LWVC Supports SB 8, 9 and 10 on Housing!

The LWVC website states “The League of Women Voters of California supports legislative efforts aimed at California’s housing crisis. This includes efforts to increase equal opportunity to decent, stable, and affordable housing as well as prohibiting housing discrimination based on specified personal characteristics, including source of income. We also promote solutions to increase the amount of housing built in a sustainable and accessible manner.” Consequently, on May 15 LWVC announced support of Senate Bills 8 (Housing Crisis Act of 2019), 9 (Housing development: approvals) and 10 (Planning and zoning: housing development: density) in the state legislature.

In consensus with LWVC, LWVBAE Housing Position 4 on this website includes the “provision of opportunities to preserve and increase housing affordable to low- and moderate-income households with such measures as the following: meet goals for low-and moderate-income housing allocated by the association of Bay Area Governments [ABAG]; coordinate local plans with ABAG Regional plans.” LWVBAE supports the City of Berkeley now updating its state-required “Housing Element” plan for 2023, guided by public input, in order to identify infill sites or properties on which more affordable housing can be safely and reasonably built to mitigate the current housing crisis.

After a decade of misunderstanding, denial and inaction, recent polls show that voters “get” that California is in a housing crisis. They are rightly concerned that our Golden State now leads the nation with the highest rate of poverty, the highest rate of homelessness and the largest number of tenants spending 50% or more of their income on housing. This crisis is also intensifying the Climate Emergency, as high rent fugitives are forced to increase carbon dioxide emissions because they need to drive longer distances between their jobs and their homes. Reversing this trend with more infill construction in the right places will do the most of all measures studied to counteract the Climate Emergency, according to UC Berkeley climate scientists like Dan Kamen.

To educate our community on these issues, LWVBAE hosted a “Conversation on Housing” webinar March 29 with keynote speaker Senator Scott Wiener (D, District 11) and a panel including Berkeley Rent Board Commissioner Paola Laverde, Berkeley Neighborhoods Council leader Janis Ching, Berkeley Vice Mayor Lori Droste, UC Berkeley Urban Planning Professor Karen Chapple and ABAG President (also Berkeley Mayor) Jesse Arreguin. Although many questions were raised about details of the updated Housing Element, the mood of the meeting was hopeful that strategies acceptable to everyone would be worked out by Dec. 2022. An indication of what that update might look like is shown in Table 3-3 from the 2015-2023 Berkeley Housing Element (see City of Berkeley website) with only about 15 and 20% of the new housing to be built located in residential and Southside Areas, respectively (and prohibited in areas of high danger of wildfires or other disasters).

In spite of these reassurances, various false counter narratives continue to be promoted – e.g., that the League is “neutral” on Housing, that all urban infill is dangerous because of the threat of Wildfires. LWVC and LWVBAE positions on Housing quoted at the beginning of this article are clearly not “neutral” and compel us to reject any false counter narratives contrary to the best interestsof our citizens. All League positions on Housing have been and hopefully will continue to be decided by the century old, League process of careful study of issues and adoption by concurrence based on that study.

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