Little-known Yimby-developer bills will have big impact on local planning

Growth machine continues its attack on anything that stands in the way of more market-rate housing

Of the fifteen bills in the “housing package” signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on September 29, the one that got the most attention in the news media was State Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 35—and for good reason: SB 35 goes a long way toward “putting teeth” in California’s Regional Housing Needs Allocations, the number of housing units whose each city’s and county’s zoning must accommodate. Moreover, the bill’s provisions for “by-right” approval of certain multi-family, infill developments both circumvent the California Environmental Quality Act and eliminate negotiations with developers over community benefits.

Housing for all — or just market-rate housing for the rich?

But two other items in the package, SB 167 and AB 1515, that either got much less publicity (SB 167) or virtually none at all (AB 1515) will likely do much more damage to the democratic governance of land use in the state. Both amend California’s Housing Accountability Act, a once-dormant law now being exploited by Bay Area Yimbys.

Passed in 1982, the HAA limits the ability of local agencies to reject or make infeasible housing developments without a thorough analysis of the economic, social and environmental effects of such action. It applies to all housing projects. Most important, the HAA allows a court to compel a city to take action on proposed developments.

Analyzing AB 1515 for the State Senate Rules Committee, Senate staffer Alison Hughes observed that when a jurisdiction is sued under the HAA,

the local government bears the burden of proof that its decision has conformed to all of the requirements in the law, including, if applicable, any findings that the development was not consistent with the city’s general plan or zoning standards.….

[I]n order to qualify for the Housing Accountability Act’s protections, a development must be consistent with a city’s general plan and zoning standards in effect at the time that the application was deemed complete. In land use cases, when the issue is such consistency, courts have tended to defer to local governments, unless the court finds that the local government acted arbitrarily, capriciously, or without evidentiary basis.

In legalistic terms, a local government’s decision would be upheld unless no reasonable person could have made the same decision—a very high bar. AB 1515 effectively lowered the bar to the ground.

AB 1515, Hughes explained, “requires courts to give less deference to a local government’s consistency determination. It changes the [evidentiary] standard of review by providing that a project is consistent if there is substantial evidence that would allow a reasonable person to find it consistent.”

AB 1515 was sponsored the California Building Industry Association. The Legislature staff analyses list only one opponent: the California chapter of the American Planning Association. Given that professional planners are usually avid proponents of development, Cal APA’s opposition is striking.

In a letter sent to the members of the Legislature on August 1, Cal APA laid out the harm that AB 1515 does to democratically accountable land use policymaking:

Under current law, a city council or board of supervisors weighs the evidence and reaches a decision based on established principles of democratic decision-making—local governments are ultimately held accountable for their decisions by the local electorate.

AB 1515 would replace the judgment of local elected officials with that of any “reasonable person,” including the project developer who has a fundamental economic interest in the project. When fundamental land use decisions, like general plan consistency, are made by developers rather than elected representatives, local government accountability is compromised and the recourse available to the electorate is taken away.

AB 1515 will allow the applicant, rather than the local agency or a judge, to determine consistency of a development with the General Plan and zoning by allowing the applicant to provide contrary reasons why the project is consistent.

As a result, the issue will be whether a “reasonable person” could conclude that the project is consistent—not whether the city or county had substantial evidence to back up its conclusion.

In  response to my e-mailed query, Cal APA Executive Director Sande George elaborated:

Under this bill, a project would have to be found consistent with local plans if there’s any evidence or interpretation supporting a finding of consistency, regardless of circumstances and evidence to the contrary.

The existing standard is that the local agency’s finding is assumed to be correct unless no reasonable person could reach that conclusion. This [standard] retains the “reasonable person” phrasing in the bill but does not allow developers to begin making what are clearly local determinations, or to take a local agency to court over every finding.

Cal APA asked that AB 1515 be amended to read: “the local agency’s finding is assumed to be correct unless no reasonable person could reach that conclusion.” Request rejected.

The Legislature approved AB 1515 on September 15. On September 19, the League of California Cities sent Gov. Brown a letter requesting him to veto the bill. Like the APA, the League argued that AB 1515 “would deviate from longstanding judicial precedent” that generally deferred to local determination of a project’s consistency with a jurisdiction’s planning.

But whereas the APA held that the bill authorized developers to begin making such determinations, the League contended that it

would essentially allow a court to determine whether a project is consistent with local zoning and general plan [sic] by selecting the substantial evidence it wishes to rely on rather than reviewing whether the city council relied on substantial evidence.

Instead, the League wrote, “[l]ocal governments are in the best position to determine whether a project is consistent with adopted general plan and zoning requirements.”

The Yimbys Seize on the HAA

Besides the California Building Industry Association, AB 1515 supporters included the Bay Area Council, the California Apartment Association, the California Chamber of Commerce, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California, and Yimby Action. Every one of these organizations also supported SB 35.

But the Yimby support for AB 1515 is particularly notable.

To begin, the California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund or CaRLA, self-described as “the legal advocacy arm of the Yimby Party,” qualifies as a “housing organization” that can sue cities under the HAA. The law that made housing organizations eligible to sue under the HAA, AB 2584, is one of the eleven bills listed on the Yimby Legislative Report Card for the California Legislature’s 2016 session. Like AB 1515, AB 2584 was authored by Assemblymember Daly.

Developers are reluctant to sue a city, because they are constantly negotiating with city officials over their projects. The Housing Accountability Act allows a developer’s surrogates to do the dirty work by authorizing as plaintiffs not only a project applicant but also a person who would be eligible to apply for residency in the development, and a housing organization.

As state staffer Rebecca Rabovsky wrote in her analysis of AB 2584, previously “only the project developer or an eligible tenant of the proposed development [could] bring an action against [a] jurisdiction to enforce the provisions of the HAA.” HAA added a “housing organization” to the roster of prospective plaintiffs.

As amended by AB 2584, HAA defines a housing organization as

a trade or industry group whose local members or primarily engaged in the construction or management of housing unit, or a nonprofit organization whose mission includes providing or advocating for increased access to housing for low-income households and have filed written or oral comments with the local agency prior to action on the project.

In 2015, CaRLA sued Lafayette under the HAA and lost; the petitioners were Sonja Trauss and SFBARF (San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation). In 2016 it sued Berkeley and won; this time the petitioners were SFBARF, CaRLA, Trauss, and Diego Aguilar-Canabal. On November 2, CaRLA sued Sausalito; the petitioners are SFBARF, CaRLA, Trauss, and Sausalito resident and San Francisco property owner Robert Tillman. None of these lawsuits concern affordable housing, and two of them don’t concern much new housing of any sort. The Lafayette case involved 44 single-family homes. In Berkeley, the issue was whether an existing single-family home would be demolished and replaced with three single-family units. In Sausalito, the city has denied an application to demolish and remodel a duplex and add a new single-family unit.

SB 167 was drafted by prominent Bay Area Yimby Brian Hanlon. Hanlon runs CaRLA with SFBARF founder Trauss.

Like AB 1515, SB 167 weakens local authority over land use decisions by changing the evidentiary standard for determining whether a proposed development is consistent with a jurisdiction’s zoning. The change is different, however. AB 1515 makes it much easier to challenge a city’s disapproval of a project by lowering the standard of evidence for mounting such a challenge. SB 167 makes it much harder for a city to disapprove a project in the first place by raising the standard of evidence for such a disapproval.

Before SB 167, a city could disapprove a project based on “substantial” evidence in the record, which means requiring “more than a ‘mere scintilla of evidence.” SB 167 changed the standard to “a preponderance of” evidence in the record, which is to say, to evidence showing that the argument at hand is more likely than not to be convincing and accurate.

SB 167 further strengthened the developer hand at the expense of local government by expanding the Housing Accountability Act’s provisions about attorney’s fees. Before SB 167, a court could award “reasonable attorney’s fees and cost of suit” to a petitioner. SB 167 mandates that a housing organization shall be entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees if it sues a city under the HAA and wins.

SB 167 also increased the size of fine that a court can impose on a city. If a court finds a violation of the HAA, SB 167 requires the court to impose a fine in a minimum amount of $10K per housing unit (in the Yimby first draft of the bill, the fine was $100K per unit). Money cannot be paid out of a fund already committed to affordable housing. Fines go into an affordable housing trust fund with the sole purpose of financing newly constructed housing units affordable to extremely low, very low, or low-income households.”

And if a court finds that a city acted in bad faith when it rejected or conditionally approved the housing development or failed to carry out the court’s order within 60 days, the court must multiply the fine by a factor of five.

Like the other bills in the housing package. AB 1515 and SB 167 take effect on January 1, 2018.

The Yimbys and other stalwarts of the California growth machine cast growth-resistant communities as a mighty political force. Yet AB 1515 and SB 167 made their way through the Legislature without grass-roots protest. That history suggests that the growth entrepreneurs’ portrait of a Nimby juggernaut is a caricature whose main purpose is to justify the machine’s ongoing assault on local authority over land use.

  • 1976boy

    NIMBYs are a force locally but largely irrelevant on the state level because local decision making is the best place to stop any and all changes to the built environment.

    After years of this, the State is getting involved. It may or may not be as great idea but it’s happening. A result, I think, of too many older property owners successfully suppressing the market for housing to a breaking point.

    Yes, developers are mostly scum. And greedy. But I feel the same way about property owners hell bent on keeping out new residents by artificially holding down supply, while increasing their own wealth at subsidized Prop 13 tax rates.

    The sooner that dam breaks the better.

    • Do Something Nice

      People who moved to San Francisco and want to keep it a mostly as it was when they moved here are not scum. I don’t always agree with them, but the fact that you believe those who protest hideous projects near/next to their homes are doing so to increase their own wealth is repugnant.

      What is equally repugnant is that while city officials barely consider traffic/transit impacts and other quality of life issues when granting permits, and now we will have unelected developers decide what is good and not good for us.

      The law is ridiculous and hopefully, it will not stand up to a court challenge.

      I’m sure Scott will be happy with more “donations” from developers.

      • Carl

        Excluding young people and immigrants from your community in the name of “preservation” seems pretty scummy to me.

        • Do Something Nice

          Nobody is excluding anybody. When I moved to SF decades ago, it was a sacrifice to live here because the rent was so high. It is THE SAME WAY in just about every desirable city in the world.

          Calling people ‘scummy’ because of your bullshit logic that I’m sure you don’t even believe means that you are the scum here.

        • Don Sebastopol

          Since SF has a disproportionate percent of young people and immigrants, they don’t appear to have been excluded. But I suppose some of them are high income young people or immigrants.

          BTW the current anti-immigrant polices may in fact reduce the demand for housing. I think around 35% of SF residents are foreign born and they tend to have more children so their impact on the housing market may be large.

      • SanPrecario

        Cities change, sometimes rapidly. With this in mind who gets to lock in their vision of a city and why. If someone moved to SF in 1970 why should we preserve that SF over others.

        • zutsa

          Because there’s a strange resurgence in conservatism happening throughout California that’s being masquaraded as “progressive”. It’s rooted in greed. They got theirs, so fuck you if you want yours. Work hard and you too can afford an apartment in “their” city. They colonized their rent controlled apartment in whatever year they moved here which, so long as it was before you moved here, makes them a native.

      • zutsa

        “People who moved to San Francisco and want to keep it a mostly as it was when they moved here are not scum.”

        This is a conservative ideology. It is exclusionary. It is an inheirently discriminative line of thinking. Fine if you think that way, but you and they are not fooling anyone when they say they are “progressive”.

    • Don Sebastopol

      Most I know want to maintain their lifestyle and quality of life they invested in, not to make money off their home. Most would need to move out of the City to see any financial benefit from their increased home value. But if over development ruins their neighborhood, I suppose they at least have the option of selling out and leaving town.

    • djw

      “Yes, developers are mostly scum. And greedy. But I feel the same way about property owners hell bent on keeping out new residents by artificially holding down supply, while increasing their own wealth at subsidized Prop 13 tax rates.”

      I don’t think either group are “mostly scum.” They’re just self-interested actors, like most humans. It just so happens that one group is protecting their own self-interest and unearned wealth through the creation of artificial scarcity that harms renters, newcomers, the poor, and the environment, and the other group pursues their self-interest by trying to build something people want to buy, and sell it to them.

    • It’s very difficult to have a reasonable conversation with people throwing around terms like “NIMBY” and “NIMBYism”.

      Besides your phantom enemy of older homeowners, do you think the following might just have have had some effects inhibiting new housing units?
      – large amounts of land have been placed off limits to development
      – sprawl has become outlawed
      – a significant amount of legislation has been passed since the early 1960s introducing regulations and limitations on development
      – several major recessions
      – increased labor costs
      – available flat land that is not in a flood plain, and is within reasonable distance of major employment centers has diminished
      – traffic congestion has restricted and reduced people’s commute radii
      – taxes have crept up and appetite to subsidize housing at scale has diminished

  • sebra leaves

    Zelda, thanks for answering some of the questions we have about the ramifications of the state laws that were recently passed. One question that arises is over notice. When the Planning Commission does not review a project, how, where and when does public notice go out regarding the projects?

  • Kraus

    For Zelda and her NIMBY ilk, “local control” is code for “nativism”.

    Zelda’s arguments are analogous to those made by southern segregationists in the 60’s.

    • No_Diggity

      I see pregnancy has made you cranky.

      • Kraus

        And I see that in the desperate defense of your corrupt ideology that you have become sexist.

        • No_Diggity

          There is nothing corrupt about the basic, objective reality and understanding that our infrastructure cannot handle more people. Sewer, water, electrical grid, surface and underground transportation are all maxed out and you want more people to move here. Eat a choad.

          There is nothing sexist about a lady being cranky because of her poor choices.

          • Kraus

            Ah, the latest NIMBY argument — after all their other anti-housing arguments have been thoroughly discredited:

            “The infrastructure can’t handle any additional people!”.
            (Yet, somehow, it managed to accommodate “No_Diggity” upon their arrival.)

            And you talk about “objective reality”, yet offer no “objective proof” of your the-infrastructure’s-maxed-out-argument”.

