Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Affordable housing advocates (SCAG): Build the right way, say no to NIMBY

Mod: SCAG is up to its usual shenanigans. This taxpayer funded so-called Regional Planning Organization has advocated stripping local control over development from cities many times before, and now they are at it again. Here is something from the Orange County Register that lays their latest campaign on behalf of high-density sprawl. As is often the case their theme is "affordable housing." Though the final result is often anything but that.

Affordable housing advocates: Build the right way, say no to NIMBY (Orange County Register link): Opening the floodgates on unfettered construction would lower the cost of housing, an affordable housing advocate told a regional housing conference Tuesday.

But that trickle-down approach will take a long time – 50 years, one study shows – before a new home built today becomes affordable. And by then, it will be old.

“If you build subsidized housing, it becomes affordable immediately,” said Alan Greenlee, executive director of the Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing. “The solution is building, but building in an appropriate way.”

Greenlee’s call for increased affordable housing was one of dozens of proposals at the California Housing Summit, a gathering in Los Angeles of about 400 government, business and community leaders seeking solutions to Southern California’s housing affordability crisis.

The summit, organized by the Southern California Association of Governments was part brainstorming and part girding for battle with anti-development forces.

The enemies, speakers said, are NIMBYs (or “not in my backyard” people) who climb the ladders to middle-class life, then pull the ladders up after them.

Their allies: Young adults who can’t afford to live in the communities where they grew up and went to school.

“In the city of Santa Ana and Orange County, people are having difficulties securing affordable housing,” said SCAG President Michele Martinez, a Santa Ana councilwoman.

“I’m not just talking about the poor or the disadvantaged or the homeless. I’m talking about middle- and working-class families. I’m talking about our teachers, our firefighters, our police officers, our nurses, our friends, our parents, our children.”

The cause: “We have not historically been building enough housing at all,” said state Housing Director Ben Metcalf, Gov. Jerry Brown’s chief adviser on housing policy.

The impact: “Rents are high. Incomes have not moved very far,” said USC housing economics professor Raphael Bostic. Southern California rents are up about 30 percent since 2000 in inflation-adjusted dollars, according to a SCAG study. Median household income, meanwhile, is down about 3 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Some speakers issued a rallying cry for leaders to “armor up” against those who are blocking development.

“Say no to NIMBYs,” SCAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata told the gathering. “Allow housing to be built in your cities.”

Sonja Trauss, founder of the pro-development, millennial-dominated SF Bay Area Renters’ Federation, said she’s often confronted by people who don’t want anything built.

“So engaging with them, I don’t see what the point is,” Trauss said. “My job is to organize people who want housing.”

More than two-thirds of coastal California metros have policies aimed at limiting growth, the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported in 2015. At least four Southern California cities – Costa Mesa, Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Redondo Beach – have slow-growth ballot initiatives in the works for November or March elections. Dana Point voters passed an initiative in June requiring a vote on plan changes in its downtown business district.

Among the ideas for overcoming barriers to development:

• Locate high-density new housing in underused industrial areas, business parks and commercial corridors to reduce the impact on existing neighborhoods.

“Cities that have done that, I think, have been more successful at getting housing built,” said Steve Kellenberg, an urban planner who helped design the city of Rancho Santa Margarita before joining the Irvine Co.

• Reduce parking requirements for new developments – a solution that may or may not become easier as ride-sharing services become more commonplace. Or build parking structures near high-density areas.

“Parking ratios make a massive difference in the bottom line,” said Mike McKeever, CEO of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments.

• Address residents’ concerns about water supplies for new housing. Suburban sprawl is the top threat to water sustainability, while infill development and new construction lead to increased efficiency.

“It’s not that we develop, but how we develop,” said Celeste Cantu, general manager of the Santa Ana Watershed Protection Authority.

• Engage neighborhood and citizen groups earlier in the development process to get more residents on board, rather than opposed to development. When developers use the battle cry “NIMBY,” their battle is already lost, one speaker said.

“The question should be, what should be in our backyard,” said Randall Lewis of the Lewis Group of Cos., based in Upland. “We don’t want it to be just yes or no. It should be a thoughtful discussion, and then we move forward.”

Ikhrata said SCAG will follow Tuesday’s summit with a campaign for reforms to the California Environmental Quality Act next year to speed up the homebuilding approval process.

The organization also plans to provide increased housing data to cities and to conduct an education campaign to inform city officials about the peril of not approving more housing.


  1. Um, no water? Traffic is already beyond gridlocked? Push to rail transit has left no bus transit options? Regional pollution is out of control again? More people are leaving the state than move in?

    Complete abdication in local and regional planning has caused the problem, not lack of housing...SCAG has been trying to bust communities for profit for years now. RHNA failed and this is the pushback.

    1. Yep.
      We always have to watch our backs.

    2. SCAG is told what to do by Sacramento and Washington bureaucrats. Folks who want lots of housing built because of all the dough they get from organizations like the BIA and CAR. It isn't about low income housing, it's about all the money to be made and spread around.

  2. It is cyclical SCAG behavior. I guess this is how they show people that they're doing something. They have to justify their big salaries.

  3. Hasan Ikhrata is paid very well to call people "NIMBYs."

    Hasan Ikhrata
    Executive Director
    Regular pay: $275,295.60
    Overtime pay: $0.00
    Other pay: $22,440.00
    Total pay: $297,735.60
    Total benefits: $44,642.75
    Total pay & benefits: $342,378.35

  4. SCAG: Attempting to say that it is helping the "little guy"; the ruse of Density bonus for low income housing, is just that. A ruse.

  5. Was it SCAG that appointed the Housing Numbers for Sierra Madre at around One Hundred and Eighty; some obscure number pick out for the open Mountain side that is undeveloped.

  6. SCAG never seems to be able to make their RHNA numbers pay off. At least in Sierra Madre. All talk, no action?

    1. We fought them and their ridiculous ideas. Of course, if the state wants to make us like every other place, it will.

  7. of all the new housing developments that are built in Pasadena how many are truly low income? I wouldn't consider a 900sf studio unit for $2k a month low income.

    1. They're all low income until they're built.

    2. That's one of the biggest hustles of all - developers will agree to a one year price hold, a covenant, but try to get anything longer and they will walk away.
      Public good is not what they are building for.


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