Columns
November 13, 2019
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City of RP Updates

Darrin Jenkins
Root causes of housing shortages
August 23, 2019

It is no exaggeration to say there is a battle going on for the identity of Rohnert Park.  The front lines of this battle are not in our family-friendly community, but in the capitol building in Sacramento.  You see, some state legislators have mis-diagnosed the root causes of California’s housing shortage.  They assume a lack of local approvals is stopping housing construction.  In reality, many factors are leading to a shortage of housing.  Here are some of them: 

High construction costs as a result of significant demand in Silicon Valley and San Francisco for office buildings and campuses.

Lack of specialty trade construction subcontractors.

Shortage of construction workers. The state could address this through reform of its K-12 curriculum and junior college system to better prepare students for construction jobs.

Immigration uncertainty from our federal government.

Cost, long delays and uncertainty associated with the California Environmental Quality Act lawsuits, which the state could address through legal reform.

Tariffs and trade uncertainty driving up materials costs.

A building boom to replace homes lost due to wildfires.

High costs associated with mitigating water, sewer, transportation and environmental impacts including endangered species (e.g. California tiger salamander, various vernal pool wild flowers).

The state’s elimination of local redevelopment agencies which were the greatest affordable housing producers in the history of California.

Federal tax reform which lowered the value of affordable housing tax credits, increasing the funding gap for affordable housing projects.

Whole-house vacation rentals taking housing stock off the market—Rohnert Park prohibits these rentals to preserve our homes for residents.

Lender reluctance to extend credit to construction projects since the 2008 financial crisis; the state could address this by guaranteeing loans and thus reducing risks for lenders.

Rather than address issues within their control, some state legislators are seeking to impose projects on local governments, eliminate local fees, remove parking, override local plans and limit public input.  In the past, the city has opposed such efforts to take away local authority.

The Rohnert Park City Council recently sent a letter opposing some of the worst bills pending in Sacramento.

SB 330 would allow new apartment projects to provide no parking spaces, require existing residents to pay mitigation costs for new projects, override local voter protections of open space, and prohibit local design standards.  This is a terrible bill and will change the nature of Rohnert Park if passed. 

AB 1279 overrides local zoning and approval processes to automatically allow four-plexes in any single family residential area. Imagine homes in our single family neighborhoods converted into student housing four-plexes with virtually no city input.  We already have a student housing problem with significant neighborhood impacts. This would dramatically increase investor ownership and diminish family ownership in Rohnert Park.

AB 1485 would eliminate public input on proposed apartment projects.  It would also limit the city’s ability to condition projects to, for example, minimize impacts on neighbors, the environment, etc.  

The good news is it is not too late.  You can make a difference by calling or emailing your representatives in Sacramento: Senator Bill Dodd, Assembly Member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, and Governor Gavin Newsom. They didn’t write these bills, but they will have an opportunity to vote them down.

Use the following contact information to reach your representatives:

Senator Bill Dodd’s website contact form at sd03.senate.ca.gov/contact or call 916-651-4003. 

Assembly Member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry’s website contact form at a04.asmdc.org or call 916-319-2004.

Governor Gavin Newsom’s website contact form at govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail or 916-445-2841.