            Additionally, there’s no reason that one can’t both expand housing opportunities while at the same time fortify infrastructure.
            Cities, since time immemorial have been doing both you know.

            https://www.thebaycitybeacon.com/politics/transit-or-housing-the-nimby-chicken-or-egg-problem/article_35b1b2fa-b90f-11e7-9004-abde0803e67f.html

          • Note that San Francisco has the 2nd worst traffic in the United States according to data:

            http://www.businessinsider.com/us-cities-ranked-worst-traffic-2017-8/#2-san-francisco-has-a-high-traffic-score-at-39-a-3-increase-from-2016-14

            Yet SF is only the 13th most populous city in the United States:
            http://www.citymayors.com/gratis/uscities_100.html

            Yet you dismiss those with concerns about this and use labels to dismiss opponents?

          • zutsa

            That’s why housing near transit should be prioritized and sped up, but people find reasons to prevent those from being built too. I can’t think of a more transit rich area than 16th and Mission yet the “Monter in the Mission” has been facing roadblock after roadblock for years. Is that plaza, one of the most transit packed areas in the city, making good use of their space? A home to a Walgreens and Burger King? It just doesn’t make sense.

            Public transit in the Bay needs work, absolutely. The better public transit is, the less people drive. It shouldn’t be used as an excuse for not building. There’s no reason why buildings can’t tower over public transit, and transit can’t expand to meet the demand in order to stave off gridlock.

          • @[email protected]:disqus the evidence is against you: the Institution of Transportation Engineers says that each multifamily housing unit generates 6.72 daily car trips.

            For that kind of transit oriented development to work the development needs to be within about 20 minutes of a major jobs center, like the SF financial district, on a direct transit line. So regarding your 16th and Mission location – I agree.

            However where I disagree is attempting to apply that same logic to the suburbs where one size doesn’t fit all. Robert Cervero (the UC Berkeley professor who conceived transit oriented development) identifies that “suburban bias” creeps in and TOD is far less effective – the reduction in car trips is greatly diminished.

            The LA Times did an interesting study of a large, new apartment complex built right above a station in Pasadena:

            http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jun/30/local/me-transit30

            “In Pasadena, a 350-unit building sits directly over the Del Mar Gold Line station; it was two-thirds leased when The Times did its survey. Of 225 people who got off the train on a recent evening, just one, Cheanell Henderson, headed toward the apartment complex.”

            So it’s a nice theory, but if you build lots more housing you will certainly generate lots more traffic, unless it’s relatively close to the downtown core.

          • zutsa

            I’d agree with you that it’s not one size fits all. Each area would need their own innovations or expansions to accommodate. BART is adding more stops, more trains. I still don’t think the idea that there’s no way for public transit to keep up, and we’re doomed to gridlock, by building more housing holds any weight. Again, as I’ve mentioned many times in these comments, we don’t even have enough housing for the people that are living here now. Never mind the inevitable (key word here) increase in population, be it from incoming workers or just the current resident’s children coming of age. Both housing and transit need to expand in tandem; the lack of one can’t be used as an excuse to not invest in the other.

            From the article you linked: “Most people said that even though they lived close to transit stations, the trains weren’t convenient enough, taking too long to arrive at destinations and lacking stops near their workplaces.”

            That is very much and LA problem and the article is 10 years old. SF has the map covered with bus and train stops; just need higher reliability, more trains and busses, and some more clever routes. More underground would go a long way too. A subway from the Sunset district to Downtown would probably be about a 20 minute train ride. Why cant the area upzone and have a subway line there (unless there’s physical geological issues)?

            You agree that 16th and Mission should happen, but it’s not. Don’t you think the reasons why that development has been blocked so adamantly are problematic?

          • @[email protected]:disqus glad we’re finding common ground. In general the best place for new housing would be in locations like Mission and 16th. However I respect that there may be unique considerations that local elected officials and residents may be aware of or concerned by that I’m not aware of – so I would respect the inputs of these critical stakeholders.

            Regarding BART and transit. In cities it’s much more economically efficient to add housing and add transit to keep up. BART and Caltrans are good when they serve existing dense corridors and connect directly to major employment centers and international airports. What doesn’t work is pushing rail with 90 minute intervals at peak commute (5:30pm and 7pm departures) that generates more housing than it will ever offset, effectively making congestion worse. Or pushing rail in an area which doesn’t have the tax base or population to drive ridership to support it.

            Regarding LA – underground is super expensive. I am interested in some of the ideas coming from Elon Musk’s direction with cars being lowered into tunnels and moved along on platforms. The question is who is paying for super expensive tunnels? Taxes are already high and with the very real unfunded pensions crisis what little ability is left to raise them is needed to mitigate that crisis.

            On the surface 16th and Mission makes sense, but just like the shooting case that so many seem quick to pass judgement on and be outraged, I don’t know the details – only the superficial summary from the media. What objections are being raised? Maybe they are valid? This is why it’s important to have local review.

          • Ah the latest YIMBY argument. Rather than engaging or listening to others with a different point of view, make a sweeping generalization dismissing their points. Then shift the burden of proof to them (see my citations above about how SF is the 2nd most congested city in the US yet the 13th most populous).

            Then, having dinged your opponent for not offering objective proof, finish your comment with a completely unsubstantiated claim about there being no reason not to be able to expand housing and fortifying infrastructure.

            Spending on transportation infrastructure has not kept pace with expanded housing, so your final and primary point is invalid:

            http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/dan-walters/article9371756.html

            A 2011 report from the California Transportation Commission stated it tersely:

            “Today, California’s transportation system is in jeopardy. Investments to preserve transportation systems simply have not kept pace with the demands on them, and this underfunding – decade after decade – has led to the decay of one of the state’s greatest assets.”

            And please don’t claim SB1 – the 12c gas tax – much of which is being diverted to boondoggle transit projects – will somehow help the region catch up with decades of underfunding our transportation infrastructure. It may help maintain roads, but it won’t increase their capacity let alone keep up with the speed of housing expansion you are lobbying for.

          • Gorkem

            I have never seen a YIMBY trying to delay or stop a transit project..

          • Kraus

            Whereas, the head of the Coalition of San Francisco Neighborhoods (a.k.a. “the-NIMBY-presidium”) openly and proudly states, “You have to fight the transit too, because it brings housing with it.”

          • No_Diggity

            And I have yet to see an intelligent person solve for the health, safety and welfare of packing another 500,000 people between two of the most active tectonic faults on the planet.

          • zutsa

            Except, like, people move here regardless of whether or not there’s housing. When it’s unaffordable we have “hacker houses” with tech bros paying $900 to bunk up with 5 other tech bros in a room. Students living in “converted” living rooms for $1k. Illegal in-laws. People living in warehouse spaces.

            You can’t stop the population from growing. You can’t stop people you don’t like from moving here. You can build safe homes for them. You can build to relieve pressure on the market. These are not new concepts.

          • No_Diggity

            I’m not trying to stop the population from growing. I’m merely trying to stop people from artificially encouraging the growth.

          • zutsa

            “Artificially encouraging the growth” Huh?

            We’re not even at the point where we have enough housing for the people that live here now, today. No one can move as there’s no vacancy anywhere, right now, this second. No room for the 18 year old trying to move out of mom’s. No room for the 21 year old graduate from school. No room for their younger siblings who will be in the same boat in 2 years. Forget about the boogeymen. Forget about “artificial growth”. What about the people here now?

          • Gorkem

            umm have you heard of Japan?

          • No_Diggity

            Umm… did you forget about the last tsunami. It is a brand of stupid like you that keeps us stuck in cycles of disasters.

          • zutsa

            Yeah what idiots, those Japanese. All 127 million of em are dumb for living in the path of a tsunami.

          • Gorkem

            Good thing we don’t have any nuclear reactors in San Francisco! Otherwise I don’t understand the point you are trying to make..

          • No_Diggity

            Idiot.

          • SanPrecario

            California’s fault lines are not even the most active in the United States nor the most dangerous. Japan has much more severe earthquakes and yet has seen rapid urban growth in its largest cities associated with lots and lots of building and new development. New buildings are rarely the problem for earthquakes, the concern is more with old buildings that are yet to be renovated though even then pretty basic renovations can make a building safe.

    • Don Sebastopol

      And what is wrong with nativism? Depending on what you mean by that. Unfortunately, no one has ever offered me a native discount.

      • Kraus

        “And what is wrong with nativism?.” — thus, the truth comes out.

        Undergirding all of Don’s arguments — and those of many in these comments sections (who ironically consider themselves “progressive”) — is the black kernel of “nativism.” (A grand old San Francisco tradition since the arrival of the Chinese.)

        Nativism (i.e., discrimination based upon one’s place of origin) is a primitive impulse and, when practiced among the citizenry, it is not only a betrayal of American principles; it is illegal.

        • Don Sebastopol

          If local control means nativism and nativism means discriminating against Chinese, I would agree with you. I don’t think local control means any of that.

          I looked up the definition and appears to apply to nations, as in America first. There may be nothing wrong with that. It can also mean preserving an indigenous culture. Nothing wrong with that either.

          • Kraus

            Nativism is discrimination — plain and simple.

          • Foginacan

            Talking about Nativism is what’s discrimination.

          • Kraus

            Yeah… that makes complete sense.

          • Foginacan

            You discriminate, Kraus.

          • Don Sebastopol

            Whether or not nativism (anti-immigrant?) is discrimination is not relevant to the discussion of local versus State control over development. Local control over development is not discriminatory with maybe some exceptions such as the City’s support of Latino Nationalism in the Mission.

            However, if you are think we have a housing affordability crisis, anti-immigration polices may help resolve the crisis. Around 35% of SF residents are foreign born, 55% in Daly City. If you factor in their American born offspring, the impact of immigration on the Bay Area’s overpopulation, traffic, urban sprawl, and resulting high housing prices is tremendous.

            Personally, I don’t think we have a housing crisis and I am in favor of immigration. Most homeowners are not effected my housing prices and benefit from immigrant labor. Immigrants and illegal aliens benefit the upper middleclass in general by helping them to maintain a higher standard of living.

          • intec

            no they dont. immigrents are a net drain on all of us: they steal our jobs, clog up our schools, take all the affordible housing, and steal college opportunitys from citizens. we need to deport the illegals and end the visas.

          • Don Sebastopol

            The financial impact is debatable. Economists are not in agreement, often depending on their politics. For those of us who are not competing with them for jobs or they don’t suppress our wages, they are a benefit. Without the cheap labor we may have to clean our own homes, mow our own lawns, give up prepared foods, iron our own shirts, pay more to have our home painted etc. The service we receive are labor saving and increase our standard of living. The less we pay for home maintenance is money that can be used other things. That the upper middle class generally benefits is one reason why we won’t deport too many illegals or severely restrict legal immigration, unless the working class continues their uprising.

    • sfsquirrel

      Actually, the 1960’s segregationists hated local control, because they hated the power of organized citizenry — just like you and the other YIMBYs do. And the right-wing tactic of labeling your opponents with right-wing terms to draw attention from your actual agenda is tiresome. But you know that, and that is why you do it. You are astroturf seeking to replace the grass roots. You have money on your side, and may very well win but you but money won’t help fill the vast emptiness inside of you.

      • Kraus

        No, you betrays a complete misunderstanding of U.S. history.

        The segregationists were all about “local control” — hence their battle cry of “State’s Rights!” vs. Federal intervention.

        The southern “locals” through their local practices sought to exclude and marginalize minority populations and it took a higher authority, i.e., the Federal government to “send-in-the-troops”, for instance to integrate the schools, and pass the Federal Civil Rights Act to enforce the rights of the minority.

        Likewise, in case of California the higher authority of the State is stepping in to overturn 40+ year of localized/balkanized NIMBY hegemony and assert the primacy of the common good when it comes to creation of housing.

        The analogy to NIMBYs in this regard is quite apt.

        • sfsquirrel

          The state is not local. Even one of your own comrades recognizes this.

          Note 1976 boy’s comment in this very comment section: “NIMBYs are a force locally but largely irrelevant on the state level
          because local decision making is the best place to stop any and all
          changes to the built environment.”

          1960’s Segregationists were against both local and federal governments. Thus the mantra of “states rights” that you correctly pointed out — and that sounds a lot like the YIMBY cry.

          • Kraus

            Let me make it clearer for you.

            Neighborhoods are more local than Cities.
            Cities are more local than Counties.
            Counties are more local than States.
            States are more local than the Federal government.

          • @[email protected]_GM03KBaWPu:disqus in a situation as I have described above (see my points (1) through (7)) who is best placed to make a decision about whether a development, where there are genuine issues, should be permitted:

            (A) a city elected official highly familiar with the specific situation and accountable to current and future residents

            (B) a Sacramento politician who voted through legislation who lives hundreds of miles away and cannot be voted out by those affected

            (C) An attorney for the developer or a housing advocacy group who opposes the interests of local residents and has a singular focus, no accountability and whose interests are only served if the development goes ahead

          • Kraus

            In Japan, federal law governs housing creation.

            Accordingly, there is no NIMBYism in Tokyo and the cost of housing is 1/4 that of San Francisco.

            Similarly, all housing development of 50-units or more in Melbourne, Australia is reviewed and approved at the state level. This was done to neutralize the corrosive anti-housing effects of NIMBYism and has done much to keep the cost of housing reasonable in this highly desirable coastal city.

            We can — and are — learning much about best practices elsewhere and these best practices can be applied to California and throughout the U.S. in order to control runaway housing costs.

          • It’s very difficult to have a reasonable conversation with you when you keep throwing around terms like “NIMBY” and “NIMBYism”.

            What if people do not want their city to become as crowded and dense as Tokyo? Should anyone have the right to live wherever they want? Are there cheaper places to live than the Bay Area?

            I say we should make efforts to make affordable housing, and growth – dispersed infill in some places, maybe high density where it is welcomed in others.

            Do you agree that people’s tolerance to accept growth may vary, likewise their acceptance of control to be moved from localities to state level may vary? How much housing is enough to satisfy you?

