Monday, October 12, 2009

SCAG Boss Hasan Ikhrata Proclaims the RHNA Process a Failure

Interesting article Sunday in the Contra Costa Times. The major thrust of the piece is in regards to the absence of low income housing being built in California's towns and cities. This despite the RHNA pressure being exerted by Sacramento through organizations such as SCAG to make that very thing happen.

And right there in the middle of the article is this rather astonishing confession from the former Soviet planner now serving as supreme leader of SCAG, Hasan Ikhrata:

"I have yet to see a person in the whole state to show me that RHNA has led to one single affordable house anywhere," Ikhrata told a gathering of local policy makers at a SCAG meeting in May. "I mean that."

Now this is a bit disheartening. Is Mr. Ikhrata suggesting that the $50,000 Sierra Madre is spending on a consultant to help us deal with our RHNA issues is just wasted money? And what about similar expenditures in other cities? City governments hoping to get out from under the onerous burden of having to build low income housing where the voters not only don't want it, but have absolutely no place to put it as well? I mean, we're talking millions of tax dollars being spent regionally on consultants in hopes of preventing something that, according to SCAG's headman, the very guy in charge of cooking up these RHNA numbers, never happens!

Not to mention the huge amount of time being spent by City Hall employees wrestling with these issues. Apparently their time would be just as productively spent doing crossword puzzles or giving each other pedicures.

And Ikhrata had more to say. Apparently there is a viewpoint he favors that is not being properly emphasized here.

But the failure of the state to pressure cities to develop below-market housing has effectively resulted in some poorer cities developing their own programs, while richer cities ignore the issue altogether, said Hasan Ikhrata, the executive director of Southern California Association of Governments, the agency that issues the number of local homes that should be built every few years.

There you go, its all the fault of those "richer cities." Worse than kulaks they are. And nothing a couple decades in Siberia wouldn't cure.

And then there is this exchange:

Janice Hahn, Los Angeles City Council: "L.A. is never going to meet its RHNA goal. Because where do you build all these houses? Except for creating more density in certain areas, which I think is hard on our infrastructure."

Hasan Ikhrata, SCAG: "Don't bring 'I'm built out, I don't have any other places to do it.' That doesn't fly. Why? Because you're still growing. Unless you have zero growth, but every city is still growing."

Hmm, let's see. According to the U.S. Census guys Sierra Madre's population in 2000 was 10,578. The 1970 figure was 12,140. In 1980 the number was 10,837, and in 1990 it was 10,762. Which I guess means we fit right in with SCAG Rule #1. That being population is always going up, even when it is actually going down.

So does this mean we're off the imaginary RHNA hook?


  1. The hypocrisy of the state in legislating housing for the poor, with no guarantee, no enforcement, that any of it will really be for the poor, is dizzying.
    Developers are surprisingly good at shifting laws and policies around to sound like one thing, but end being another bundle for their wallets.

  2. I remember Councilman Zimmerman telling Ikhrata about SM's population, but did Ikhr respond?

  3. Iggy doesn't hear the call of the villagers. His vision is on the coming mixed use utopia.

  4. " population is always going up, even when it is actually going down"
    like a M.C. Escher drawing, relativism gone amuck.

  5. SCAG can't admit that their population projections were all wrong. Think of all those beautifully bound "Compass" volumes that would have to be thrown out.

  6. May I suggest a good read,The Gulag Archipelago,by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.It may lead one to better decipher the curious undemocratic approach taken by S C A G.

  7. Our resident attorney (the good one), KURT ZIMMERMAN, needs to question these people.
    Enough is enough.

  8. Compass is a political platform, not an actual study and analysis with real numbers. Cooked stats.

    Fun facts about LA metro area:

    As of the 2000 census, the Los Angeles region's urbanized area had the highest population density in the nation.... Los Angeles's homes sit on very small lots, in part due to the difficulty of providing water infrastructure to new developments.

    (so SCAG needs to pile on the density for this reason?)

    Counterpoint from a contrarian ranks cities NYC, SF then LA metro areas as most dense

    But we're already dense and at the limits of our resources, is the point.

  9. Sierra Madre has more housing than in the past and fewer people.
    Two reasons: 1) Seniors and older residents who have paid off there homes and their children no longer live with them. 2) The bad school system of the past with forced bussing. The local school is improving, as it does more families will return to Sierra Madre.

    We don't need more houses. No place No water

  10. I feel it would be safe to say that scag and the rhna numbers have caused the foreclosures and the glut of of unaffordable housing we have now.

    Back in the 80's I went to a school and took business finance and credit. One of our instructors pointed out then it was very common for a city or private deveopers to take the federal funding to build affordable housing, then throw first buyer home seminars and purposely get people in the homes that could not afford the payments on the standard 33 to 45 percent ability to pay or repay a debt formula used by most ethical financial institutions. That enabled the developers and the cities to get the aid of the federal money, then with intent foreclose on the poor people who were helped by creative financing (manipulation of the credit applications, fraud) and then resell the affordable housing, which was no longer under the auspices of affordable housing at a large profit. It is a game to them..

