The glacial pace of meeting California’s increasingly dire housing needs, a problem recognized since 1969, seems to have quickened as Governor Newsom signed four legislative bills last week which some – like the League of Women Voters of California and its local leagues – consider potentially game changing and likely to actually increase housing availability in the long term:
- SB 8 (Skinner, D-9): the Housing Crisis Act (HCA) of 2019 – to facilitate compliance with the HCA of 2019 by clarifying it,
- SB 9 (Atkins, D-39): Housing Development: Approvals – to encourage building of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs),
- SB10 (Wiener, D-11): or Planning and Zoning: Housing Development: Density – to promote the building of 10 unit residences on transit rich or urban infill sites, and
- SB 478 (Wiener) Planning and Zoning Law: Housing Development Projects – to further compliance with state law housing requirements.
More information about these bills can be found on the lwvc.org website https://lwvc.org/bill-status-report.
Guided by these and other state and local mandates, planning departments of city governments across the state, like those of Berkeley, Albany and Emeryville, have been gathering community input to design plans to update their detailed master “Housing Element” strategies. Housing Elements are one part of a city’s General Plan, which is a legally required blueprint for meeting a community’s long-term vision for the future. Housing Elements are legally required to be updated every eight years to reflect Regional Housing Needs Allocations (RHNA) cycles, with the current iterations to be approved by BAE City Councils by Dec. 2022 for submission to the state Department of Housing and Community Development. Readers may be familiar with the required RHNA, which specifies the numbers and locations of new or infill housing reasonably expected of each local government to provide all residents across income levels. City government websites indicate timelines for providing RHNA plan updates – e.g., the City of Berkeley timeline can be found at https://www.berkeleyside.org/2021/10/03/berkeley-housing-element-development-zoning for those wanting to participate in this complicated but consequential and fascinating process.
For those unfamiliar with housing issues beyond their personal concerns, it should be noted that a third of Californians polled list housing as the most urgent problem in the state. Not only is the plight of the unhoused ever more visible, the growing distances lower income workers desperate for affordable housing must drive from home to workplace have been found by UC Berkeley Energy Professor Dan Kammen and his group to be major contributors of greenhouse gases fueling the Climate Crisis in California. These ominous developments have prompted LWVBAE Housing Team Leader Greg Magofña to comment: “The fact of the matter is we need to make big changes and we can either fight those changes and lose, letting them take us over, or we can really make thoughtful decisions on how to grow our communities in a way that allows kids like me who grew up here to stay and have a future in a state that isn’t constantly on fire. This is why we started the League’s Housing Team: to start having these thoughtful, nuanced, and necessary conversations.”
The LWVBAE Housing Team currently meets the first Wednesday of every month with a goal to leverage member expertise and partnerships to educate our membership and the larger public about the larger public policy and urban planning conversations around housing to inform LWVBAE actions. The team is open to people of all levels of housing expertise backgrounds and aims to create a base of understanding we can use to fight for LWVBAE’s local positions and those of the county, state, and national leagues. To join the team, contact Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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