            What would the impact of building that much housing be on transportation (not everyone will flock to transit, you may inflict gridlock) on water (we are already experiencing severe droughts) on taxes (many cities are near bankruptcy and won’t survive the next recession)?

          • Carl

            “What if people do not want their city to become as crowded and dense as Tokyo? ”

            Then they should put their money where there mouth is and purchase the land they don’t want other to build housing on.

          • Watson Ladd

            If you don’t want to live near people, move out of a growing city. People want to live in cities, and are willing to invest in transportation improvements and increase mode share. Those who don’t like those things can always cash out and go somewhere else.

          • Don Sebastopol

            The population density is lower in Tokyo/Yokohama.

          • Don Sebastopol

            Tokyo/Yokohama has a lower population density than SF. There are pockets of single-family areas in the center (some affluent areas have single story homes), and as you leave the center you see mostly single-family neighborhoods from the train. BTW, Japan has hardly any immigrants.

          • Watson Ladd

            What would you consider a genuine issue?

          • zutsa

            Let’s just reinterpret history to suit our beliefs today. That will work this time!

        • Foginacan

          You are the actual segregationist, you bozo.

      • Porfirio666

        Yes, NIMBys loved neighborhood covenants that kept black folks out of their neighborhoods in the 20th century. It was the NIMBY pinnacle of control: Locals rule!

        • Foginacan

          Neighborhood covenants you know nothing about are your best argument for cleansing neighborhoods by way of gentrification in 2017?

          Newsflash, while you creeps bad mouth the idea of “neighborhood character” and it’s diversity, there isn’t a neighborhood without Blacks, which means the character you’re attacking is the make of The City, people of color and all. Take a hike, racists.

          • Porfirio666

            Not my best argument by far. But one of them. Racial covenants were NIMBYism extraordinaire.

            Fognik just used the ‘R’ word. Newsflash: When people refuse to argue with any sense of rationale, that’s when they start crying Communist/Fascist/Racist.

          • Foginacan

            The racism out of YIMBYS like you is not rational or anything to argue with – It’s racism. You’re not entitled to historical revisionism when so many of us lived through it. Get over yourself.

          • Porfirio666

            Foggy’s calling me the racist word again. Sure sign he’s befuddled by the conversation here.

          • Watson Ladd

            Why did the Haight downzone again?

          • Foginacan

            You don’t know the history, don’t pretending you do. Useful idiots like yourself welcome urban renewal.

          • Watson Ladd

            The history I know is that there used to be black families in the Haight. Calvin Welch pushed through a downzoning that made it financially infeasibly for them to be there. I don’t think we should repeat what happened to the Fillmore, but we absolutely should add density to single family zoned neighborhoods where rich people live.

          • Foginacan

            Why do YIMBYS repeat fake histories? Anyone calling out Calvin Welch like he did something tells me you’re a know nothing. The best part is you know that you’re an ignorant fool.

            You’re on the wrong side if you value diverse neighborhoods.

          • Watson Ladd

            Show me that Calvin Welch wasn’t behind that downzoning and it didn’t do what I said it did. We can’t have diverse neighborhoods with the rent so high. Affordability is necessary for diversity, and the only way to make neighborhoods affordable is to make sure more people can live in them.

          • Don Sebastopol

            Those covenants were outlawed over 50 years ago. The West of Twin Peaks owner occupied neighborhoods have steadily lost non-Hispanic Whites and gained upper middle-class Blacks and Hispanics, but mostly Asians. Interestingly, upper middle class Blacks are helping to gentrify the Mission.

    • Y.

      Pity the poor rich. Truly, having a 200K corporate job is a tough row to hoe, no different than being black in 60s Alabama. Truly Zuckerberg is our Rosa Parks, and Wiener our MLK. The wretched and oppressed of Facebook and Salesforce shall overcome.

      • Kraus

        No pity the middle and lower classes, who have been screwed and continue to be screwed by the anti-housing polices that you and your kind continue to advocate.

        Fortunately, many people — especially the young — are starting to see through the self-serving cynicism of your feeble arguments and the tide is turning — hence the recent legislative successes of SB-35, AB-1515, SB-167, etc.

        There’s more to come!

        • Y.

          What percentage of low income units do YIMBY’s and BARF’s funders push for? What percentage has Tim Redmond pushed for?

          • Watson Ladd

            Percentages don’t matter. Units do. Prop C shut down the production of IZ units and had to be hastily fixed.

          • Y.

            Percentages don’t matter? You think 10% and 40% inclusionary housing (or 1% and 100%) amount to the same thing?
            A healthy city allows for housing to be available to all income levels. The proportions of housing prices should therefore track the proportions of various income levels.

          • Watson Ladd

            I think if you have 100 affordable units it doesn’t matter if you have 1000 unaffordable ones or 300 unaffordable ones in addition: you are still housing the same number of people in need. Remember, we don’t tax homeowners or people moving into existing housing to pay for affordable housing, only new construction. 70% of 0 is 0.

          • Y.

            One, the 1000 unaffordable units generate 3⅓ more service jobs, for the increased population. If these lower-paid service workers are not accommodated, then you have a higher deficit of affordable housing than before.
            Two, even under the most laissez-faire policies, land and building bandwidth are limited. Every unaffordable unit delays building affordable housing even more.

          • Watson Ladd

            If we had by-right we wouldn’t have these bandwidth issues. Funding is the major constraint on affordable units. And your job numbers ignore upwards pressure on wages.

          • Y.

            “If we had by-right we wouldn’t have these bandwidth issues” sure we would. You can’t build 100,000 units in a day. There are hard limits of financing, labor availability, and what not, even in uncontrolled growth areas like the Sacramento suburbs.

            Funding is a major constraint for 100% affordable projects, not for profitable projects with generous inclusionary affordable percentages.

            “Upwards pressure on wages” is simply not enough. Wage inequality has been growing in the Bay Area, even while the minimum wage has gone to a big $14/hr ($15 next year). It’s as clear an example as any of trickle-down not happening.

          • Watson Ladd

            We can’t build 100,000 units in a day, but we could build 10,000 a year like we were for most of the 20th century

          • Y.

            Fine. That’s still a limited rate, as I was saying. It wouldn’t help affordable housing catch with unaffordable housing, quite the opposite.

          • Watson Ladd

            When you make more housing, the unaffordable housing become affordable. In a famine, you’d be arguing against baking bread.

          • Y.

            “When you make more housing, the unaffordable housing become affordable”: I don’t know of one place where that’s happened. I know of plenty where it has not: Sacramento. Seattle. Vancouver. Hong Kong…

          • Watson Ladd

            Sacramento, Seattle, and Vancouver all have very restrictive housing policies. Montreal, Chicago, and Houston all demonstrate affordable housing is possible.

          • Y.

            The Sacramento suburbs have been growing for decades. Seattle has in recent years converted entire neighborhoods to highrises. Vancouver has been adding thousands of units every year for a long while (7000-ish in 2015-2016, for a population smaller than SF’s).

            Chicago has had more or less constant population for years, and no economic boom. Montreal’s population has been stagnant for many years until a few years ago. Houston rental prices at least have been following the same trends as most US cities, rising some 30% from 2011 to early 2016, then declining slightly (see RentJungle for rental data). All three haven’t been subject to a large influx of high-income earners (like SF and Seattle) or land speculators (like Vancouver and Seattle).

          • Watson Ladd

            Houston’s rental prices are far below the bay areas. If we upzoned the west side of SF what do you think would happen?

          • Y.

            Houston doesn’t have enough folks who could pay Bay Area prices. If it did, sellers and landlords would charge more, knowing that they could get more.

            If we upzoned the west side, we’d get additional expensive housing, faster commercial gentrification, land speculation prompting evictions, and more people commuting from cheap suburbs into the city, not lower prices.

          • Then onus is really on developers and YIMBYs, who are one and the same and hard to separate, to present the burden of proof that such upzoning would achieve their desired impact – of generating substantial amounts of housing for those on lower incomes alleviating their preferred “crisis”. Instead they are likely to add many more expensive housing units, cause gentrification and bringing in property speculators – for which there is likely pent up demand.

            If I was running a bakery I sure would love to bring in many high earning bread lovers to town; I would try to get it approved by claiming it was to help those who were more needy. I would love it if a grassroots group with optics of being altruistic could act as a front for me.

          • Y.

            Yup! And buy cheap bakeries, convert them to ones selling $15 loaves of bread, and tell people that once all the $15 loaves are sold, you’d of course lower your prices and feed the starving.

          • The effect of YIMBYs is more of a Yuppies In My Backyard. Or Yuppies in Your Backyard.

            Developers win, Yuppies win, tech companies trying to keep salaries down win, unions win. Did I mention those on lower incomes or existing residents? Quite intentional.

          • Watson Ladd

            IZ means market rated developments include the affordable units you claim to care about. I assume you aren’t aware of the YIMBY ballot measure that would make affordable housing by-right in San Francisco. The idea that speculators will be attracted to a market where there is enough housing to meet everyone’s demand is ludicrous: speculators like Zelda Bronstein exist because there isn’t enough housing and this shows no sign of reversing. Why does every economist disagree with you?

          • The idea that SF will some day provide enough housing so anyone who wants to live there can is, to use your words “ludicrous”.

            It isn’t just speculators – there’s the RSU factor – Restricted Stock Units:

            http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/09/25/about-silicon-valleys-crazy-housing-situation-one-real-estate-exec-deconstructs-the-market/

            Let’s say I work at Google. I’ve been there for two years. They grant me 50 shares a quarter under a vesting plan. Every quarter I receive these 50 shares at $950 a share resulting in $190,000 in additional annual income. This RSU income is added to my base salary for qualifications purposes.

            So you have a wealthy elite becoming wealthier, and placing increasing upward pressure on property prices – and seeking premium/luxury units. Developers love that. The 80% of market units that get built will increasingly serve this elite. It’s trickle up, not trickle down.

          • Watson Ladd

            You have a wealth elite getting wealthier in Tokyo, Vienna, and Singapore also. Yet they don’t have the problems ensuring everyone has homes we do because they have consistently build more housing over the past 40 years.

          • Watson Ladd

            Landlords can’t charge more than the competition. Not a single economist agrees with you on this.

          • Y.

            If the money is rolling in, then everybody raises their price together.

          • Let’s be clear about your famine metaphor. We have a famine, and yet:
            – employers are eagerly attracting many more people into the famine affected area
            – developers, such as Sam Moss who leads the YIMBYs, want to see more people since exacerbating the crisis strengthens the argument. In your metaphor Sam owns a bakery and stands to benefit (be it not via profits as he’s a non-profit, but through salary and influence)
            – there is only loose application of existing laws on the books that filter access to the area
            – we have many good people contributing to the region leaving because of congestion

            Restated you are focusing exclusively on supply, when demand is increasing.

          • Watson Ladd

            Why should people who want to live here not be allowed to?

          • Y.

            There are people who are already not allowed to live here. They are called poor people. I’d worry about housing them before I worry about housing more millionaires.

          • Watson Ladd

            Remember when Forrest Hills shot down housing for the formerly homeless? And the Telegraph Hill dwellers cut 2 stories off an affordable project?

          • Y.

            I can’t speak for them. I’d love to have housing for the homeless in my neighborhood. No one is proposing any, though. Only big market-rate developments.

          • Y.

            Speaking for myself, I’d love to see homeless housing in my neighborhood. None are proposed, though, just a lot of giant market-rate buildings.

          • zutsa

            “even under the most laissez-faire policies”

            The Bay is about as far away from laissez-faire as you can get in the United States. It doesn’t need to move very far in that direction to help relieve the pressure.

            “If we build a 5 story, 30 unit apartment at 29th and Taraval then what’s next? Hong Kong levels of density?!?! Human population has been exploding and soon we’ll run out of water! We need to stop this building!”

            Not saying you think this way, Y., just pointing out that this mentality is ridiculous.

          • Y.

            I said, even under the most laissez-faire etc. That is, even if YIMBY had their dream legislation, there would still be hard limits as to how fast and how much could be built, and naturally pricier, more profitable housing would get priority.

          • zutsa

            Both things are probably true. However, it’s not a reason to not build. Like I’ve said in many other comments, I don’t think a massive 10x increase in housing production is needed. Just enough to scare off some speculators, house those that are here now, and put at least some downward pressure on the market to match the rising wages. Even a 2-5 year plateau in prices would be a huge help. Anything!

          • Y.

            “Just enough to scare off some speculators”: the builders are the speculators. They won’t build so much that their profits are depressed.

          • Don Sebastopol

            Even if there no additional housing, higher income workers replacing lower income workers create service jobs. I don’ think there were many new units added in NOPA but the number of service jobs on Divisidero increased substantially.

            I think is is true that the higher the percent of BMR units the slower the development. And the higher the percent the less affordable the market rate units.

        • Foginacan

          “YIMBYism is a youth-led movement.”

          Sonja Trauss is practically middle aged.

          • Kraus

            Is 35 the new 50?

          • Foginacan

            It sure doesn’t make you a youth movement.

          • Kraus

            Foginacan fears young people.

          • Foginacan

            YIMBY fear mongering gets old. Aging is going to be a bitch for you losers.

          • Watson Ladd

            You know, we could all leave. Have fun paying for your generation’s pension promises without those tech jobs around.

          • Foginacan

            Tech jobs aren’t generational, you goof. Neither are pensions.

          • Watson Ladd

            Pension obligations incurred in the 1980’s and 1990’s are getting paid by the taxes new residents disproportionately pay.

          • Please, they are a developer led and funded movement. It’s important that press and elected officials are made aware of this leadership. They keep mistakenly saying it’s a grass roots organization.

          • This is spot on accurate – is @disqus_GM03KBaWPu:disqus Sonja Trauss or her partner incognito?

            https://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/news/2017/03/17/young-leaders-40-under-sonja-trauss-sfbarf.html

        • Don Sebastopol

          How many middle and lower classes are left in SF to support YIMBYism? Yes, it is the young that support the movement. But they too will grow up and see the error of their ways. However, I would support housing for single young people on the east-side as it takes pressure off of us older folks on the west-side. I still see students sharing single-family homes that could be made available for families with children.

