Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Is SB 375 A Greenwashed Form of Gentrification? Plus Other Stories from the Development Wars

Last night I enjoyed reading a "Briefing Report" from the State Senate Republican Caucus called "Attack On The Suburbs - SB 375 And Its Effects On The Housing Market." I enjoyed it because it almost reads like some of the stuff we have been posting here. Except the title we went with was the Wall Street Journal's version, "California Declares War On Suburbia."

But I am not saying that they copped their concept from the WSJ, or even The Tattler. I sincerely doubt that is the case. But they did grab some of their ideas from the same sources everyone has been mining lately, the writings of Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox. Both of whom write for one of my favorite websites, New Geography (click here). When it comes to leading the intellectual resistance to the absurd and fraudulent claims of SB 375, Kotkin and Cox are writing the battle plan. They are that good. Here is how the CSSRC's Briefing Report describes their contributions on this issue:

Briefly, the contention of the Urban Land Institute study is that the demand in California for traditional large suburban lots will significantly decrease over the next 25 years. This is due to Californians' belief that access to public transit is more important than other factors in choosing where to live. The study also asserts that Californians' desire for rental housing will increase by 5 percent immediately and by perhaps 10 percent over the next 25 years, which will cause a complete paradigm shift in housing preferences from single family to multi-unit housing. The study concludes that the smart growth philosophy embodied by SB 375 (Steinberg 2008), which encourages transit oriented development and discourages urban sprawl, neatly fits into what is needed to meet these new housing demands.

The Kotkin/Cox contention is the complete opposite of the conclusions drawn by the Urban Land Institute study. In books such as "War on the ream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life" (Cox) and "The City: A Global History" (Kotkin), they point out the flawed conclusions of those who believe that the future lies in vibrant new urban centers that rely on tourism, the arts and entertainment to sustain local economies. They point out the trend of the last 25 to 35 years of job creation moving into the suburbs and even into rural areas and the consequent movement of job seekers and young families into those areas. While urban advocates contend that transit is the key to housing preferences today, Kotkin and Cox point to numerous surveys noting the continued preferences of young people to move to the suburbs to raise children, taking advantage of lower crime rates and better school systems that exist there. In addition, contrary to the belief of many urbanists that the now aging Baby Boom generation will leave the suburbs and move downtown, the exact opposite seems to be true.

Thus fully crediting the New Geography guys, the State Senate Republican Caucus folks go on to reveal some very unique wrinkles of their own to the theme. And one of them in particular impressed me as it revealed a new possible effect of SB 375. That being a massive dislocation of the urban poor. Here is how they knocked this one out of the park:

We do not yet know the full effect of the SB 375 scheme on the overall cost of housing. If we start to increase the supply of housing in the urban core, what will that do to the people who are currently living there? Low income families will be forced to compete for housing with higher-income, higher-end developments. The result could be to drive these families out of the urban core to outlying communities where the cost and time to travel to work will increase. This is the exact opposite of the stated effect that SB 375 envisions would discourage positive developments that communities with the state are undertaking.

A very interesting point indeed. Is the end result of SB 375 actually all about affluence? If you are to coerce suburban residents into moving to new city core high density developments in the name of cutting commute times, thereby reducing the greenhouse gas producing emissions of their personal transportation, what happens to the people who are already living there? Where do they go? And wouldn't their resulting longer commutes just replace the greenhouse gas emissions of those who so recently had taken away their homes?

Can it be that SB 375 not only greenwashes development, it also helps to greenwash gentrification as well? And did it really never occur to the involved Sacramento social engineers and state central planners that there are already people living in these urban core neighborhoods, and that when you "redevelop" these existing areas to build yuppie transit ghettos, you are also taking away the homes of less affluent people who have lived there for decades?

And then there is this warning to city planners who would succumb to the false arguments of the supporters of SB 375.

