Wednesday, May 24, 2023

California conundrum

Yesterday I walked a lovely stretch of ocean coast in the beach town of Pacifica. I wasn't surprised to encounter this sign which has a bone to pick with local government. Pacificans are very participatory people.

Here's a cropped image which should be legible:

No, I didn't know. And some elementary googling didn't much enlighten me. Among other mysteries, the next Pacifica Council meeting seems to be scheduled for June 6, not the 5th.

But I did find some information about the town's responses to state mandates that it build more housing. As everyone knows, more people want to live in California than there is housing to accommodate, driving prices and homelessness sky high. For years, the state government has defined what is obscurely named a "Housing Element," which prescribes how many new dwellings communities should be building. Most municipalities have ignored this, without consequence in the past. But the state is trying to get tough as the affordability crisis deepens.

Nearly a year ago, the Pacifica Tribune offered this summation:

As the housing shortage has become more acute, the state has significantly increased its demands for new housing. In the eight-year RHNA cycle that expires this year, Pacifica was expected to produce 413 units of new housing. In the next cycle, 2023-2031, that number jumps to 1,892.
With the increased expectations comes more enforcement from the state. “We never met the numbers before, and nothing happened,” said Pacifica Mayor Mary Bier. Now, she says, the city could lose its permitting and zoning authority. And the city could face financial penalties and legal actions.
“It’s not like we have to immediately build 1,892 units or else,” she said, “but we have to create opportunities for the development to happen” by opening up zoning and making other changes to the Housing Element section of the General Plan.
Because of these changes, “developers have more leverage now, and people who will listen,” says Pete Shoemaker, a local environmentalist and a member of the Tribune’s Editorial Advisory Committee. “Some of these proposals are spitballs. They’re throwing out ideas to see what sticks,” he said. But some are more serious.
While a high-density, affordable-income project on land already surrounded by development might be the most efficient and environmentally friendly way for the city to increase its housing stock, it’s not going to be the most profitable to a developer, said Shoemaker. ...

Will this pleasant coastal open space disappear under a development? Time and politics will tell. The town has an honorable record of preserving stretches of coast, but it also needs housing ...

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