    • Foginacan

      You’re a stupid human if you believe that. Utterly stupid.

      Not to mention, Sonja Trauss is a fricken racist.

      • Porfirio666

        Foggy said “stupid.” Foggy said “racist.” I guess we should shut down this discussion then-;.

        • Foginacan

          Kraus is likely mentally ill and said a lot of bullshit – YIMBY nutballs kill any valid housing discussion.

          • Porfirio666

            He said “nutballs”!

    • rickbynight

      So when the low income latino population in the mission rose up and demanded a moratorium, and the upper-middle to upper income “YIMBY”s rose up and fought it, which side is which? I’m just trying to clarify who deserves control.

      • Porfirio666

        No one “deserves control.” Although you obviously think that locals do.

    • Rosh HoshHosh

      Sonja Trauss always brings the conversation back to her talking points. She’s like a robot. A cute robot that loves gala events.

      She’s referred to herself as an anarchist, but surely that was in jest. For she’s a capitalist – a capitalist on a rocketship.

      And let’s face it, nobody loves democracy like capitalist robots on rocket ships.

      Sonja is very bright and better look out when she comes at you. She’s like a petite Chris Christie. Handing detractors their ass is a god given talent. Inserting head scratching analogies .. no problem.

      But it’s not all themed parties and red lipstick. Sonja is on the fast track to serious policy making. She and a handful of others have quickly proliferated the so-called Yimby movement.

      The Yimby’s support housing and mix-use buildings proposed by new yorkers with clunky glasses. The Yimby’s oppose tent housing and carboard huts occupied by people who shit on soma side streets.

      Can she win in 2018? I don’t know, but she collects up votes by the handful. She’s been doted on by the Times. And she is very determined.

      I wonder if she’s you? It’s been alleged that it is. Can you confirm or deny?

      Last time I chatted with you, Kraus, you ducked out when I brought the disenfranchised people of SF into a development conversation. Poof.

      • Porfirio666

        To summarize Rosh’s text above: Sonja Traus is a cute robot who is very bright, and Yimby’s [sic] support mix [sic]-use housing.

        • Rosh HoshHosh

          You misspelled ‘Trauss’

          • Porfirio666

            Since you think she’s a robot bot, it doesn’t matter how you spell the name. Poof.

          • Rosh HoshHosh

            Kraus didn’t do much to deny she was Trauss. I was just having fun and I hope it wasn’t too personal. She will need to broaden her rhetoric if she wants to be a supervisor.

          • Porfirio666

            Wow. I was sure that Kraus was Scott Wiener. Could be wrong. But he dips in on housing policy sometimes.

  • Porfirio666

    “Yet AB 1515 and SB 167 made their way through the Legislature without grass-roots protest.”

    Why? Because Wiener, Chiu, and Gov. Brown are liberals who fully understand that streamlining the construction process will resolve the dire housing shortages throughout the state of California. NIMBYs created this problem and YIMBYs will solve it.

    Viva el YIMBYismo! Viva la revolucion!

    -Thanks, Zelda, for keeping you article under 20,000 words this time.

    • Kraus

      Yes, the concision was much appreciated.

      • From Zelda: The original project did involve 315 moderate-income houses. But the developer withdrew the application for that project and instead submitted one for 44 single-family homes. The lawsuit was over the 44 single-family home project.

        • Watson Ladd

          No, the lawsuit was saying that the developer should have been allowed to build the 315 homes originally. Did you even read the docket?

          • Kraus

            Facts complicate and make untenable the narrative that Tim and Zelda are striving to prop up.

          • zutsa

            It’s either gross misunderstanding or spin. I can’t tell which.

      • Don Sebastopol

        It is good to know they have not overridden local zoning laws. That is a relief.

    • eean

      hey give Skinner and Daly some credit

    • Foginacan

      Jesus, you’re even appropriating calls to revolution now? We have another name for what people like you call revolution.

      • Porfirio666

        Y que es este nombre? Tiene miedo de la revolucion, no?

  • Y.

    Zelda, I think you make the YIMBYs out to be stronger than they really are (and think themselves to be).

    • Kraus

      Please enumerate the recent legislation successes of the NIMBYs.
      (Let’s see…Phil Ting’s reactionary AB-915, what happen to that backward-looking proposal?)

      • Y.

        I was talking about YIMBY as a political body. There is no NIMBY organization, as Zelda pointed out in the last paragraph (and not even a political organization for regulating development in general, which you conflate with NIMBY.)

        • Kraus

          There are innumerable NIMBY organizations — their failed ideology, however, is no longer ascendent and is being rightfully exposed and acknowledged at the local, State and Federal levels (as well as throughout academia) as being one of the key drivers of runaway housing costs.

          Practically every neighborhood group in SF (e.g. the poster child of NIMBYism: the Telegraph Hill Dwellers)– with the exception of independent/forward-thinking ones like the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association — is traditionally and currently dominated by NIMBYs. (Although, through the efforts of YIMBYs, this is changing.)

          At the State level, as Zelda points out in her article, organizations such as the California chapter of the American Planning Association and the League of California Cities are totally beholden to the NIMBY status quo — that’s where their bread-is-buttered.

          • ZeldaBronstein

            The California chapter of the APA is a Nimby front? Hilarious.

          • @[email protected]:disqus when one side runs out of facts it resorts to labelling, in an attempt to shut down civil discourse. This is a shame.

          • Porfirio666

            So Says R. Hall, he labeled me a racist above because I disagree with him.

          • Not sure what point you’re making here – but (a) I believe we’re on the same side and (b) I did not make any such labeling.

          • Porfirio666
          • Kraus

            What’s not hilarious is that you — as a multi-millionaire landlord (Bronstein LLC ) who owns rental properties throughout the Bay Area valued at $32 Million — can continue to ensure that the value of your little real estate empire skyrockets via your NIMBY advocacy to restrict the creation of new/competing housing supply.

          • Y.

            How much property do YIMBY’s financial supporters own?

  • The writers here used to be progressive. Now they’re just shills for wealthy property owners (like them).

    • Kraus

      Exactly, when it comes to housing policy, the 48 hills writers have become de facto advocates for maintaining the political hegemony of exclusionary NIMBY homeowners at the expense of the young, the newly-arrived and those of modest financial means.

      They are the perpetrators and perpetuators of the housing crisis.

      • Don Sebastopol

        The young are sill arriving in SF in great numbers. Newly arrived are not being excluded. Those of modest means maybe so. But SF in an expensive place to move to and they should probably consider alternative places to live if they can’t afford to live in SF or are willing to make sacrifices.

        • Kraus

          The point is that due to this artificial-created/politically-induced shortage of housing that’s been 4 decades in the making, people are being increasingly squeezed and having to pay an ever-increasing disproportionate amount of their income — much greater than any other generation since WWII – on housing.

          This is happening throughout (coastal) California since that’s where the jobs are. Because of this, for instance, when the cost of housing is factored in, California now has the highest percentage of poverty (20%) in the entire nation! (If you don’t factor in housing, Mississippi has the highest percentage).

          https://calmatters.org/articles/sky-high-housing-costs-make-california-poorest-state/

          https://www.scpr.org/news/2017/09/12/75575/california-s-housing-costs-are-driving-its-no-1-po/

          http://www.politifact.com/california/statements/2017/jan/20/chad-mayes/true-california-has-nations-highest-poverty-rate-w/

          https://calmatters.org/articles/housing-costs-high-california/

          This is not inevitable and it can be traced directly back to the political stymieing of housing. The exclusionary barriers to housing creation need to be removed. If we care about fairness and the overall health of our society, then we all should be pulling in the same direction and creating as much housing — both subsidized and unsubsidized — as we possibly can.

          But we should first and foremost remove the onerous regulatory barriers in order to make housing creation less expensive and then subsidize to the extent we need. To not do this, as many NIMBYs are advocating, would be extremely wasteful and counterproductive.

          This should be the task of every true progressive.
          This is what YIMBYs are advocating for.

          • Foginacan

            If it’s artificial, then how do you explain yourself?

          • Don Sebastopol

            Saying that creating as much housing as we can, is related to fairness and the overall health of our society, is a meaningless statement without saying what that means. Fair to whom? What health? Higher density living is less healthful.

            According to the State, “crisis” is defined as paying a disproportionate amount one’s income on housing. They say that the consequences of high housing prices will prevent California from reaching its full economic potential. They may have the cause and effect backwards. The economy causes housing prices, housing prices don’t cause the economy.

            With respect to disproportionate amount of income on housing, San Francisco is not among the top 10 counties in California that have a crisis. But three Bay Area counties are in the top 10: Alameda, Contra Costa, and Santa Clara. To be fair, these counties should be required to have more development before San Francisco residents are burdened with over development ruining our quality of life.

            High housing prices may be happening in coastal California because that is where the jobs are. That is all the more reason to have other Bay Area counties develop housing before San Francisco does. That is only fair. San Francisco has only around 20% of the Bay Area’s jobs. Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Clara have around 60% of the jobs.

            BTW those statistical manipulations to calculate poverty rate is questionable. There are many ways to calculate poverty that can give different results. Looking at the relative standard of living may be a better way to define poverty.

        • SanPrecario

          San Francisco’s median age has increased over the last decade. SF also has a higher median age than Los Angeles. This is to be expected as cities tend to lose younger residents as they get less affordable.

          • Don Sebastopol

            The US population is ageing. San Francisco still has the highest percent of young adults compared to other major cities and most other minor cities. In the Bay Area, only the Contra Costa Transit Center, Emeryville, and Sanford University census area, have a higher percent of young adults. But yes, in most urban areas, as Millennials age, start to form families and have children, they are leaving the central cities for more affordable single-family homes.

            If young people stop coming then I would expect employers that are looking for a young talent pool will stop coming. Young people that migrated to SF in the past tend to be more highly educated and more talented than average.

      • @disqus_GM03KBaWPu:disqus do you believe the following situations will never, ever occur and anyone concerned by the situations can validly be branded and dismissed as a “NIMBY”?

        (1) a new apartment complex is proposed in a location known to be at high risk of frequent flooding, landslide, fire, of pollution known to result in a high risk of birth defects, heart disease or respiratory diseases; where these risks had been identified since the cities zoning or general plan had been put into place?

        (2) An apartment complex, such as the one proposed at Grady Ranch by George Lucas, would divert a river in an unpredicatable manner that might put adjacent areas at risk of flooding, landslide or otherwise knowingly damage the local ecosystem

        (3) A new apartment complex is put in an area already suffering from acute traffic congestion or where there are parking issues; exacerbating these isues

        (4) An apartment complex is put in a place earmarked in a city’s general plan to be a farmers market

        (5) An apartment complex containing many luxury units is approved ahead of and blocking the building of an apartment in the same location that would have been 100% affordable

        (6) Apartment complexes, such as the ones in Marin City, which have a high proportion of protected minority residents, are knocked down to be replaced by new luxury units with a small number of affordable units. Although existing residents are promised units in the new building data shows that fewer than 20% return

        (7) At a time years after city zoning and general plan are in place a city is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. There is insufficient time to rezone and laws prevent downzoning. A large complex of 100% affordable housing is proposed that will push the city to bankruptcy since the new units will pay 5% of property taxes of market rate units, yet place the same burden on city services.

      • rickbynight

        @disqus_GM03KBaWPu:disqus Honest question, from someone who strongly believes we need more housing, but also is extremely wary of developers getting us to affordability:

        We have a scarcity of housing, but the price is driven by ability to pay, not simply scarcity. Unlike commodities (like, say, apples), housing prices are dictated exclusively by wealth and ability to pay. (Essentially everyone can afford an apple, it’s a question of how many they can access, not a binary.) If we had a constrained housing market but with nobody able to afford over $2000/mo in rent, we wouldn’t see rents above that price.

        If the market were to become saturated with housing (an excess), prices would certainly go down, but this seems like the entire model is predicated on our ability to “trick” developers to over-build. Assuredly that happens, but given the speed of construction alone, investment would dry up quickly as rents begin to drop. It’s possible that we’d see a marginal decrease, but this alone seems unlikely to lower the absolute costs without additional factors (e.g., a reduction in high-end demand.)

        Many of the 48 hills authors you’re talking about would gladly (and have previously) supported anti-speculation laws, anti-flipping laws, and anti-airbnb regulation, all of which have the potential to pull the rug out of the housing market as something that exists to generate revenue, rather than its primary purpose of housing. If these folks are exclusionary NIMBY homeowners, particularly if you think it’s in the name of increased housing value, why would they support these measures?

        I think it’s important to recognize that we need an all-of-the-above approach if the goal is housing cost reduction. Greatly expand rent control. Eliminate real estate speculation. Increase housing stock. Add vacancy taxes. Ban real-estate flipping. Align the burdens to match income levels, to ensure a housing shortage hits every income level equally.

        • Kraus

          Rickbynight,

          I stand by my “apple” analogy.

          A primarily market-rate-driven approach — supplemented with a modicum of subsidized housing support based upon actual, specific need — can address the housing shortage (and attendant runaway housing costs) that we are currently experiencing.

          First, we need to recognize and admit to the fact that this is an entirely self-inflicted problem, due to nearly 40 years of what has been effectively anti-housing-creation policy.

          Fortunately, in our very own history we have an example of just such a successful approach to housing creation that we can use to guide us.

          From 1945 until the 70’s, SF was creating an average of 3,200 homes per year. And this was accomplished during a period of continuous population
          decline.(827K WWII wartime high — i.e., crowding due to the war effort — to all-time postwar low of 690K in 1979)

          This abundance of housing is the fundamental reason that beatniks, hippies, LGBTQ persons and other counter-culture types could come to the City and readily find housing at a naturally affordable price.

          Every since 1980, the population of San Francisco has been consistently increasing — it is currently 875K — but during these past 4 decades, due to the rise of NIMBYism and the corresponding massive increase in anti-housing regulations, we have averaged a paltry 1,950 homes per year.

