Sunday, April 26, 2015

Pasadena Star News: Housing mandates conflict with water restrictions

(Mod: My Sunday "every other week" column in today's Pasadena Star News deals with two favorite Tattler topics at once, water and mandated development. They're connected of course, though maybe one of those ties can now be cut. Clearly it needs to be. Link to the Star News here.)

Here is an interesting unintended consequence. Unintended consequences usually being the result of too much hubris combined with not enough thought. Cities in California have been required to meet their Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) numbers for quite a few years now. If you were not aware, these are mandated new housing development quantities handed out on behalf of the many cash friendly Sacramento construction and Realty lobbies (along with their all too agreeable legislative pals), by organizations called Regional Planning Organizations, or RPOs.

Our RPO is known by the unfortunate acronym SCAG. You might have heard of them. They're famous for making population increase predictions that often turn out to be laughably inaccurate. Not coincidentally, they're also big 710 Tunnel fans.

The threat here is that any city refusing to enable planning for RHNA mandated increases in SCAG housing run the risk of being levied with all sorts of dire Sacramento financial penalties and consequences. It's a build or be busted world out there.

This so-called "RHNA process" is supposedly done in order to meet the housing needs of the many mythological new people arriving in California any day now. Even though there haven't been very many of them in the last few years, with nearly as many leaving the state as showing up.

In places such as Sierra Madre, which like many towns thinks of itself as being built-out enough already, these numbers are particularly onerous because they are often responsible for driving the kinds of unwanted high-density stacked and packed generica that many feel is out of character with their special place in the sun.

That and cookie cutter development planning mandates generated from beyond by Sacramento hardly work in our wonderfully idiosyncratic local communities. They don't work very well anywhere else either, as some of the more capitulatory communities discovered. Just go and look for the afflicted blocks with half empty five story stretches of identical housing, with drab faded "for sale" flags flapping feebly out front.

Move in tomorrow, they promise. Or any other time if you prefer. Your lifestyle demands it.

So here is my question. Are RHNA numbers relevant anymore? Particularly when Governor Jerry Brown has now decreed that places like Sierra Madre, Arcadia and Pasadena, along with many other similarly water cursed communities, must somehow reduce their usage by as much as 35%?

How can these cities be expected to accommodate a significant percentage of new state dictated high density housing while also cutting their water usage by more than a third?

Here in bucolic Sierra Madre the debate has been how much additional water use reductions can people be ordered to make after having cut back a lot already. Or so they believe. Well, Governor Brown has settled that question for them. If it all goes through as planned, that number is 35% additional reduction.

But things get even worse. Cities that do not meet this rather arbitrary 35% water use reduction number could soon find themselves being fined $10,000 a day. Which is a large number even for government, and an amount that would quickly put a noticeable dent in any city's General Fund.

So does Sacramento believe that cities such as those we've mentioned here, locales now ordered to make draconian 35% water cutbacks tout suite, can also knuckle under to the kinds of increases in SCAG housing its Sacramento mandated RHNA numbers require them to enable?

How does a community reduce its water usage by over a third while at the same time packing in new SCAG housing that will require lots more water?

Seems like a conflict between Sacramento's central planning housing mandates and its water conservation priorities to me. Maybe someone at your City Hall could ask them about it?

Perhaps when it comes to mandated development Sacramento should just leave everybody alone. Especially now that the water is almost gone.

Otherwise people will just start thinking of them as being all wet.

John Crawford runs the locally significant Sierra Madre Tattler blog.  

25 comments:

  1. Maybe it's all in the master plan. Fine them $10,000 a day for not cutting down on the water useage but they don't have to pay it if they increase their housing numbers. Really made me feel uncomfortable to have that BIG old Russian guy come to our city council meeting and have a talk with us about meeting our density numbers. It seems our way of life is being attacked from every direction and Sacramento seems to be for the foreign influence. This water shortage is not knew, the scientist were talking about it several years before it started. Guess Sacramento found a way to make it fit in with their plans.

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  2. This makes a lot of sense. Jerry Brown will never go for it.

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  3. OK but the same cities who question being told to build affordable housing due to the water shortage are issuing endless permits for dense expensive multiuse projects. Its just not rich people they object to and the water crisis is their latest excuse to continue their class warfare.

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    1. RHNA mandated housing is not limited to low income alone. Sacramento allows developers high profit level housing as well. Plus most low in ome housing is not sold that way once it hits the market. This has always been more about the money, and the results show it.