Professors Kotkin and Cox believe that the desire to live in suburbs will continue, and point to examples of high density infill projects that have been abject failures. In his article "The Suburban Exodus: Are We There Yet?" Cox states:

"Misleading ideas sometimes have bad consequences. The notion that suburbanites were afflicted with urban envy led many developers to throw up high-rise condominiums in urban districts across the country. Sadly for these developers, the Suburban Exodus never materialized, never occured. As a result, developers have lost hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars and taxpayers or holders of publicly issued bonds could be left 'holding the bag.'

"Around the nation, condominium prices have been reduced sharply to attract buyers. New buildings have gone rental, because no one wanted to buy them. Other buildings have been foreclosed upon by banks, and units have been auctioned. Planned developments have been put on indefinite hold or cancelled ... Looking at the data, there remains little evidence that the stated preferences on which the predictions relied have been translated into the reality of a shift in preferences towards smaller lots in cores or inner ring suburbs. Domestic migration continues to be strongly away from core counties to more suburban counties. Core cities are growing less quickly than suburban areas ..."

You can only imagine what the fate of the ill-conceived Downtown Specific Plan would have been had Measure V failed. And should those who wish to change the planning structure of this town prevail and higher density urbanist housing schemes become part of our future, the property values of those owning homes here in Sierra Madre would suffer as fewer people would wish to buy here.

This entire "Briefing Report" can be found by clicking here. It is nice to see at least one of the 2 major political parties is examining the possible effects something like SB 375 will have on actual people. And not merely engaging in the glorification of the benefits to some of the usual Sacramento development and real estate lobbies. Or shamelessly flogging the supposed planet saving benefits we will all receive through the gaudy gentrification of old line urban core neighborhoods, or overdevelopment in towns such as ours.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

57 comments:

  1. There was a news report yesterday that rents have gotten so high that people are figuring out they might as well be paying mortgages on single family homes - and would much rather be doing that.

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    1. They should buy a condo. They're dirt cheap now. Many fine models to choose from.

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    2. In the report, the people interviewed were saying how much they wanted a yard for their kids to run around in. Not a lot of that in condos.

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    3. Try going to one of these "big 5-too big to fail, bailed out banks" and getting a loan.
      What percentage of the population can qualify for a home loan right now?
      Come on all you realtors reading this.....what %?
      All of you are making money, if you're making it right now, on short sales.
      The housing market is still in DEFLATION and has not hit bottom in most areas.
      Same with the JOB MARKET, not a good combination.

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  2. You mean people don't want to live in the heart of Los Angeles because it is not the best place to raise kids? Now where'd they get that idea? All that 20th anniversary of the L.A. riots coverage on TV?

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  3. I understand the fact that there are times when the State in best Orwellian fashion must intervene. The enforcement of the prohibition of slavery in all states of the union comes to mind. But taking over the community planning duties of local governments is not justified.

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  4. Please keep SCAG Housing out of our General Plan.

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  5. You sent me back in time with this blog: Urban renewal equals Negro removal. Google that folks and go on a history tour of the 1960's and the ruin that followed in city after city. Don't urban planners have to take history classes?

    James Baldwin coined this phrase. Read about the Western Addition in San Franciaco. I was in college there then and remember the outrage.

    Wikepedia on Urban Renewal is about the best I have ever plowed through. Got to a link to Halifax and the intact community of Africaville that was destroyed in 1962 by urban renewal.

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  6. Is displacing poor minority communities to make room for high end condos and a Whole Foods sustainable?

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    1. SB 375 has a definite racial bias.

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  7. Steinberg and his uber radical/development buddies have been destroying this state for at least 10 years.
    They have been chasing job creating businesses, and industry out of Southern California.
    He gets most of his money from the developers who have a lock on Sacramento.
    He is the most undemocratic Democrat there.
    It's to bad he is a Northern California elected politician, we in SoCal can't get close enough to drum him out of politics.
    He is untouchable.