          That is why housing has become so (unnecessarily) expensive — we have been grossly under-producing relative to demand for decades. It’s not the fault of “rich people”, “good-paying jobs”, “tech”, “Immigrants/migrants” or some other boogieman. It’s simply the result of poor housing policy — effectively “anti-housing” policy.

          Nevertheless, we built our way out of a previous housing shortage (i.e., the post-WWII shortage) and we can do it again. We have a lot of catching up to do with regard to housing production. The viability, vitality and diversity of our City depends upon it.

          In addition to controlling runaway housing costs, this would improve the quality of life all by yielding considerable economic/environmental benefits. In California this would save $50 Billion/year in excessive/unnecessary rent/mortgage payments and generate $90 Billion/year in good-paying union jobs in the construction sector.

          We need to repeat a similar housing-creation effort in SF and throughout the Bay Area (and coastal California) — in concert with considerable investment in an integrated regional public transportation network (this time not freeways, but rather mass transit, eg. rail, BRT, etc.) — if we want to realize environmentally sustainable housing for a diverse population that is also economically sustainable.

        • Don Sebastopol

          True, even without population or job growth, employers with higher paying jobs replacing employers with lower paying jobs would have the effect of increasing housing prices.

        • Benjamin

          Rickbynight,

          I’m not the person you asked this question to, but I think you made some points that justify additional response. I’m writing a lot in disagreement, but your original points were interesting.

          I think that a comparison with apples (or food in general) holds up reasonably well. Everyone needs to eat, but it is not super important if we eat Granny Smith or Red Delicious apples. Everyone needs housing, but there is quite a bit of variety in terms of what type of housing someone might choose if they have options. There are different sizes and locations of housing with different features. Housing doesn’t look like a very binary choice to me.

          I’m not sure about this concept of prices being driven by people’s ability to pay. I’m not an economist, but I think its true to say that prices are closely tied to the relative power of buyer and seller. In even a supply constrained city, potential tenants and home buyers have at least some power because the landlord or home seller needs to offer a unit to someone. The landlord/home seller just has very high relative power because there are so many “someones” to offer the unit to if the first few won’t pay the asking price. In a metro where supply matches up with demand better, the landlord/home seller has fewer options and less relative power, even if the target customers are pretty well to do.

          I don’t agree that a small dip in prices should be predicted to cause developers to stop building, unless there is some other distortion in the market. The economists who wrote this paper in 2005 asserted that in non-supply-constrained markets housing markets home sales are only slightly higher than construction costs. (PDF pp.335 http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1007&context=penniur_papers) If supply starts to catch up with demand and prices make a slight dip, that doesn’t cause building to become unprofitable, the profits a simply reduced. Would you say there are additional factors that would motivate developers not to build despite continuing potential for profits?

          Anti-speculation and anti-flipping laws don’t sound like something that would do any real harm, but I think speculation and flipping are symptoms rather than causes. On this point, I’m working off of intuition rather than data, but it would like an ill-advised decision to me for a speculator to hope to make a profit from a home he or she bought in growing, but price stable markets like Houston. A house-flipper could buy an old home in these markets, but would have to do renovations in order to turn a profit, and that’s a service to the next home-buyer. The value of those anti laws strikes me as the value of political compromise to achieve some other goal like increasing supply.

          Rent control sounds like a political compromise issue to me to. Most economists think rent control does more harm than good (http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/rent-control), but they’re not necessarily able tell us if the net effect is substantial or small. If some form of legislation expanded rent control and also did some other thing, maybe the the net effect would be positive. Economists don’t know everything, but in situations where they have data to work from, their conclusions have a higher chance of accuracy than your or my intuition.

    • Y.

      That’s the oldest conservative argument in the book. Liberals are “elitists”, and industrialists are there for the common working man. It works well in Appalachian coal country, too.

      • Kraus

        Your lazy “left/right”, “liberal/conservative”, “leftwing/rightwing” categories are failing you — they are no longer convenient tools for you; they inhibit you from thinking critically and creatively.

        • Y.

          They are quite convenient tools for me, thank you.

      • In case it wasn’t clear, I don’t actually think these guys are shills for wealthy property owners. But I do think they’re idiots for painting YIMBYs as “developer shills”, as if the status quo is fine and there is no housing crisis and therefore nothing to be done besides tinker with tenant protections.

        YIMBYs are currently working on a ballot prop to fast-track developments that are 100% affordable. I’m sure 48 Hills will crow about how this just confirms that those assholes are [affordable housing] developer shills.

        • Y.

          For the record, I don’t think most YIMBY folks are shills, either, only misguided. Only some of them are assholes, in my personal experience.
          I’m all for 100% affordable buildings, but I don’t trust YIMBY. It’s the details that count, and I would look carefully to something poisonous buried behind that agreeable-sounding front.

          • @[email protected]:disqus
            I agree. I think many YIMBYs are idealists. In my 20s I never imagined affording a home in London. I wondered how or if I would one day ever own a home.

            I would have loved an organization fighting to get me, a low paid 20 something a place of my own. Instead I lived in a shared house in a more affordable neighborhood – it was what I could afford. Guess I should have felt more entitled and formed a movement demanding more…

          • Y.

            The Bay Guardian and later 48 Hills have been fighting like mad for 50 years for renters’ rights, against evictions, against unsustainable office over-development, and for affordable housing. And, unlike YIMBY, without foaming and insulting people who disagree with them.

          • Kraus

            All the while fighting against housing creation, thereby simultaneously exacerbating the housing shortage/crisis, displacement, evictions and so forth — unable and/or unwilling to face up to their massive cognitive disconnect and the attendant failure of their “fight” because of their blind allegiance to a failed ideology.

          • Y.

            No.

          • Kraus

            Oh yes, those silly “idealistic” entitled millennials — complaining about runaway housing costs and historic poverty levels in the Golden State of Richard Hall.

        • Don Sebastopol

          Where are the 100% affordable developments? Who is paying for them?

          • There are many. Here’s one group: https://missionhousing.org/

            They constantly have to battle local cranks who file requests for costly, time-consuming reviews over concerns about street parking and “neighborhood character” (i.e., allowing icky poor people to pollute the neighborhood with their presence).

          • Kraus

            That’s why Sam Moss, the Executive Director of the non-profit Mission Housing, is on the Board of Directors of YIMBY Action.

            https://yimbyaction.org/about/#board

          • Yes, it’s public knowledge. So why does 48 Hills constantly lie about what YIMBYs stand for, like the following bullshit caption to an image accompanying this article?

            “Housing for all — or just market-rate housing for the rich?”

            Maybe they’re just bad faith hacks with a self-serving narrative to push.

          • SB35, advocated for by YIMBYs, allows developers the ability to build 80% market rate units and bypass local and environmental review. Who do you think developers will be building those 80% of market rate units for?

          • Kraus

            That’s not what SB35 does.
            Prior to commenting, please inform yourself; read the legislation.

          • Thanks, good point @disqus_GM03KBaWPu:disqus , now I re-read section 65913.4 I see that it’s even worse than I thought: 90% of the units can be market rate -YIMBYs are really helping market rate developers.

            https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB35

          • Kraus

            Unless you live in subsidized housing* or built it yourself, you’re living in housing built by an “evil” market rate developer.

            (* or, per “Foginacan” below, an “evil” non-profit developer.)

          • @[email protected]_GM03KBaWPu:disqus please stay on topic. The topic is that YIMBY supported legislation is helping market rate developers build more units – here in the Bay Area that typically means luxury units.

            Those luxury units are likely to draw even more highly paid tech workers, workers more likely to drive than take transit increasing emissions and congestion.

            Wasn’t there some imbalance and social inequity the YIMBYs were trying to address? Won’t building high amounts of luxury units only make matters worse?

          • It’s one thing to buy a single house built by a developer; it’s another thing to push legislation enabling developers to build tens of thousands of new luxury units, with developers – some market rate, some “non profit” (but still receiving $200k+ salaries) – donating to your organization and having one as your executive director.

          • Kraus

            Got it — the developer of your house — specifically — is OK.

          • SanPrecario

            What is your definition of luxury units? Seems to me that the delineation has little to do with the unit itself and a lot to do with the rent being paid for it.

          • Kraus

            Richard doesn’t get it.

            He doesn’t want to admit to the fundamental relationship between scarcity and cost.

            If one restricted the number of apples one is allowed to bring into the city, then any apple that you would be able to bring into town would fetch a “luxury” price.

            So it is with housing.

            We’ve been consistently and increasingly restricting the creation of housing over the past 40 years and now, due to this program of scarcity, its cost has gone through the roof. Surprise!

            Richard thinks that prices can miraculously be lowered if we somehow constrained the income of housing developers — both for-profit as well as non-profit developers. You see, they’re all greedy and bad — except, of course, the person that built his house in Marin.

            The fact that nothing else in our economy functions this way is beside the point to Richard.

          • You’re off topic building straw men around me, but it’s noted that you are carefully deflecting from the topic at hand. I’ll take the win. Thanks.

            YIMBYs are pushing legislation that is largely helping for profit developers, led by a developer (be it of a non-profit developer but who still stands to materially gain) and not objecting or correcting when they are called a “grassroots” organization.

          • Kraus

            And your “materially gaining” by speculative “rent seeking” — i.e., helping your home value to increase by double digit percentages by restricting the creation of new homes.

          • A lot of new housing built in Vancouver attracted investors and speculators. Creating more housing simply attracted an influx of speculative capital.

            How would you prevent the new housing you help create from not simply attracting property investors and not residents?

          • Near where I live we’ve seen a new development justified by the fast growth crowd because it would help make our area “affordable”. What finally went up was only 10% affordable units – prevailing legislation requires 20% minimum but the developer threatened to pull out and housing advocates still supported this – the units are described by the developer themselves on their website as “luxurious”.

            They rent for $2,875/month for a 1 bed unit to $5,875 for a 3 bed unit:
            https://www.tamridgemarin.com/residences/

          • SanPrecario

            Should we forbid luxury complexes then, even in CA’s wealthiest counties?

          • We should track what gets built as a result of YIMBY driven policy:

            – market rate units suited to highly paid residents and investment owners

            – affordable units

            What I’m seeing is a preponderance of the former with clumsily driven policy that is designed in haste. Misguided thinking around workforce housing and the theory we can build our way out of congestion.

            What we need are more of the latter, subject to building them in healthy, safe locations and not putting large apartment complexes in low rise neighborhoods.

            I’m for growth in suburbia – just dispersed infill, 20 units in one neighborhood, another 20 in another neighborhood. In cities where more are likely to use public transit the numbers can and should be higher. I’m also for second units and reducing red tape to allow more of these.

          • zutsa

            If all housing were market rate, and there wasn’t a distinction in people’s minds and in the legislature, like it is in most parts of the world, then all market rate would be “affordable” because when it’s not affordable to anyone it lowers on it’s own. It’s the market forces that people are so afraid to believe exist, but they do.

            1. “Affordability” is subjective. To many on the left “affordability” will not be achieved without full on socialized housing. So this goal will never be achieved in the eyes of some. From a market perspective, all Market Rate housing is affordable to some, and when it’s not, it lowers until it is.

            2. “Luxury” is also subjective. The apartment I moved into 11 years ago on Guerrero now houses a millionaire (or at least, it must). Is that now luxury? Pretty sure it was built decades ago. Also, what about a 100 year old Victorian that now has 3 rent controlled units. That was luxury at some point, right?

            3. Speculation is through the roof because of the scarcity. All an investor has to do is look at the charts and see a huge upward trend in prices with a pitiful slump in production. And legislature not doing much to stop it, in fact, the investors see it as a safe speculative investment because the legislature and voting body are advocating for more scarcity, creating and even more bullish outlook.

            So tracking the result in this manner is fruitless. In fact, even thinking about the housing crisis in this manner is fruitless. When the discourse is broken down into who believes what is considered affordable and luxury then no one wins. Buying a home is a huge investment for everyone from the working family to the billionaire. The more there is to go around the better, the market (read: people buying/shopping) will decide what is luxury and what is affordable.

          • So if as a result of SB35 and other housing policies 10,000 new units are built in SF with rents above $4,000 and these are taken by a mix of investors and a new influx of highly paid tech professionals this somehow solves the issue? I don’t think so.

            It is important that efforts are made that truly help those who need the help, and where it does not present an over burden to those providing the help.

            I see a willingness to embrace more housing, the question is how much? How much subsidized (or as it is referred to today affordable) housing?

            I don’t believe in a truly free market, so I do believe in regulations that correct the worst offenses of greed from both developers and speculative investors. I would like to see safeguards that the housing that gets built is occupied, not left empty. Someone had the idea of inflating property taxes not inhabited for more than a certain period a year and/or that were second homes.

            Also I do see a business cycle occurring drawing in many new tech workers – and I suspect we are near the top of it, so the appeals to address a “housing crisis” are loudest right now.

            The problem at hand is you may well allow and encourage more housing to be built, but this may not achieve the desired goal or even make a dent in it. Meanwhile it may make taxes, droughts and traffic congestion much worse.

          • zutsa

            If 10k units are built about $4k each and a mix of investors and tech professionals (or doctors, or professors, or small business owners… why does it matter what sector they work for?) move into those units instead of, say, an old woman’s rent controlled apartment due to those units simply being a available then yeah, that solves at least one huge part of the issue. There’s no vacancy today, no one can move. 10k vacant units coming to market will relieve pressure. Speculators will see it as risky when there’s 9,999 other units just like it hitting the market. Speculators will see it as even more risky with the regional trend changing. Speculators then go away and speculate elsewhere, or for different things. Speculators want people like you to think the way you do.

            If those 10k units don’t sell at $4k then they’ll lower. Then, if it’s down to $3k in a few years, or it stays at $4k and wages in the area continue to climb like they have, then $4k will be affordable for a lot more people. So instead of only the dreaded and morally reprehensible tech demon or pediatrician, it could be a nurse, or a teacher. Not building those 10k units literally does nothing.

            Further, who says anything about removing the safety net? Who says anything about those that truly need the help? Do these bills also take away subsidies for the sick and elderly? I’d argue they help those that truly need help by not putting their tenancy in danger by incentivizing the landlord to evict them.

