Sunday, June 5, 2022

YIMBY's retake the moral high ground

NIMBY stands for “Not in my backyard,” an acronym that proliferated in the early 1980s to describe neighbors who fight nearby development, especially anything involving apartments. ... NIMBYs who used to be viewed as, at best, defenders of their community, and at worst just practical, are now painted as housing hoarders whose efforts have increased racial segregation, deepened wealth inequality and are robbing the next generation of the American dream.

CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act] was meant to serve noble purposes, but it can be manipulated to be a formidable tool of obstruction, particularly against proposed projects that will increase housing density. A CEQA lawsuit “provide[s] a uniquely powerful legal tool to block, delay, or leverage economic and other agendas,” and “is now the tool of choice for resisting change that would accommodate more people in existing communities.” 
...However, when private opposition is joined with official hostility, CEQA becomes an even more fearsome weapon. When the project proponent faces sustained private opposition, plus the combined animus of two levels of local government, the temptation to throw in the towel must be overwhelming. Something is very wrong with this picture. 

 California’s chronic housing shortage shows no signs of abating with construction scarcely half of the 180,000 new units the state says are needed each year to close the demand/supply deficit. 

There is no single reason, but rather a toxic mélange of high costs, regulatory overkill and stubborn resistance from local government officials catering to the not-in-my-backyard sentiments of their constituents. [However, ...] pro-housing pressures may be having some effect:

  • SACRAMENTO: Anyone who doubts the negative impact of high costs on housing should take a look at the budget for a 124-unit affordable housing project on the state-owned site of a former National Guard armory. ... The state is donating the land to the non-profit developer, Bridge Housing Corp., without cost and the City of Sacramento is waiving $468,624 in impact fees. But the budget for the project is still $82.4 million, which works out to about $665,000 per unit — enough to buy a very nice house for every projected low-income tenant.
  • CONCORD: What would be the San Francisco Bay Area’s largest ever housing development, 13,000 units on the site of the former Concord Naval Weapons Station, is stalling out.
  • HUNTINGTON BEACH: Orange County ... finally approved a 48-unit condominium project... Years of court battles with pro-housing groups and pressure from new state laws finally forced the city to throw in its beach towel last month.
  • TIBURON: ... the state Court of Appeal last month slapped down Tiburon’s nearly half-century-long efforts to block construction of a few new homes on a hill overlooking the tiny city.  [see decision above] 

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