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    1. Until the people of California finally realize that the GLOBAL WARMING MYTH has nearly destroyed the economy, they will continue to elect people like Steinberg.
      How about all you voters actually paying attention, do your homework, and vote intellegent for a change....now that would be a welcome CHANGE, for a change!

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    2. I don't doubt the evidence that global warming is a real threat. What I disagree with is the short-sighted and ineffective solutions put forth by the politicians, who have been hopelessly compromised by the development/realty industries.

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    3. I agree with you. How building a transit village in downtown Sierra Madre is going to save the world from global warming defies all logic.

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    4. It won't, 11:09 am. What it would have done is enrich the investors in the Montecito LLC and other hidden assets that were going to be built with CRA/transit/homeless/low-income funds from the county/local/state and federal money caches. From the Brave New World puppetteers' perspective, and of course the local investors', it was a win-win - all except for the taxpayers and "they don't vote anyway".

      Count yourselves lucky to be neighbored by such stalwarts as the Friends of Sierra Madre Just As It Is!

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  8. Detroit ravaged by suburban exodus then by urban renewal. Folks left behind are turning empty lots into farms as the only way to get fresh produce. No grocery stores within miles.

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    1. Perhaps it has to hit bottom just like that,7:22.
      Perhaps this will start to happen all over the country.
      That said, watch the Government step in and start "regulating" their farming!
      Detroit is run like Soviet Russia.

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  9. Looking for safe suburban communities led people to the desert communities of Palmdale Lancaster where the problems followed. Gas too high to continue the commute back to LA to the jobs. Long commute so your kids could have patch of grass (now water too high to irrigate the desert patch of grass). Ghost towns on the desert. Adelanto. It's a mess.

    Keep your hands off Sierra Madre.

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  10. Check out the blog "Gideon's Trumpet" about urban renewal and imminent domaine.

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    1. I hope it's not imminent, this eminent domain business.

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  11. Long Time TattlerMay 2, 2012 at 7:45 AM

    After talking about SB 375 for the last 4 years on this blog, it is nice to see it the issue getting a little traction. About time. They're going crazy over this issue in the Bay Area. Hopefully So Cal isn't too far behind.

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  12. Chief Black KettleMay 2, 2012 at 7:45 AM

    Anyone who has ever chatted up a Sierra Madre real estate agent will immediately see that gentrification has always been the goal of the power elite in this little burg. The expulsion of the poor so that people with ways and means can achieve views of the twinkling lights in the valley below has been the keynote in all their sales pitches and they view it as only a matter of time before this goal is achieved.

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    1. Not to interject too much simple common sense derived from direct observation, but I work on Myrtle in Monrovia and the number of "homeless" enjoying the "transit center" (or should it be "transient center" ) lifestyle is increasing day by day.

      Would I bring my kids to live there? No. You save the planet from Al Gore's hot air, and I'll protect my kids from the deranged.

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    2. Exactly, this is why we are fighting to preserve our little Sierra Madre.
      We have rights, too, you know.

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    3. The irony is the more we preserve Sierra Madre, the more desirable it becomes. Especially now that so many neighboring towns have sold out their residents to the grubby realtors and development interests.

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  13. My error...eminent domaine not immenent, didn't spot my automatic correction in time to thwart the syntax miss.

    Anyway, check out Gideon's trumpet blog.

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  14. Found San Francisco is a site that leads you through the urban renewal that attacked the Western Addition. The term "co-opting opposition" was used and links us today to what is going on with the ALF development.

    The Western Addition was targeted because of health and delinquency statistics, among others. Witness today the removal of the boats in the harbor due to unsanitary conditions. May 1st deadline. Who is waiting to develop that for higher priced use?

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  15. Rubric for my State Assembly and Senate votes this June and November. Whoever is against SB 375 gets my vote. Whoever is for it I work to defeat.

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    1. Someone on our Tattler board, one of the research teamers, came up with a list of the list of State Senators who voted for or against this bill 375....and also the other half of the entry, the Assembly bill....forgot the number....
      If you are reading this, would you repost it or send it to the Mod?
      It was interesting stuff at the time.