            The market will answer the “how much” question if you let it. The developers will know when there’s been “enough” when their units sell for less than asking, as opposed to RIDICULOUSLY ABOVE asking like today. It’s easy to be afraid of overdevelopment when you already have yours. We’re SO far away from there being “enough” housing that asking that question now just comes off as stalling. Grasping for straws. Slippery slope. And other fun cliches.

          • No you’re missing the point. Developers aren’t building for the middle or lower end of the market. They focus on the lucrative higher end market – and if high rent apartments don’t move development will slow and they won’t build as fast. They need high rent apartments to make the numbers pencil out with land values being so high, risks high, and timelines long plus they have a profit motive.

            So what you end up is is a developer (market) driven over production of high end housing – that ends up bringing in yet more high end tech workers, but an under production of low end housing.

            Recently I visited Playa Del Ray – my friend, who commuted in over an hour from the valley, said that what was being built was $1.5m+ apartments with large floorplans and no yards. He was puzzled who this served.

            I suggest your assumptions about “trickle down” may be flawed.

            I read a good article that there has been a lack of building for the middle – developers focus on the top end of the market, affordable housing developers are trying hard, but struggling to service the bottom end of the market. Not many are serving the mid market of market rate but small size / mid level rent units.

          • The Missing Middle explained..

            Middle Missing Housing
            http://missingmiddlehousing.com/dev/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Missing-Middle-Housing-Responding-to-the-Demand-for-Walkable-Urban-Living-by-Daniel-Parolek.pdf

            I like this low rise duplex and fourplex concept. It fits the suburbs well and isn’t dramatic and over-imposing such as some of the 4-5 storey, dense apartment complexes we’re seeing springing up all too often. It fits with the dispersed infill that works well. It isn’t intrusive like transit oriented development and doesn’t shove large numbers of low income housing up against freeways or diesel trainlines which are unhealthy.

            There’s an over-emphasis on people wanting to live in cities, but a lack of acceptance that once people hit their 30s they want to move to the suburbs for a little more space, access to nature and it is perceived (and marketed by Hollywood and TV networks) as a more suitable place to bring up a family than in an urban core.

          • Don Sebastopol

            That is already happening in other urban areas as Millennial’s age, have children, and look for more affordable single family homes.

          • zutsa

            The problem I have with that logic is the “building for the high end” idea. All housing is for the high end right now, even those that are already built. Literally all of it is high end, existing or planned. How is a 500 sq ft studio a high end apartment? Because the building has a gym and a pool and a doorman? Tons of apartments have those amenities in other parts of the country that are not necessarily considered luxury or high end. How is my old apartment in a shitty building now a luxury apartment? Because the market is so skewed and so manipulated by NIMBY pressure and onerous regulation.

            Furthermore, SF will always be expensive, and living there will always require some kind of financial sacrifice, purely for it’s geographic location. That’s why it’s a regional problem. But, does SF need to be the most expensive (by a ton) throughout the entire country? Definitely not.

            Again, when everything is high end, when no one except the 1% can afford it, then supply is probably the biggest problem. When there is a famine, all bread is luxury bread, even shitty quality bread. Telling the other bakers to take a hike, AND telling the current bakers to lower their prices, seems pretty entitled to me.

          • Don Sebastopol

            The below market rate requirements also makes it more difficult to pencil out making market rate units more expensive.

          • Don Sebastopol

            True. affordability is relative, it depends on lifestyle choice. One can get more for their money outside of SF, with some exceptions. Many make sacrifices by choosing to live in SF, generally sacrificing space and environment. In is interesting the higher wage workers are more likely to commute and live farther from work than lower wage workers.

          • Foginacan

            ” (* or, per “Foginacan” below, an “evil” non-profit developer.)”

            You’re morally bankrupt. I feel sorry for you if you have to approach life like this.

          • Stephen Nestel

            The YIMBYS are not some grand army. Yes, they have great PR but every article mentions the same three or four people. When they go to meetings, they go as the same group with the same talking points. They are only a astroturf lobbying group for developers posing as millennial grassroots. It is very sad to see the complicity of media delivering their message. Homeowners vastly outnumber them but are not politically active. I fear they will not get active until they see bulldozers and wrecking balls on their street.

          • It’s helpful that YIMBYs are now open about accepting money from developers, and that they have the executive director of a housing developer as a director of their organization.

            As you mention, and as my “Let me Google that for you” link to articles referencing “YIMBYs” and “grassroots” shows, the press has been largely complicit in repeating the falsehood that YIMBY is a grassroots organization.

            Sadly I agree about the bulldozers statement. YIMBYs have been highly effective at lobbying and getting through substantive legislation under the radar. The media today report on events of the day, echoing press releases, or cleverly positioned Senate Bill package titles, but is lousy at providing coverage of in depth issues to homeowners sharing these major developments.

            Residents are busy at work and overly trusting of over-simplified newspaper headlines. We also see Orwellian language used like “vibrant, thriving, sustainable” to persuade people rather than dig into the facts and data.

          • zutsa

            You speak as if the idea that California needs more housing is a fringe conspiracy theory or something. Economists all around the country recognize this problem. Supply and demand applying to housing is not a new idea. Some cities throughout the country and world have been better at increasing supply, and thus they are less rent burdened than the Bay. One has to jump through a lot of logical hoops and ignore a ton of economic theory in order to reach the same conclusions you are.

            YIMBY as an organization may be shady, but their base message is sound.

          • Don Sebastopol

            Economists often disagree. However, there are non-economic issues to consider, such as lifestyle and quality of life. What cities do you hold up as good examples for San Francisco to follow? BTW San Francisco is not in the top 10 California rent burdened counties.

          • Foginacan

            Sam Moss is a piece of garbage acting out of self interest and proof Sonja Trauss is pay to play.

          • Kraus

            Got it; now 100% affordable housing developers are evil.

            Can’t win for losing with the NIMBY crowd:

            “Like Saturn, the Revolution devours its children” – Jacques Mallet du Pan 1793

          • Foginacan

            Just Sam Moss. Luckily they’re not all as arrogant and prejudicial as Sam Moss.

            He should be banned from handling public funds and violating the fairness in housing act. Leave it to you to side with him.

          • Do you not agree that 100% affordable housing developers may not make profits, but they can make handsome salaries? And when they can build more, with barriers stripped away from localities that may have been valid (see my points above), their salaries are likely to benefit?

            Have you looked at the salaries noted in the 501(c)(3) of non-profit housing developers? They may not make profits, but it’s a lucrative business.

          • Kraus

            So Richard, what are the specific acceptable salary levels for persons working in the “wildly lucrative” non-profit housing sector”

            What do you propose in this regard, other than to generally disparage these workers?

          • Nice straw man – I say “handsome salaries”, you say “wildly lucrative salaries” in quotes as if I said that. How is a “handsome salary” disparaging developers?

            I am pointing out that both for profit and not for profit developers make material benefits when legislation, lobbied for by an organization they finance and now lead (with a developer as their executive director) called the YIMBYs. This legislation has far greater scale beyond purchase of a single home.

            Despite being financed by developers, and having a developer as an executive director YIMBYs are widely referenced as a “grassroots” organization…

            Let me Google that for you, Google shows “About 24,100 results”
            http://lmgtfy.com/?q=YIMBYs+grassroots

            Do you see how that can be misrepresentative?

          • Y.

            I wonder what Moss thinks of the constant tarring by YIMBYs of Tim Redmond, who’s been relentlessly advocating for affordable housing for the last thirty years or more.

        • Isn’t the executive director of YIMBY the executive director of a non-profit housing developer? Isn’t YIMBY’s Sonja Krauss on the record acknowledging that they have accepted donations from housing developers?

          Note that non-profit does not mean that employees of said housing developers are not highly paid, many with salaries over $200k and benefit when bills are enacted that reduce barriers to development.

          • Doesn’t the author of this article own over $32 million worth of bay area real estate? Which probably appreciated about 50% over the past five years? So she’s making over $3 million per year doing nothing, while spreading false narratives in support of the very housing crisis that gouges renters, drives mass displacement, and personally enriches her?

            Yup.

            https://twitter.com/sfnimbywatch/status/937970984795103232

          • Y.

            I’d rather listen for a landlord working for poor renters (Bronstein) than to a renter working for billionaire landlords and developers (Trauss).

          • Bronstein is a serial evictor who preys on poor renters.

            Next up from Trauss and the YIMBYs: a ballot prop for June 2018 that will fast-track housing projects that are 100% affordable. Fake “progressives” can go on spinning their idiotic false narratives. It’s not going to matter. People know what’s happening.

          • Y.

            “Bronstein is a serial evictor who preys on poor renters”—source?

          • A series of recent tweets from @sfnimbywatch on Twitter break it down. Here’s one: https://twitter.com/sfnimbywatch/status/938101776166744064

          • Y.

            They are all unlawful detainer evictions. That typically means non-payment of rent. I’d like to know what she has to say, but I see one commercial eviction in 2009, and three residential ones, in 2012, 2013 and 2014. On the face of it it looks less than a “a serial evictor who preys on poor renters”, as satisfying as that may be to write.

          • So to recap where we’re at:

            Author: [Lies about YIMBYs being strictly about market rate housing for the rich.]
            Me: “They also do affordable housing. E.g., Mission Housing only does affordable housing and their executive directory is a huge YIMBY.”
            Y: “Mission Housing doesn’t count because their executive directory is paid an obscene sum.”
            Me: “Well, the author you’re backing is a multi-millionaire who makes 10X more than that from passive investments alone, because of the housing shortage that she’s promoting with her lies.”
            Y: “Yeah but she’s pro-renter, unlike Mission Housing which provides value to poor renters but it doesn’t count because of the obscene sum!”
            Me: “Um, your hero is a serial evictor who preys on poor renters.”
            Y: “Yes, she’s a serial evictor, but it’s wrong to say she ‘preys upon’ poor renters. She just legally evicts them if they fall behind on the rent. Anyone would do the same. It’s perfectly legal, just like Ellis Act evictions, which are also in no way preying upon poor renters. Also, were these renters paying market rates? Or something much lower? And did the rent go up by much for the new tenants? We don’t know so I’ll assume it’s all Kosher. But that Mission Housing guy, he’s a bad dude. Yeah, that affordable housing organization is just not to be trusted, or counted. That’s why the author wasn’t lying at all. You just don’t get Progressives.”
            Me: “…”

          • Y.

            [Lies about YIMBYs being strictly about market rate housing for the rich.]
            She hasn’t said anything of the sort, at least in this article.

            Y: “Mission Housing doesn’t count because their executive director is paid an obscene sum.
            I never said that, at all. I think Mission Housing has done good things. I think their director is making a mistake throwing his lot with YIMBY, that’s all.

            Y: “Yeah but she’s pro-renter, unlike Mission Housing which provides value to poor renters but it doesn’t count because of the obscene sum!”
            I said nothing abut Mission Housing. I compared Bronstein to YIMBYs.

            Y: “Yes, she’s a serial evictor etc. etc. etc.”
            I didn’t say that. Serial evictors who prey upon people are horrible people who have a pattern of kicking out people to get more rent. That’s not her pattern. She evicted three people over three years, out of dozens of tenants, and from what I’ve seen none in the years before and none in the four following years. Beyond that, I don’t know what the story is with the people she evicted, and neither do you. As I said, I would like to hear more details, from her or from some other source.

    • RuMADorRuREALLYmad

      I’m NOT progressive unless I want people who have no real investment in the area, to have a place to live which they will inevitable abandon when the proverbial wells dry up?
      lol, okay.

      • Watson Ladd

        And what’s wrong with cheap housing?

        • RuMADorRuREALLYmad

          Your mom might have led you to believe I, or others are here to entertain you, I’m not Watty

        • Kevin Moore

          Nothing really. I lived outside of Reno back in the early 80’s. Plenty of cheap desert to bulldoze and cheap labor to build new housing.

          Bay Area in 2017…
          Expensive land + Expensive labor +
          Expensive materials + *** MAGIC*** = Lower cost housing.

          I studied as a home appraiser. It would take thousands of new units to lower the cost of housing. And many areas are “built out”.

          The reality is Tech Job wages are jacking up the price of housing.

          • zutsa

            Expensive land + expensive labor + expensive materials – onerous regulations – arbitrary NIMBY obstructionism + improved public transit = more supply. More supply = lower cost housing. Yes, thousand of new units. No, not cheap, it will always be expensive, but it doesn’t need to be #1 by such a large margin.

            Wages being high is not a bad thing. If housing kept up to demand even a little bit then the pressure would help keep SF out of the #1 most expensive spot by such a huge number. And Oakland and SJ would be lower on the list too. That’s why it’s a regional/state problem. Advocating for taking the bread out of other people’s mouths in order to strike an equilibrium is far more invasive and economically devastating than just building enough housing in the region to at least try to meet demand.

          • Kevin Moore

            San Francisco keeps adding jobs, but not housing. It created a ripple effect.

            What is really needed is to disperse jobs around the Bay Area. Lower cost for the land, shorter commutes. The “everyone commutes to the headquarters” is 1950’s thinking. Email, video conferencing, etc make going to the head office unneeded for many.

            Banking moved from San Francisco to Walnut Creek as a bank CEO noticed his staff was all on the BART train. Move the office to where they lived. Shorter commute, lower costs.

            When creating “work centers”, it is like Poker. One of a kind is a weak hand. Multiple businesses of in the same area is better. Santa Rosa found out when HP left them high and dry.

            Imagine if an earthquake takes out just one bridge. Chaos! Every bridge and train is already at capacity going to SF.

            Rather than stuff 10 lbs in a 5 lb bag, we need more bags!

          • zutsa

            Tons of jobs exist outside of SF. Silicon Valley isn’t SF. That’s why this is a regional/state problem in addition to an SF problem, and why the state is stepping in.

          • Kevin Moore

            Silicon Valley has a housing issue similar or greater than SF.

            The state is stepping in like a bureaucratic elephant. Cities that are built out are getting ridiculous RHNA quotas.