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    2. A lot of people wrongly believe that RHNA numbers are limited to low income housing. That is not true. All income levels of housing are covered. And just because a city plans for low income housing doesn't mean it will hit the market at a price affordable to low income people. In the end many developers charge what the market will bear.

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  4. Governor Moonbeam's big plan is to build a branch line off the high speed rail train to water rich Oregon. Where tank cars will fill up and return to California bringing the much needed H2o......to Modesto!

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    1. I think you mean the Slow Speed Train. It will be a normal train, even though the law was passed requiring high speed. We were lied to. What a surprise.

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    2. The so-called Bullet Train is an idiotic waste of money. Jerry Brown must think it is still the 1970s. California needs solar powered desalination plants. We are in one of the leading technological regions of the world. Surely we can figure that one out.

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  5. Replies
    1. Its like tug of war with a jackass at each end of the rope.

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    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    3. I need to take some double entendre sensitivity training.

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    4. Check out Star News front page headline.
      City of Industry....MAJOR CROOK...STOLE MILLIONS....MAYOR DAVE PEREZ.....WILL GO TO JAIL

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    5. Little crooks become big crooks after they discover they can get away with things. A lesson they learned from years of stealing without ever being caught. Bell and now City of Industry being good examples. To stop corruption like this from happening crooked pols need to be arrested early on. It would save the taxpayers millions in the long run. Of course, the jails would then be filled with local politicians. Think of the sanitation issues!

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    6. They don't make mops big enough for that.

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  6. Jerry's solution is to designate all new housing development agricultural and give them 80% of the water.

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  7. Some times things are so serious it makes you laugh or cry. We cant laugh and hide from this problem we are facing and we can't cry about it either. Running out of water is life threatening and the facts seem to be getting ignored or are they being manipulated? I say we are being manipulated as government cant be this ignorant to the facts, or can they, remember, money talks. Remember the old make lemonade story, maybe government wants to increase population and charge more money for water so they can make even more money at the same time while endangering all of us with a weakened infrastructure.

    Something is not right here.

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    1. California is a corrupt one party state run by an entrenched criminal class. Follow the money and you will find them.

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    2. I don't want to get off topic, but did anybody see the front page article in the Star News about what is going in the City of Industry. This guy Perez who used to be Mayor for a zillion made hundreds of millions of dollars from contracts between companies owned by him and the city. Too bad the City of Industry doesn't have a Tattler to shine a spotlight on things.

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    3. We are all supposed to drastically reduce our water and yet more development projects continue to come on line that eliminate any gains we get from rationing. The Tejon Ranch project alone is projected to have about 12,000 housing units and I think somebody mentioned yesterday that Mayor Garcetti wants a few hundred thousand additional housing units built by a certain year because of the massive immigration that keep pouring into southern California. Hey, we live in a desert. There is only so much water available. Somebody tell me if this makes any sense?

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    4. It makes no sense. The state is going after one of the smallest segments of the water using world, middle class homeowners. All the while protecting the people who pay them off, big developers and big ag.

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  8. City hall has run " us cry babies out of water! " and further more, city hall has "illegally & un - constitutionally " charged city property owners for tiered water rates ! Why do we continue to employ this idiots which do not even live in our city?

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  9. We are excited!

    we get the opportunity to sign the ballot initiative to vote to repeal the UUTaxes.
    see you in Kerstin Court between 4- 7 pm

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    1. Get there at 4 and be among the first to scare the living crap out of City Hall!

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  10. I sincerely hope that there's no longer any question in peoples' minds about what the state is up to. After Prop 13 redirected the monies to Sacramento, the state started cutting school funding and gave the money to construction projects, then demanded that cities support increasing housing units and higher public salaries and pensions. The state has not done the water projects that were supposed to be done with the money allocated for that, again, going to big infrastructure like the 710 Tunnel Disaster and the HSR Boondoggle, the only way to describe these things. Feed the Monster, as it's known in the business. But take a look at what happens to these big public projects, they are guaranteed to balloon into massive cost overruns and never actually work the way they're supposed to. 90% failure rate, according to this industry report from KPMG international.

    http://www.bdcnetwork.com/too-many-construction-projects-don%E2%80%99t-meet-owners%E2%80%99-expectations-kpmg-report

    I expect the whole water infrastructure vs. housing/transportation demand to simply collapse. The water industry is seriously concerned about depopulation as a result of this drought continuing, and there's no way this thing is sustainable.

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