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.