            Mission Accomplished Development – add housing next to public transit, Mission Accomplished! Then the area gets to spend a decade sorting out and paying for the infrastructures overload

          • Don Sebastopol

            Only around 20% of Bay Area jobs are in San Francisco. They have already dispersed. Most working-class and middle-class jobs left the City long ago. I know have Sonoma County tried to attract high tech jobs, but the talent pool was not there. Young talented people do not come to Santa Rosa.

          • Kevin Moore

            I see 101 southbound on Sonoma is full, BART is full, 80 in the east bay is full.

            The question is how to reduce commuters. Certainly not by using ancient phone surveys.

            The biggest complaint I see is a lack of detached single family homes. A reason to live up in Sonoma county and commute.

          • Watson Ladd

            In the early part of this century we were able to add units at a rate we’re not today. We could build thousands of new units by zoning more densely. Why does Glenn Park BART station get only SFH zoning next to it?

  • SanPrecario

    Every locality is responsible for building its fair share of housing to address regional and state housing needs. In the 70s and 80s lawmakers recognized that this was key to preventing a state-wide housing crisis. This is why you got the HAA and other laws related to housing production. Unfortunately they were toothless and have been almost completely ignored by virtually every locality in the state. Almost no communities produced the quantity of housing they were obligated too and there were no punishments for failure. Unsurprisingly then, the fears of the 70s and 80s came true and we are now living through the worst housing crisis in California history.

    Finally the state has decided to add some teeth to their housing policy and will actually hold localities to their obligations. If this goes the way it should then maybe in 20 years we won’t be sitting here have the exact same conversation we are having right now about how to solve the housing crisis. The last 40 years local politicians and advocacy groups have been allowed free reign to solve these issues and they have utterly failed. If the state wants to institute perfectly reasonable standards and monitoring then more power to them it can’t possibly be worse than the mess unconstrained local control has produced.

    • Incorrect, developers are responsible and choose when to build new housing.

      Localities and communities are responsible for planning where new growth can and should occur.

      Localities and communities cannot be obligated to build housing as you imply.

      Are you proposing / implying we nationalize housing developers? (E.g. The state buys and takes control of KB Homes).

      • SanPrecario

        However localities want to produce housing they can and should. I was using built to mean housing produced within localities not to literally suggest that all housing should be built by state entities.

        • Don Sebastopol

          I think SF has a fund to build housing. Other than that, localities can’t force builders to build. But localities and prevent building.

    • Don Sebastopol

      It may not be necessary to solve a crisis that is maybe not a crisis. I think there may have been a worse SF housing crisis in the 1850’s.

  • eean

    It’s true that NIMBY rhetoric and power does not have much footing in Sacramento. Even NIMBYs agree on the need to build more housing as a general policy and Sacramento only works in general policy.

    We also saw that with the passage of SB-649 through the legislator. It did for cell phone towers what YIMBYs only dream of. Jerry Brown vetoed it in the end but it was still impressive to me.

    On the flip side Sacramento refused to require later opening times for high schools despite everyone agreeing with the science of adolescent sleep needs. “Local control” won that fight.

  • Yonathan Randolph

    Interesting article on important topics. Of course, as a renter, I have opposite opinions on the necessity of increasing the housing stock, and I disagree with all of Zelda’s unsubstantiated descriptive words. For example, saying that SB 35’s provisions “circumvent” CEQA is a stretch, when it is CEQA itself that exempts ministerial projects, and area plans still get environmental review. And Zelda again repeats her unsupported claim that any changes to process that she dislikes are un-“democratic.” And I also question her claim that the Anti-NIMBY Act is being “exploited” when the YIMBYs use it. And her desperate warning of an “ongoing assault on local authority over land use” is belied by what Sen. Scott Weiner wrote when he introduced SB 35: “Local control should mean that communities get to decide *how* they comply with their housing goals, not *whether* they comply with their housing goals” and by the fact that SB 35 and HAA only enforce the local government’s own general plan.

    It seems that the core questions are unanswered by the article. With regards to AB 1515, who is in a better position to evaluate whether a housing project is consistent with the general plan: the city council or a court? With regards to SB 167, how much evidence of an adverse public health or safety impact should a city council collect before denying housing? Considering that the perverse incentives that can lead California towns to under-approve housing are wellknown, AB 1515 and SB 167 are probably steps in the right direction. I think Zelda’s article would have been stronger if she had focused more on these questions and interviewed the parties on the ground, such as CaRLA.

    • Y.

      The anti-democratic point Zelda is making, I believe, is that in this case local decision making is replaced by far away decision making. That is comparable to the state limiting rent control and anti-eviction laws. It’s a big question what larger political entities must or must not cede to local control, but she’s not just saying this because “she doesn’t like it”.

      For your links, “well-known” should be “oft-claimed”.

      • Yonathan Randolph

        The HAA is judicial review of a local government’s planning, health, and safety determinations for housing projects. Surely the contention is not that judicial review is “undemocratic” because the county courthouse is just too far away?

        If you have any source that disputes the claims that local governments often have the incentive to under-approve housing, please let me know.

        • Y.

          The “undemocratic” part I am thinking of is the blocking of local laws by state laws, similar to state laws blocked by federal laws.

          “If you have any source that disputes the claims that local governments often have the incentive to under-approve housing, please let me know.” There’s a lot packed into this sentence, and it’s throwing me off. Where did you claim that “local governments often have the incentive to under-approve housing”? What evidence did you give? Where did I claim otherwise?

          • Yonathan Randolph

            Last time she commented (linked above), Zelda seemed to have no problem with the concept that state laws addressing statewide problems preempt local laws. So I was hoping that there was more to her un-“democratic” rhetoric this time than simply preemption which is inherent in our tiered system of government.

            In my original comment, I said that towns are incentivized to under-approve housing. I cited the LAO streamlining article (see headers “Coastal Communities Resist New Housing” which says that the mismatch between a local voter base and the regional economy incentivizes local politicians to approve too little housing near jobs, and “Fiscal Incentives Exacerbate Local Dynamics” which describes the Proposition 13 property tax shares that are less valuable than sales taxes). I cited the Kim-Mai Cutler article that describes the politics of rent control which protects tenants dulls the connection between housing supply and displacement, and describes activist tactics. When you replied that “‘well-known’ should be ‘oft-claimed’,” I interpreted this to mean that you think these mechanisms are disputed. Did you mean something different?

          • Y.

            Undemocratic, etc.: OK, I just was clarifying that she’s not just applying “undemocratic” to “laws she doesn’t like”, period. The general principles of what should and shouldn’t be left to local control are beyond what I want to get into right now.

            “‘well-known’ should be ‘oft-claimed’”: What I meant was that these arguments, while being requoted and rehashed in many places (including Cutler’s article), ultimately originate in a few papers, which make a poor case for the argument that high housing prices are caused by regulations restricting supply, and explicitly exclude the issue of demand in their models.

            The LAO article: The article quotes no sources whatsoever and sometimes reads like an opinion piece, and I take everything it with a grain of salt. On incentivization, it says that cities are concerned that all told new buildings, particularly housing, will cost them more than they would bring in. That may be true, but the article presents no numbers. Moreover, even if so, it doesn’t mean cities are actually using that balance in figuring out whether to build or not. Certainly San Francisco does not.

            The section “Coastal Communities Resist New Housing” is a patronizing caricature, basically saying that people protest development because they don’t realize it’s good for them. Good as an opinion piece for those who believe this already, but not presenting any evidence.

          • Yonathan Randolph

            I just was clarifying that she’s not just applying “undemocratic” to “laws she doesn’t like”, period

            Maybe, but I think Zelda uses that expression so often that she may be getting sloppy here.

            these arguments… make a poor case… that high housing prices are caused by regulations restricting supply, and explicitly exclude the issue of demand in their models.

            You’re right, those are possible mechanisms, not a tested theory. We can observe that we have among the highest housing rents in the country; our MSA was #10 in population growth but less than MSAs like Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, and Miami; and our housing permit rate was far lower than other MSAs. The above explanations are four possible reasons for why local governments may not be zoning and approving as much housing supply as they should. You can decide for yourself whether you think they are plausible explanations.

            The LAO article… doesn’t mean cities are actually using that balance

            For what it’s worth, Zelda Bronstein also cited the same tax incentives as “major constraints on the supply of affordable housing.”

            The section “Coastal Communities Resist New Housing” is a patronizing caricature, basically saying that people protest development because they don’t realize it’s good for them.

            No, it’s saying that there is a political problem when the residents who have a say on land use are not representative of all the members of the regional community. If you can exclude the working class from your voter base, then what’s good for you is not the same as what’s good for everybody. In other words, “it is a problem of disenfranchisement.”

          • Y.

            To be clear, by demand I don’t mean only the absolute number of people, but the entire economic structure of the consumers’ market. After all San Francisco had the same population it does now after WW2, with less housing, and prices weren’t as high. Prices are high now not because there are a lot of people here, but because there a lot of rich people here. The effect isn’t subtle, if you’ve been around during the dot-com boom, when high earners would throng open houses and furiously upbid the offered rental price.

            (Coastal communities etc.: The line “Benefits of new housing often unclear to existing residents” is what caught my eye. The rest of it reads patronizing as well. The whole thing is built around phrases like “often feel…”, “may…”, “can…”, “in many cases…” etc., in place of any evidence or even anecdotes.)

            (“For what it’s worth, Bronstein also cited the same tax incentives as ‘major constraints on the supply of affordable housing.'”
            She did, and I think she shouldn’t have, without proof. In general I agree with her essay.)

          • Yonathan Randolph

            To be clear, by demand I don’t mean only the absolute number of people

            Agreed. My point is that we should have had a boom in housing unit construction at least commensurate to the growth in population, but we did not. To a first approximation, if you don’t build enough housing for the high-income demand to live here, then the high-income shoppers are the price-setters. If you build enough to satisfy high-income and middle-income demand, then the middle-income shoppers are the price-setters. This means that to make market-rate housing in San Francisco affordable to the middle class again would require far more market-rate construction than just the projected above-moderate-income population growth, so I think Tim Redmond is misguided when he says we have too much market-rate permits based on RHNA housing balance reports.

          • Y.

            To a first approximation, if you don’t build enough housing for the high-income demand to live here, then the high-income shoppers are the price-setters. If you build enough to satisfy high-income and middle-income demand, then the middle-income shoppers are the price-setters.

            Theoretically, yes. Practically, morally and economically, the solution you propose is somewhere between hard to impossible. To recap:
            * Morally: it means that the building for the rich will continue, until they are all satisfied, and only then we’ll take care of the middle and lower income earners.
            * Practically: how long would that take, even if city hall was letting developers build whatever they want? 10 years? 20 years? 50 years? In the meantime, tens of thousands more high tech jobs are scheduled to come in, through the permitting of more large office projects (Salesforce, Google SJ campus), and even more are solicited (a Bay Area consortium of cities has offered to house the second Amazon HQ. I doubt they’ll build it here, but other projects will meet the enthusiasm). Since no solid projection exists, I don’t expect market-rate housing in SF to be affordable to the middle class in any foreseeable future, at least not without severe regulation of demand or better income equality.
            * Economically: Since developers decide when to build, you’d expect they’ll stop once demand from the rich has been satisfied, and wait for more rich people to move in rather than continue building at lower prices. Developers and their investors are multi-billion dollar companies. They can’t be casually manipulated into making less money.

            (Redmond’s comment probably refers to Housing Balance Report, which shows that the city is far below its dedicated low-income housing target, itself already a compromise, and this while market-rate construction has for a while exceeded the city’s targets.)

  • Hobo Catsuit

    This is wrong, the American Planning Association (APA) is not normally pro-building. They regularly oppose pro-housing legislation. It’s not at all remarkable that they opposed AB1515.

    Zelda, soon we’ll have a form for individual home owners to fill out so they can put a deed restriction on their houses to permanently ensure the house won’t be sold at market rate to a rich person. We’ll send it over for you to fill out as soon as it’s written up.

  • Earl D.

    Wow! Have to give credit where credit is due, this is by far the best article I’ve ever read by Zelda “wall of text” Bronstein. Kudos to her and whoever edited the article, highly informative article with good analysis.

    AB 1515 and SB 167 did get through without major grassroots opposition or two-steps-forward-one-step-back deal-making that usually happens trying to get this kind of legislation through. How can YIMBYs get more of that done?!!

  • Hobo Catsuit

    Omg this is filled with wrong information. The Lafayette lawsuit was over 315 apartments. There were dozens of news articles about this. How did you get this wrong?
    The Sausalito lawsuit is about one single family house, it involves zero demolition. The duplex on the property is going to stay there, the plan is to add one more house to the property.

    Yes, many of our lawsuits in rich, low density neighborhoods are going to be about small projects, because that’s what infill is – small projects in existing neighborhoods- and low density neighborhoods are zoned low density. This is what it looks like to bring the fight against gentrification to the place it starts – the back yards of rich people. We know you’re mad that your neighborhood will be next. How much nicer it was for you when you thought you could push all new development to West Oakland or Brentwood. Sorry not sorry.

    • Can you post links? It’s good if you have corrections, better if you can cite them. Put the links in cite tags.

  • ScumbreonJones

    It’s irresponsible to publish this without disclosing that Zelda Bronstein owns multiple rental properties in South San Francisco. Her own home in the Berkeley hills is worth millions of dollars but is taxed at a fraction of that value.

    • Don Sebastopol

      So what? Whatever arguments she makes should stand alone based on the merits.

  • djw

    This comment thread is fascinating. The anti-housing movement has to pretend to be in favor of affordable housing to remain remotely politically attractive to anyone but the landed gentry it serves. Generally they do a pretty good job of keeping up the “affordable housing good” facade as a general matter, fighting the actual building of affordable units with specific, local objections only. But for several in this thread, the mask is really starting to slip. They can barely stand to continue to pretend they think affordable housing should be built.

    • Kraus

      Exactly, “the emperor has no clothes” — this is especially true of sub-urban Marinites Richard Hall and Stephen Nestel; they’re notorious NIMBYs.

    • Don Sebastopol

      Many are not in favor of BMR housing because it makes market rate housing less affordable and mainly impacts the middle-class on the margins.