    Most financial institutions use a scoring guide, i.e. your application is given points, I have one from HFC, and do you have a bank account? 10 points, do you have a savings account? 10 points, how long at your residence?, over twenty years 20 points under 10 years 10 points. Your profession a trash man 5 points,(honest) a sanitation engineer 20 points.(tweaked) (Same job different title)so in the case of HFC, you had to have 89 points on your application for them to even talk to you..
    At the housing seminars you are helped by the reps to get into loans you cannot afford, bottom line you must after all income and outgo bills etc, must have 33 to 45% of your income free to repay your debt/house payment. A lot of people have recourse, but they are counting on you not having the intelligence or the money for legal fees...

    Now you used to figure it cost 225 thousand to build a house, then the builder doubles it or get a keystone 100% profit, that puts you at 450 thous for a house. A certain developer was wooing me and stated it is now 325 thous to build and that takes you to 650 thousand. Now all around us houses are going for two or 3 hundred thousand bucks. Because of laws, regs, contractors profits, you simply can't build an affordable house for a low income family in California.

  11. In the end RHNA numbers are designed to free up property in an area where there is precious little available. Developers needs places to build, and this is one of the ways our friends in Sacramento are working to help them out. This is far more lobby driven than it is any expression of pity for the poor.

  12. Looks like SCAG has got a loose cannon
    running the show now. Awesome.

  13. There is a model out there. The Ski Industry as in Vail, Aspen, or Snowmass which services a very high end clientle developed the high end housing so fast that they priced the "help" they needed to cater to the wealthy right out of their towns. The solved the problem by building trailer parks several miles down the road. They even bussed the good folks to their jobs. I csn't remember if they called the bus line gold or blue.

  14. 11:48, a loose AK 47, and good luck to them. If his appearance at the Sierra Madre City Council was any indication, he's not big on people skills.

  15. Jim, great idea. What better location for a trailer park than the One Carter Estates, or Stonegate Manor??? Better make them boat trailers....

  16. OK I know you'll have a fit at this, but how about giving the guy a break? He's not in the Soviet Union now, is he? He's American just like the rest of you. And last I heard, America was based on capitalism.

  17. nad (4:50): I don't see how you can consider
    a centrally run state system of planned development to be capitalism. I suspect
    our man from Moscow finds the way things
    are being done in Sacramento these days
    comfortably familiar.

  18. What Sacramento is really trying to do is strip cities of all their powers to plan development. Then they can turn around and sell stuff to the people they really care about, the development and realtor lobbies.

  19. Fang, I'm afraid you're 100% accurate about that, no matter what the words the politicos say, the actions support your conclusion.

  20. Anybody know what's up with tomorrow night's City Council meeting? I see SCAG has some report they want us to receive and file.

  21. Tattler, maybe you could clarify that one? I think the SCAG 2012 Regional Transportation Projections is what 5:33 is talking about, item #6.

    Also notice all our very own hillside developers stuff. The height of the Crater houses could be interesting. I've noticed new berms going up, so the "finished grade" might be so high it won't matter how tall the houses actually are, they'll still tower over the town. Yep, if the codes won't let you build 'em tall enough to sweeten the sales, build up the land. No problem.

  22. Fang is right, Sacramento has been trying to break down R-1 zoning in many ways. Cities cannot forbid second units now, they're allowed by right. Multifamily by fiat.

    Back when Prop 13 was passed, the Howard Jarvis Association got the legislature to concurrently pass a reg loophole that allowed 6 individuals living together to be a "family" for the purposes of allowing group homes (programmatically administered by the County) into any R-1 area without Health Dept. or ADA regulations. These things are just warehousing bodies for State funded programs, all kinds of profits are generated for the group home administrators, which simply lease from a homeowner. Revenue stream for the County, as well.

    No added taxes or fees go back into the community, but they're a burden to the local city and a violation of health and handicap access protections, since there is NO agency review of the facilites. This is as opposed to any group home in *all* other zoning types, which must be reviewed, permitted and approved for construction, health standards and ADA access.

  23. Photo today is perfect Sir Eric, just perfect.

  24. Good to see Nikita not only appreciated, but reborn as the head of SCAG. Bang your shoe, comrade!

  25. I remember Krushchev's shoe fit.
    He was very, very frightening at that time.

  26. Hey 9:19 a.m., thanks for posting. Great info.

    California's water crisis made some big headlines today.

    Hope Don Watts asks SCAG again to make sure that the state includes water with its density mandates.

  27. SCAG prefers not to discuss things like water. It detracts from their agenda of providing as many building opportunities as possible to the Sacramento development and realty lobbies that sustain it.

  28. Hope to see lots of our friends at the council meeting.
    We need to support our representitives, Kurt, Don and MaryAnn

    Thanks again to all of Sir Eric's readers who live outside of Sierra Madre, but are kind enough to share their knowledge with us.