Governor Brown’s Plan to Expedite Housing Development

 

This is the lot at Melrose and Gramercy. The property extends south on Gramercy, beyond the house in the background.
Governor Brown hopes to convince more developers to build affordable housing by streamlining the local permit process but opponents fear it will green light more density without improving underlying infrastructure.

There’s a growing consensus among state and local leaders that more affordable housing is needed for the state’s growing population and to stem the tide of homelessness. Last month Governor Jerry Brown announced legislation that would force local governments to expedite approvals for housing developments that meet the underlying zoning and contain affordable units. Brown hopes to address the affordable housing challenge in state by increasing the supply of housing through incentives for developers who are currently required to get approvals through a more cumbersome local review process.

A lengthy report by the Legislative Analyst’s Office published a year ago details the state’s housing crisis and calls for the Legislature to “take a comprehensive approach that addresses the problem from multiple angles and reexamines major policies. Major changes to local government land use authority, local finance, CEQA, and other major polices would be necessary to address California’s high housing costs.”

This week the Los Angeles Times featured a story of a project proposed in the Mission District in San Francisco that might benefit from such legislation. However, it notes that projects that want to build more units than current zoning permits would still be subject to local oversight.

Still, Brown’s plan would not create a boom in housing supply that experts say is needed to rein in costs. The governor’s legislation does not include wholesale reform of the state’s environmental or tax laws, which could incentivize significant residential growth. It also won’t affect projects that are bigger than what current zoning allows. For instance, if a developer wanted to build high-rise condominiums on land planned for bungalows, the project still would require detailed local government review.

For that reason, Brown’s proposal doesn’t address major development issues such as “spot zoning,” which occurs when developers attempt to get city councils to rezone land to build larger projects than previously allowed. Nor is Brown’s plan likely to significantly affect housing in cities like San Diego or San Jose, where few additional approvals are required as long as projects match their zoning, officials in both cities said.

The Coalition to Preserve LA released a statement yesterday saying they “strong oppose Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to gut CEQA and Coastal Act environmental protections for virtually any urban project where developers agree to add an insignificant number of affordable housing units.”

The group is urging supporters to tweet and call Gov. Brown immediately regarding Trailer Bill 707.

“Brown’s wrongheaded plan, reportedly moving forward today, tosses aside the California Environmental Quality Act and Coastal Act, handing the wheel to developers who have shown that without environmental oversight they won’t hesitate to place thousands of children in harm’s way, create gridlock and destroy neighborhood character,” said Jill Stewart, Campaign Director for Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. 

 This story was updated Friday, June 10 at 3:37 pm

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About Patricia Lombard

Patricia Lombard is the co-editor and publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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