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  16. WHY ARE DEMOCRATS IN SACRAMENTO TRYING TO HURT POOR PEOPLE?
    They want to buy their votes with welfare, union contracts, food stamps, unemployment extentions but then support this?


    gen·tri·fi·ca·tion
       [jen-truh-fi-key-shuhn] Show IPA

    noun
    1.
    the buying and renovation of houses and stores in deteriorated urban neighborhoods by upper- or middle-income families or individuals, thus improving property values but often displacing low-income families and small businesses.

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  17. The canyon comes to mind. 40 years ago when we bought here the realtors referred to the canyon as Sierra Madre's affordable housing. Now, the bank has a shack in foreclosure, bought up by flippers to renovate, as in "it has been HomeDepoed" and with all the stainless steel kitchen, granit counter tops and recessed lighting (meaning the ceiling is too low for anyother type of light fixtures), it is listed for somewhere around half a mil. Still no foundation and we hope that prospective buyers look at the rock rubble and make the flipper fix the foundation before signing on the dotted line.

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  18. All of this is tied to water. New movie by environmental activist Erin Brockovich, Last Call at the Oasis. Opening this
    weekend.

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  19. The creators of all this greenishness were well-intentioned. It's a puzzle that they let themselves be so mercilessly suckered in by the development industry.

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    Replies
    1. The Sierra Club bought in big time.

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    2. So did a whole bunch of other organizations. One big happy family.

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  20. Politics demands compromise, and that must be what happened. But if the compromise goes too far, there's no coming back from it.

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    1. Politics demands compromise, yes, but it also demands that people stand on sound principles- hopefully those based on our U.S. Constitution.

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    2. Amen, 5:19. There are some compromises that should not be made.

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  21. I hope the General Plan committee doesn't compromise too much.

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    1. I know those people, they would never sell this town out.

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    2. The Green Committee would, though. And there is a green agenda portion of the General Plan. Be wary.

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    3. The Green Committee exists to counteract the General Plan Committee. Particularly on the issue of downtown development.

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    4. The General Plan Update Committee AND the Green Committee are only ADVISORY to the City Council.

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    5. You can judge for yourself, 5:07. The meetings are on Channel 3.

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    6. 5:35 - when there have been discussions about the committee before people have spoken up in defense of some of the members. I think the green committee members might be as naive as the green politicians were, and think that they are doing something good for the environment.

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    7. People who prey on the idealistic are not civil.

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    8. The Green Committee & General Plan Update are advisory. However, the Council is not a majority against the Green Agenda

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    9. We all wish to protect our planet. We all want clean water to drink and clean air to breathe and clean food to eat.
      We wish this for all people.
      However, there are people who do prey upon our good will and intentions. Global Warming/Climate Change is not just a myth, it's the biggest scam ever pushed upon the people of Earth.

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    10. Right. The earth is flat and the Pope is infallible.

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    11. As opposed to the opposite view which states that the Pope is flat and the Earth is infallible.

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  22. Yes indeed 5:45. Our city coucil has way too much power.

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  23. There has always been climate change and the earth has warmed up between previous ice ages.

    But do a quick look at the San Gabriel Valley in just the past 60 years and ask if man has not had some detrimental impact? Industrial Revolution into it's second century. Carbon footprint of a bottle of vanilla under the age of sail vs today's cargo container ships. Just add it all up.

    Got water? Clean water? Enough water?

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    1. How is over development going to help us get more water, clean water, enough water?

      It is not. That's the point.

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    2. Maybe the city can hire a water consultant.

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  24. In order to save the planet, people need to consume less resources (ie, stop buying so much crap), develop less, waste less. All this over-development does is consume more resources, make more development, make more waste. There is nothing environmentally friendly about that.

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    1. In order to save the planet, people need to have fewer babies - plain and simple!

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