Unless, of course, it isn't really low income housing that is being discussed.
Now when our highly compensated consultant on these matters, Karen Warner, was initially discussing our RHNA numbers the other evening, she insisted that it was the full 138 units that still had to be accounted for. Even to the point of rather briskly contradicting the Mayor of Sierra Madre on this matter. Which, since he has something rather important to do with the authorizing of payments to people such as her, struck this observer as being rather forward and disrespectful. And honestly, if it was up to me I'd have fired her on the spot.
But for the sake of argument, let's play along. Now when Sierra Madre's RHNA number actually was 138 "units" of new housing (to be jammed into this already built-out town for the purpose of satisfying the Sacramento Building Trades lobbyists and the politicians they own like so many poodles), it wasn't really all about low income housing. Here is how things broke down originally:
Above Moderate Income (above $71,800 per year) - 56 units
Moderate Income ($71,800 per year household income) - 24 units
Low Income ($60,650 per year household income) - 22 units
Very Low income ($37,900 per year household income) - 36 units
As you can see, Moderate and Above Moderate income housing is a full 80 units strong, whereas the Low and Very Low income housing would be a mere 58 units! Now the rationale for this delicate little arrangement was that in order to make it worth the developer's while, we'd have to allow for the building of properties they can make some money on. And then, out of the kindness of their big warm hearts, they'd build some Low Income housing. All because they really do care about poor people, I suppose.
So now, through the approval process for One Carter and Stonehouse, the higher priced RHNA units have all been accounted for. And then some. And all that is left is the Low Income stuff. And through various creative exercises our Low Income RHNA number is now down to a mere 26 units. Or at least that is what the City Hall folks are saying. So here's the logic gap. With only 26 Low Income Housing Units left to be accounted for, why all the excitement? After all, wasn't that supposedly the level the developers couldn't make any money at?
My take is this. Once we zone for the construction of the 26 Low Income Housing units, who is to say that what eventually gets built will actually be Low Income Housing? Once we sign off on the permits, and whoever used to happen to live there has been evicted and seen their homes bulldozed to make way for these multi-unit high density eyesores, will they actually build what they say they will build? Given this City's experiences with highly litigious and untrustworthy developers in the recent past, do you really believe they will to do what they're supposed to do? Particularly when we've been told as recently as last year that they can't make any money building Low Income Housing?
I certainly don't trust them. In my opinion most developers have the ethics and sensitivity of a pack of Michael Vick's pit bulls. The ones that won their fights.
Of course, there is another way that these developers can make money by building Low Income Housing here, and that is through subsidies from City, State or Federal Governments. Which basically means that after we've been bludgeoned into creating space here for the building of low income housing blocks we then, through the use of our tax dollars, also get to pay for their construction. Nice touch, eh? Kind of like paying the fee for your own execution. Of course, the government doesn't have much in the way of cash right now, so that probably won't work.
One of the sacred cows in this RHNA numbers debate is that we're talking about the building of housing that people who don't have a lot of dough can buy. And the marketing of this concept is basically some pretty standard guilt-tripping. The way you're suppose to view this is it's all because Sacramento politicians and organizations like SCAG really care about the poor and want to make the world a better place. And you would have to be really hard-hearted and uncaring to not want to make all of the necessary sacrifices so that they can show their love. But look, most of us gave up smoking pot a long time ago. That is, if we ever actually used the stuff at all. And this quaint hippy notion that we can help make the world a groovy place by allowing oh-so caring real estate developers and their bureaucratic yes men to build low-income housing for the poor in the residential Middle Class neighborhoods of Sierra Madre is about as believable as John "One Carter" Buchanan telling us he's "Green."
Remember the rule of thumb. When it comes to housing, it is ALWAYS about money. Every thing else is just hype and marketing.
