran is the new version.

SF Planning director calls gentrification ‘undeniable, and of serious concern’

by Joshua Sabatini, SF Examiner,12/12/16

The head of the Planning Department acknowledged in a letter Friday the severity of gentrification occurring in San Francisco amid the years-long development boom while also outlining measures underway to address it.

“The reality of displacement and gentrification across all of San Francisco — and the entire region — is undeniable, and of serious concern,” Planning Director John Rahaim wrote in a Dec. 9 letter to the Board of Supervisors.

The letter was in response to the board opposing last month a major residential development in the Mission amid community opposition centered on gentrification.

The board’s vote also created uncertainty for other proposed developments in the Mission District, seen as ground zero for the impacts of the technology boom, as well as projects planned for other communities.

Rahaim said in the letter that his department will address the gentrification concerns by imposing a new set of special development and land use rules in the Mission as well as also other vulnerable neighborhoods, like South of Market and the Tenderloin.

“We know that there is simply not enough housing regionally or in San Francisco to meet our needs. We know that producing housing at all income levels is critical,” Rahaim wrote. “We also know that it will take a broad set of smart, bold strategies to address the totality of the causes and effects of high housing costs and displacement.”

The concerns over gentrification also come as city officials have declared homelessness a crisis. Federal officials last month said the region’s strong real estate market is a reason why homelessness increased in West Coast cities like San Francisco but declined overall throughout the nation by 14 percent since 2010.

Rahaim said that the Planning Department is specifically addressing the concerns of gentrification in the Mission through the development of Mission Action Plan 2020, which he said would result in 1,000 affordable housing units in the Mission, and through the interim land use controls currently in place before that plan is finalized next year.

“We believe that MAP 2020 represents a national model for how urban neighborhoods might address issues of gentrification and displacement,” he said.

Since the technology boom began in 2010, encouraged by the tech-friendly policies of Mayor Ed Lee, gentrification has been at the heart of contentious political debates on a myriad of issues, including the “Google Bus,” transportation services like Uber and Lyft, Airbnb regulations, affordable housing requirements and eviction protections.

While San Francisco has greatly transformed during the past several years and many have left The City for more affordable locales, the debate around gentrification continues to unfold in community meetings and at City Hall.

Rahaim’s letter was prompted by the Board of Supervisors’ Nov. 15 vote to oppose a 159-unit development, of which 39 units would be affordable, at 1515 S. Van Ness Ave. in the Mission by Lennar Multifamily Communities. The board opposed the development by upholding an environmental review appeal filed under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The appeal was filed by the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District’s Executive Director Erick Arguello and argued the review was flawed by failing to address the impacts of gentrification, an argument that has been made previously without success for other projects.

The Nov. 15 vote was particularly charged. Arguello’s attorney Scott Weaver referred to how Mission gentrification had ushered in the era of the $6 croissant, the $100-per-person meal or the $350 handbag for sale on Valencia Street.

“The gentrification we’ve seen on Valencia and on Mission [streets] is the beginning. What is to come is an overwhelming economic force that will change the face of the Mission and of the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District,” Weaver said at the time.

It was the comments of Sonja Trauss, founder of pro-development group San Francisco Bay Area Renters’ Federation, that backfired and seemed to hand opponents a win when she likened the Mission advocates’ opposition to the project to politics akin to President-elect Donald Trump.

“I’ve always been disturbed by nativism in San Francisco,” Trauss said at the time. “And when you come here to the Board of Supervisors and say that you don’t want new, different people in your neighborhood you’re exactly the same as Americans all over the country that don’t want immigrants.”

Supervisor David Campos, who represents the Mission, called out Trauss’ comments specifically when saying he was planning to reject the appeal but changed his mind.

The Calle 24 Latino Cultural District is a 14-block area, wherein the project is proposed, created by The City in 2014 to officially acknowledge the Latino legacy in the area and support regulations to protect it.

Many of the same opponents of the Lennar project also backed a previously proposed moratorium on market-rate housing for the Mission neighborhood.

In 2015 Campos proposed the moratorium to create a “pause” of development of market-rate units – the proposal would have allowed 100 percent affordable housing development – to buy some time to create a long-term plan to combat gentrification.

The moratorium proposal inspired countless debates around supply and demand in the housing market. After the board failed to approve the moratorium, it was subsequently placed on the ballot and rejected by voters.

Moratorium opponents argued that The City needs housing of all income levels and that market-rate development is a vital funding source for affordable housing. Developers are required to include a percentage of units onsite or pay in-lieu fees to The City, which then uses them to fund affordable housing projects.

In his letter, Rahaim cites several statistics to illustrate socio-economic challenges residents face.
“In 2013, 45 percent of renters paid more than 30 percent of their income for rent; that means that nearly half of renters in San Francisco are rent burdened,” the letter reads. “Evictions are taking place across The City, with the Mission, Richmond, Sunset, Excelsior, Tenderloin, and Lakeshore neighborhoods having the highest eviction notices in 2015 and 2016. The Latino population in the Mission had declined to 39 percent in 2014, down from 50 percent in 2000.”

