Monday, May 30, 2016

Two California Housing Bills to Support

I have written recently about two themes that are important to city planning in California: the tension between local and state control of land use and the idea of making an "R-2" suburbia that allows two dwelling units per lot.  Both of these ideas have been reflected in recent bills before the State Legislature.  Below you will find two sample letters of support that you could send to your member of the California State Assembly, the California State Senate and Governor Brown.

Budget Trailer Bill Regarding Streamlining of Affordable Housing Developments (Gov. Brown)

[Elected Official's Name],

I am writing to support Governor Brown's proposed budget trailer bill regarding streamlining affordable housing approvals.

This bill would require that a housing development that contains minimum percentages of affordable housing, which is located in an urbanized area and complies with a local government's general plan and zoning ordinance be approved "ministerially," that is, without any discretionary approvals such as a Conditional Use Permit or review under CEQA.

California's housing market is crushing the working class and the middle class.  Our rental and home sale prices are far above the national averages.  New housing supply, and particularly housing that is legally restricted to low and moderate income households, is desperately needed and has been for years.

The Governor's proposed bill would help by cutting through red tape that adds time, cost and uncertainty to housing development projects.  Conditional Use Permits can result in a projects being denied even if they comply with local codes, simply because some people dislike them.  CEQA can lead to the need to spend millions of dollars on environmental studies for infill development projects that are environmentally superior to sprawl because they tend to be denser (saving land, saving energy and; making public transit stronger) and more centrally located (reducing reliance on private vehicles).  Worse, CEQA is often unclear about what constitutes a "significant" environmental impact and what a "feasible" mitigation measure is.  How can developers realistically be expected to comply with a law that is so vague that any project opponent can easily launch a lawsuit against a project they dislike?

Excessive regulations on housing have dire consequences.  In our case, the consequences are a housing market that works only for the wealthy and the legal strangulation of projects that are actually better for the environment than conventional sprawl.  It has to stop.

SB 1069 (Wieckowski) - Accessory Dwelling Units

[Elected Official's Name],

I am writing in support of SB 1069 (Wieckowski). This bill would make it easier to build accessory dwelling units (ADUs) by reducing the ability of local governments to restrict or prohibit these homes.

ADUs, also known as granny flats, are second dwelling units typically associated with a single-family residence. These homes are critical for lowering the extremely high cost of housing in our state, allowing people to more comfortably care for their aging parents and adult children and preventing urban sprawl by making it easier to build housing within existing communities. By focusing development in existing communities, we allow people to live closer to their jobs, save natural habitat from being destroyed and foster patterns of population density which better support walking, bicycling and the use of public transportation.

Although California already has a law that requires cities to allow second dwelling units, this law is riddled with loopholes which allow cities to adopt regulations that make it virtually impossible to build ADUs in practice. SB 1069 closes many of the loopholes and ensures that more people will have the freedom to develop their property with an additional dwelling unit. The result will be a stronger economy, a healthier environment and more social justice.

I see the tremendous good that SB 1069 could do. I strongly urge you to give it your full support.

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