  • Dirty Burrito

    Fake fact: “The California growth machine.” Right now we’re doing 100K units a year, way down from the peaks of ~300K units we saw in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. On a per-capita basis housing production looks down right pathetic, see here:

    https://s8.postimg.org/au88tpub9/housing_Starts_per_capita.png

    If you want to see an actual growth machine, look at Japan. Japan is smaller than California, but manages 1 million housing starts per year (that’s ~10x more than California)

    • Kevin Moore

      There was a lot more land available in those years. Building in “built out” areas is more difficult. Building on “open space” (bare dirt) is lest costly than tearing down a structure to put up a new one.

      Japan has a declining population and is contracting into major cities.
      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/02/26/its-official-japans-population-is-drastically-shrinking/?utm_term=.56093a5e3d10

      • Dirty Burrito

        Much of the construction in Japan is infill. E.g. there are 40% more infill housing starts in central Tokyo than all of California. That’s an area roughly the size of Alameda county.

        Additionally, housing there is less expensive, despite similar or higher land costs, see here:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGbC5j4pG9w

        • Don Sebastopol

          With a declining population like Japan I would guess Bay Area housing would also get less expensive. Japan has little immigration. It could be with the current anti-immigrant polices in the USA, we could also see less expensive housing.

          • Dirty Burrito

            In Tokyo the population is rising just like the Bay Area. Only the overall population of Japan is shrinking, not Tokyo.

            Again, the point is: housing in Tokyo is cheap despite the high cost of land.

          • Don Sebastopol

            The growth rate was less than 1% from 2015 to 2017. They project a decline after 2020. In any case, SF and Tokyo are not comparable. I live in SF not Tokyo. And I don’t want to move to Japan. I can find cheap housing in other parts of the USA, so what? If SF is too expensive there are other places one can live. What’s the point?

            What about some comparisons of SF with cities in the Bay Area or California, or the USA?

          • Dirty Burrito

            “The growth rate was less than 1% from 2015 to 2017”

            Right, similar to the Bay Area, see here:

            http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Bay-Area-population-growth-slows-some-counties-11021334.php

            “I can find cheap housing in other parts of the USA, so what? If SF is too expensive there are other places one can live. What’s the point?”

            SF has Jobs

            “SF and Tokyo are not comparable. ”

            Sorry, I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to compare SF to Tokyo

            “And I don’t want to move to Japan”

            No one is asking you to live in Japan. If the Bay Area ever gets as dense as Tokyo you will not be alive to see it. We should be making land use planning decisions based on the needs of future generations, not the whims of senior citizens like yourself.

    • That chart you link to is by far the best manipulation of statistics I’ve seen in a long time, can I be the first to congratulate you, well done!

      I thought something was odd and the peaks had been suppressed as I have seen the real graph of new SF housing units before. I happened to read the small vertical print and realized that it is “new units per million residents”.

      So while housing peaks actually continued at the same height (in fact higher – I found the real data below) because new units were divided by steady population growth the peaks were suppressed to convey a misleading point.

      What were the words you used @dirtyburrito – “fake facts”.

      Here’s the real data – it tells the opposite story. The data available for the most recent year, 2016, shows SF housing growth is at an all time high!

      https://my.paragon-re.com/Docs/General/SixtyFortyImages/SF-New-Housing-Units-Completed_since-1995.jpg

      • Dirty Burrito

        A. The chart in the link is for all of California, not San Francisco. The data is total CIRB housing units/population and is accurate to the best of my knowledge. Unadjusted CIRB data is here: https://goo.gl/v3gcUY

        B. The data you show only goes back to 1995. Last I checked 1995-2016 does not constitute “all time.”

        • Thanks – good clarification.

        • Dirty Burrito

          Also, if you look at the CIRB data from 1995-2016, multi-family starts appear to be at a near high. Go back further and you realize multifamily production is less than 1/3rd of the peaks in 1963, 1972, 1986, etc. See red line:

          https://goo.gl/v3gcUY

    • Don Sebastopol

      Japan’s population is shrinking. Tokyo’s population density (4,660 per square mile) is lower than San Francisco (6,650 per square mile). Most Japanese live in single-family homes. I found pockets of single family homes in Tokyo’s center, some one-level homes in upscale areas. As you leave the center you see mainly single family homes from the train.

      Of course Japan has few immigrants. Without immigrants SF’s population would also start to decline. However, because of the decline, Japan is starting to bring in immigrants, I think mainly from Taiwan and China and you do find some immigrant enclaves that have been in Japan for a long time. If they bring in immigrants slowly and they have an opportunity to assimilate if should not create cultural problems.

      • Dirty Burrito

        1. Yes, Japan’s population is shrinking, but they are still building 10x more housing than California. The fact that a shrinking country with slightly less land is able to produce 10 times the housing we do tells me something is seriously wrong with our housing supply.

        2. The population density you cite is for Greater Tokyo, which is 100 times the size of San Francisco (or almost as large as the entire bay area). It’s more appropriate to compare San Francisco to the 23 special wards of Tokyo which are 6 times as dense (despite being 5 times larger).

        3. No, San Francisco’s population would not “decline without immigrants.” San Francisco does not accommodate all the natives that want to move here, let alone the immigrants.

        I could go on, but I won’t bother.

        • Comparing the US to Japan is apples and oranges. There are major differences in terms of acceptable travel norms, and a strong preference for new housing by buyers… The US is unlikely to shift to these Japanese cultural norms any time in this century.

          For instance, in Japan it’s expected that 6 year olds will independently go to school by train – can you imagine that happening anytime soon in the United States?

          In Japan, first graders travel solo to school on the train
          https://www.cbsnews.com/news/japanese-young-children-solo-commute-subway-school/

          In a culture obsessed with newness, no one wants a “used” home—which makes the Japanese real estate market almost unrecognizable to an American
          https://psmag.com/economics/inside-japans-disposable-home-market-88133

          “IN THE UNITED STATES, people buy homes as an investment. The year of construction does not matter as much as the quality and condition of the home, its location, and other factors that influence resale value. Over time, the house accrues value as homeowners redo a bathroom here, add hardwood floors there. Young homeowners then sell their houses for profit, which allows them to buy nicer, larger ones in more desirable neighborhoods. Some do this multiple times before retiring in a dream home.

          Not so in Japan: “People bought houses when they were relatively young, in their 30s, and they had to work their whole lives to pay them off,” Brasor says.

          Since few Japanese homeowners plan to sell the home and flip it for profit, there’s little incentive to maintain the house. “

          This really speaks to invalidate @disco_burrito:disqus’s point about “a shrinking country with slightly less land is able to produce 10 times the housing we do tells me something is seriously wrong with our housing supply.

          No – it demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of the difference in cultures around housing in the US and Japan. Cultures that are not going to change anytime soon.

          • Dirty Burrito

            If you asked a bunch of Americans whether they prefer a new or old houses, what do you think they would say? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess Americans prefer new houses.

            Western media outlets look at Japan and sees disposable housing culture, but they’re not looking carefully at the land use policy. In Japan high land taxes incentivize more intensive land use: subdividing lots, or building apartments where there were previously single family homes. So an old house is undesirable in growing areas because it will have an outsized tax bill.

            Let’s say I inherit a house from my parents:

            -In Japan I will pay a 75% inheritance tax on the property but I can subdivide my lot into 4 lots, and sell 3 to cover the tax bill. In some cases it might work out something like this: The tax bill is $600k, I keep a lot worth $200k and I put a $100k prefab house on it. Not only do I save $500k, but I have also cut my annual land tax by 75%.

            -In California I get and old house and I get to keep my parent’s tax base due to prop 13. If I replace the house I not only have to spend a lot of money, but I also have to pay more property taxes. So there is no way to make more intensive use of the land, and there is a tax disincentive for building a new house. I also don’t have access to economical prefabricated houses.

            These are not cultural differences, they are land use policy differences.

            Btw, this only applies to Japan today, after the sweeping urban renaissance land use reform law enacted in 2002. Before that they had local control and a famously large bubble.

          • Your first paragraph is a false dichotomy. There are so many factors that determine choice of home – age is one. In Japan it dominates the decision. In the US much less so.

            Your argument falls apart as you describe land use laws that align with a vastly different culture.

            I can see a handful of YIMBYs supporting the onerous land use taxes you describe – but any politician pushing such policies would quickly see their demise at the hands of voters.

            Ultimately what’s acceptable to popular vote, driven by cultural values – values you may disapprove of that we have here in the US – drives policy.

          • Dirty Burrito

            Richard, you’re looking at the Japanese housing market like a Cuban looks at the US car market.

            In Cuba, where the average person makes $20/day and a Kia picanto costs $68,000, it always makes sense to repair a car no matter how old. When you come from an environment like that it’s difficult to understand why cars in the US are junked after 15 years. It would be easy to think we have a disposable car culture, or we’re snobs and we don’t like old cars, or we’re rich, but the reality is that running costs for old cars in the US often approaches or exceeds that of newer vehicles because of the high cost of labor.

            Yes, Japanese people have a preference for newer, earthquake-safe housing, but you have to understand it’s easier to exercise that preference when you have access to cheap prefab housing and a ministerial permit process.

            Anyway, yes, you’re right that what’s acceptable is driven by popular vote. I think that sentiment is changing, and will continue to change as the number of disenfranchised residents grows.

          • @disco_burrito:disqus I agree with the point you are making here, but the efforts YIMBYs are making are not going to result in inexpensive disposable cars as you would presume, instead you’ll simply encourage more Cadillacs.

            To solve for the problem described by YIMBYs what’s needed are modest, smaller units – built with a shorter lifespan, so more like the prefabs you describe. Not large units with private fitness clubs and swimming pools.

            However with legislation like SB35, with a mere 20% affordable minimum, in an area with high land values and expensive labor costs, with developers serving the profit motive, are going to result in luxury apartments for the highly paid. This probably won’t help reduce the avocado toast quotient, however the yuppies fitness club quotient will almost certainly rise.

            Another issue is that taxes have been soaked up and have absorbed a great deal of inefficiency – such as extravagant benefits, needless bullet trains, well marketed “traffic congestion relief” schemes that have done anything but that, and other forms of pork, notwithstanding the pending unfunded benefits bail out.

            So we will see if the popular sentiment has the appetite to absorb what is really needed to achieve YIMBY’s goals- much more sizable funding to pay for truly affordable units.

            For profit developers are no charities, they will minimize such units, but add market rate units, further compounding traffic congestion.

          • Watson Ladd

            The units that would be affordable today are the ones that weren’t built 40 years ago. SB35 doesn’t apply to projects that replace existing units.

        • Don Sebastopol

          SF and Japan may not be comparable for several reasons. The problems of a shrinking population are far different than the problems of a growing population. I do recall a lot of building; a lot of cranes on the skyline.

          However, in terms of density there are similarities. It is a matter of scale. The most densely populated ward (49,000 per square mile) is like the densely populated SF neighborhoods such as downtown (60,000 per square mile). The low population density wards are like our southwest neighborhoods. I have explored Tokyo on foot and found pockets of single family homes even in the central part of Tokyo where there is higher density. As you go out from the center you see mainly single-family homes from the train.

          Japan may have more building, but they do seem to respect lifestyle choices and quality of life issues. Most Japanese, 60%, live in single family homes. If the City leaves my owner-occupied single-family neighborhood alone I have no objection to development and more density where it is appropriate.

          35% of SF residents are foreign born, 55% in Daly City. If you factor in their American born offspring their impact on the population is large. The SF population would be half of what it is now without immigration. Like most developed nations, the USA would start to lose population without immigration, and so would the Bay Area.

  • Benjamin

    Regarding the particular bills that the author talked about in the article, even if the Ms. Bronstein is describing their potential effects correctly (and for the sake of arguement, I’ll take her word for it), how well do these bills really serve the YIMBYs’ cause. Isn’t she saying that these bills would permit more increase in housing units by making it easier for YIMBY interests to win court battles? Even if an organization like SFBARF were to win all the court cases it ever entered into, this sounds like a highly inefficient way to increase housing supply.

    One complaint about housing that supply-minded individuals sometimes make is that while developers of large projects can afford to go through the time and cost of seeking out some variances to get their projects approved, developers of duplexes or small apartment buildings generally can’t. If a municipality is already pretty open to increases in density that happen bit-by-bit over decades, then they probably will let projects go through without the courts getting involved. The cost of development and eventual the eventual sale or rental price won’t be increased by some court battle. If a developer can’t get approval for an accessory dwelling unit, I find it hard to believe that said developer would be willing to wait through a court case even if a political organization sued the local government on the developer’s behalf.

    There’s nothing wrong with skyscrapers in-and-of themselves. Sometimes they can be worth the money, but construction costs for such structures are high on a per square foot basis. If bringing down market rates is even a part of the solution to housing costs, doesn’t legalizing incremental additions to the housing supply matter more?

  • Another very good article assessing the impact (damage) of the highly mis-guided Senate Bill 35 is provided here by former affordable housing developer and head of Marin Community Venture Partners, Bob Silvestri:

    https://marinpost.org/blog/2017/12/4/state-housing-laws-questioning-the-constitutionality-of-recent-legislation

    Silvestri states the following which is not only concerning, but raises major questions about the effect of Senate Bill 35:

    This legislation has for the first time, created a legal and punishable nexus between housing “planning and zoning” and actual housing construction: between Housing Element “goals” and completed development. Under this new legislation, if sufficient housing is not built in a city or county to meet its state housing quota (its Regional Housing Needs Assessment – RHNA), during a given state-mandated housing cycle, any developer, housing advocate or individual can conclude that a city is out of compliance and can file suit. And, if such actions prevail, the courts are now able to assess financial and legal penalties, even though it is broadly acknowledged that cities and counties in Marin do not build housing: private developers do!

    In other words YIMBYs can have a field day suing cities and counties across the state for not building housing, when it is the role of developers, not cities and counties, to build housing.

    If Silvestri is correct then this seems like an exceedingly poor piece of legislation and YIMBYs could have a very negative and unfair impact on our state.