Random connected issues:
1) Something that gives the lie to SCAG's supposed impartial role in these matters is the continued influence of Bart Doyle there. If SCAG truly is made up of elected City Council Creatures bent on making the world a more beautiful and happy place, why is this arch-redeveloper calling so many of the shots there? Particularly on redevelopment issues? After all, Doyle hasn't been elected to anything in years. And, as we saw during our last elections, he can't get his secretary elected to anything, either. Yet Bart continues to use SCAG and its RHNA numbers as a crowbar to force unwanted redevelopment into this town. Making it plainly obvious that SCAG is just an appendage of the Building Trades lobbies in Sacramento, and therefore not in any way deserving of the tax money it receives from our wretched state representatives for its continued existence. After all, wasn't Doyle the BIA's legal guy for years? And the guy responsible for that organization's generous funding of the Stop Measure V pressure groups in this town? The sooner Sierra Madre gets out of SCAG and away from such people, the better off we'll be.
2) Another thing that needs to be identified here is the agenda of those peddling redevelopment in our residential neighborhoods. It is no secret that building low income multi-dwelling housing in our single family neighborhoods is not a wildly popular idea. We're talking about the introduction of high density housing for the poor and the all the unpleasant social ills that would accompany such a thing. But is this what Karen Warner and those pulling her strings are really proposing? Or is it a threat designed to make something else seem more palatable. It is no secret that redevelopment ober herren such as John Buchanan, Joe Mosca, Michelle Keith, and Judy Webb-Martin continue to mourn the loss of the DSP and Downtown High Density Redevelopment. By threatening this town with low income block housing in single family neighborhoods, are they in reality trying to make downtown condominium redevelopment an acceptable alternative? Is this actually an attempt to repeal Measure V? A deceptive slight of hand dressed up as a way of saving our residential neighborhoods from the depredations of the very people pushing for it in the first place? That would appear to be the case. It is obvious that Doyle and his acolytes would much prefer to enable the building of 300+ condos downtown than the mere 26 residential neighborhood wickiups they're talking about now.
3) One of the arguments you hear in favor of Low Income Housing and redevelopment is Senior Housing. The idea being that our seniors deserve inexpensive places to live without having to leave town. Unfortunately, the State of California has something to say about who would actually get to live in any low income Senior Housing we might allow to be built here. Once Senior Housing becomes available in any municipality, a lottery must be held for those apartments. And unfortunately limiting that lottery to just the town where those units would be built is, according to Sacramento, discriminatory and therefore illegal. Of course, any senior citizen in Sierra Madre can enter that lottery, along with 10s of thousands of other people from all over California. But with odds that lousy your chances of actually winning a billet are slim. Now you could win something in, let's say, Paramount. But would you actually want to live there? Those who are pushing the Senior Housing angle here know all about this, but have chosen not to discuss it with us because it doesn't fit their real designs. Which is to make money for themselves and their friends through the enabling of new construction here.
4) One of the ways that the City of Sierra Madre has been able to lower its RHNA number to 26 low income units is through the use of "Granny Houses." Granny Houses, which are more commonly called Guest Houses, are mostly out of code bungalows that owners generally rent out for the additional income. The deal that the City is offering to the owners of these quaint cottages is that if they agree to turn them into Low Income Housing, City Hall will make sure than any code issues are easily taken care of. This being the best and most amenable way to retire the onerous SCAG imposed RHNA burden. That so many redevelopment advocates such as Karen Warner and Bart Doyle are aghast at this idea is pretty telling. It would preclude the building of multi-family high density housing, which is where the money their patrons desire is to be found. And obviously that is all they really care about.
5) One last point, and this is the one that I feel most deeply about. Seizing someone's home under Eminent Domain so that somebody else can get rich building condominiums, tax payer funded or not, is a particularly ugly form of government violence. That people who did nothing but work hard all their lives, who did the right things and made all the necessary sacrifices, should be forced to give up their homes so that others who did not play by those rules can live cheaply in a desirable community is outrageous. And that this would be done for the actual purpose of allowing large redevelopment corporations to make money makes it all the uglier. If City Councilmen John Buchanan and Joe Mosca feel so strongly about this cooked up Low Income Housing issue, let them sell their houses to the City Redevelopment Agency for a paltry government check and move out. After all, if they believe so deeply in this issue, certainly they would want to be among the first to make the same kinds of sacrifices they'd be asking others to make, right? Otherwise they just might come across as being little more than shills and hypocrites.
A lot of issues are laid out here and, as you can see, there is much that needs to be discussed. But let me tell you this, the Monster is now back on its feet and walking. It's all hands to the middle time, gang. Make sure you're ready to do your part.