Rahaim also vowed in the letter to announce in spring 2017 “how we undertake a broader socio-economic analysis of displacement, gentrification and growth with a focus on equity” that he said currently isn’t covered under the California Environmental Quality Act.

It remains to be seen whether Rahaim’s letter will prompt the board to reverse its decision on the 1515 S. Van Ness Avenue development.

At the time of the vote, Supervisor Malia Cohen said The City needs “a sea change” on how it handles development. “Development should not be about displacing people,” Cohen had said.

Mission advocates have been working with the Planning Department and other city agencies for more than a year to develop anti-gentrification plans like MAP 2020.

“We are encouraged by the director’s public acknowledgement of the gentrification problem facing the Mission and other neighborhoods of color,” Weaver told the San Francisco Examiner on Monday. “The political will to take the steps necessary to address this problem now lies squarely with the Board of Supervisors and the mayor.”

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

After a busy 2017, Jerry Brown and Senator Wiener have a year of surprising new taxes that will screw us.

Rust never sleeps.  The Housing Radicals in Sacramento, supported by Marin's Senator Mike McGuire and Assemblyman Marc Levine passed a huge package of housing laws that will force development in Marinwood and Marin County.  Apparently, they want to make single family home suburbs illegal.   The developers and the financial community are ecstatic.

See the California League of Cities reports on Housing Law Changes HERE

Homeless camps along the bike trail in Santa Ana

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Music for the new year

Why politicians love cities

Glenn Reynolds: Why politicians love cities

Glenn Harlan Reynolds 4:02 AM. EST June 21, 2016

The 20th century French architect Le Corbusier, famous for his huge, inhuman structures, dedicated his first book To Authority. Too many of his successors seem to feel the same way. Now, in his new book The Human City: Urbanism For The Rest Of Us, Joel Kotkin says there’s a better way.

Today’s urban planners seem to favor high density. Like Le Corbusier, they’d like people to live in tall, densely packed buildings, take mass transit to work, and scorn the “fatter and slower and dumber” residents of the suburb, to use a description from Seattle’s The Stranger that Kotkin quotes.

The problem is that most people, especially people who have or want to have children, don’t like living that way, and that as American cities have become taller and denser, they have essentially become playgrounds for the rich and childless. “For all their impressive achievements, and sometimes inspiring architecture, high-density cores such as those in Manhattan, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston and Washington, D.C., have the lowest percentages of children,” Kotkin says in his new book.

And it’s not just in America. Kotkin says big Asian cities have the lowest fertility rates on the planet, and in Hong Kong, 45% of couples say they’ve given up on having children. Yet politicians love these cities.

As Kotkin writes, “Around the world, planners, politicians and pundits often wax poetic about these massive new building projects and soaring residences made up of hundreds of tiny stacked units, but there’s just one problem with this brave new condensed world: Most people, including many inner-city residents, aren’t crazy about it. People care deeply about where they live, and they often aren’t thrilled with the kind of urban vision held by many city leaders.”

So if people are lukewarm, why are politicians so enthusiastic about big urban development? I think there are three reasons: Snobbery, graft and politics.

The snobbery comes from the fact that most media are headquartered in big cities and the people who work there are the kind of people who like big cities — often people who, as one of Taylor Swift’s songs has it, move to a “big ole city” in part as revenge on the places they come from. As Kotkin notes, the writers, pundits and academic types who write on the subject of cities tend to live in big cities; suburban and rural people are treated as losers, or just ignored, despite the fact that most people don’t live in big cities. And there’s a class thing going on, too. As Robert Bruegmann noted in his book, Sprawl: A Compact History, nobody minds when rich people build houses in the country. It’s when the middle class does it that we get complaints.

The graft is probably more important still: Big developments mean lots of permissions, many regulatory interactions and, of course, big budgets — all of which lend themselves to facilitating the transfer of money from developers to politicians. Frequently they’re government subsidized, which allows that money to come, ultimately but almost invisibly, from the pockets of taxpayers.

(This is also why politicians like subways and light rail better than buses. You can reward a developer over the long term by putting a rail station near a development, which makes it a proper object for graft. Bus routes, on the other hand, can change overnight, so they’re not worth as much.)

Finally, there’s politics. Politicians like to pursue policies that encourage their political enemies to leave, while encouraging those who remain to vote for them. (This is known as “the Curley effect” after James Michael Curley, a former mayor of Boston.) People who have children, or plan to, tend to be more conservative, or at least more bourgeois, than those who do not. By encouraging high density and mass transit, urban politicians (who are almost always on the left) encourage people who might oppose them to “vote with their feet” and move to the suburbs.

This isn’t necessarily good for the cities they rule. Curley’s approach, which involved “wasteful redistribution to his poor Irish constituents and incendiary rhetoric to encourage richer citizens to emigrate from Boston,” as David Henderson wrote on the EconLog, shaped the electorate to his benefit. Result: “Boston as a consequence stagnated, but Curley kept winning elections.”

But that’s OK. Politicians don’t care about you. They care about power, in urban planning and in everything else.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor and the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself, is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.