The politics of Bay Area housing: New coalitions are emerging to fight the crisis

The Bay Area’s entrenched housing problems are famous for creating divisions: tenant groups and rent control advocates vs. landlords, for instance.

But a housing forum held last week at LinkedIn San Francisco pointed to something different: “Call to action” rhetoric that seemed to be embraced by an unusual cross-section of interested parties — real estate agents, academics, developers, public officials and YIMBY (meaning “Yes In My Backyard”) pro-growth activists. All attended the forum, titled “California Housing Crisis: Examining the Impact on the Bay Area” and organized by the Center for California Real Estate (an arm of the California Association of Realtors) and the Bay Area Council.

There was talk about mobilizing voting blocs and packing city council meetings.

Yimby Action Executive Director Laura Foote Clarke was greeted with an outbreak of applause when she said, “I do think we can out-organize them,” meaning her organization’s NIMBY (“No In My Backyard”) opponents. Decrying the “collective action failure” that she said has led to the current housing situation, Clarke exhorted her audience: “People have to yell at their local state legislator… I assure you that they will be listening to the loudest constituency in their community.”

Then she identified groups that might be swayed to support urban densification and other housing development strategies that could open up the market and bring down prices: “Owners who want their children to be able to live here and to see their grandkids… Obsessives who are so mad at a situation that they will actually go and sit at a hearing for three-to-six hours… And I think everywhere has millennials living in the basement these days — people who are really enraged by the entire situation. These are good people to activate.”

Jonathan Scharfman, general manager of Universal Paragon Corp., which has been trying for 12 years to build on the 684-acre Baylands site in Brisbane, talked about “political will.” He said it “exists in Sacramento, but not at the local level,” and he called on state policymakers to streamline regulatory hurdles to development — and to overhaul Prop 13. That would uncork property tax revenues and help fund local efforts to build affordable housing and improve schools — removing the “disincentive for cities to resist” proposals like the one at the Baylands site, he said.

Rosanne Foust, a former mayor of Redwood City and longtime environmental advocate, seemed surprised to hear herself touting a new book by U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, that rails against President Donald Trump on a variety of issues.

Yet Foust — smiling at the seeming strangeness of her request — urged her audience to read Flake’s “Conscience of a Conservative” to get a sense of the “political will” that is needed across the American landscape, including in the Bay Area’s fight to expand the housing supply and bring down prices.

She said downtown Redwood City “is a very different place” now than it was 10 years ago as a result of the plans she and others pushed through to bring mixed-use housing development to the area. Along the way, she said, she became “the target of the anti-growth contingent” and lost her job as mayor.

“But you have to be willing to lose your seat,” she said. “You have to have political will.”

Photo: A new housing complex rises in downtown San Jose.  (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

 

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  • hoapres

    Wouldn’t have this problem if we didn’t have h1bs and illegal aliens.

    Really you wouldn’t.

    Banned by the SJMN and soon to be banned here as well.

    • GooberDan

      your a moran ( typed that in a vernacular people like you understand)

      • hoapres

        It’s accurate.

        That’s the way it is.

  • Stephen Nestel

    PR agency for the Bay Area Council got this published lock stock and barrel. Can’t wait for the infomercial featuring YIMBYs and their heart wrench stories of being evicted. Oh right, didn’t the SF Examiner publish that in a special Sunday section recently? Clever fools, do you think we don’t know the manipulations. We are ready for you!

  • bsman

    I wish people would focus on the issues and solutions and stop fighting about the causes. No matter how high the wall or how low the number of H1B visas, housing has been and will continue to be a problem in the Bay Area. I think it is in everybody’s best interest to try and work together to develop ways of making housing more affordable in the Bay Area.

    • hoapres

      Maybe Not.

      It’s time to protect the American way of life sticking to building single family homes.

      • bsman

        The American way of life has resulted in a transportation system totally dependent on oil, utterly gridlocked, and unsustainable. What made sense in the mid 1900s is not necessarily the roadmap to the future…

        • hoapres

          Well if the roadmap to the future is to have 5+ story apartment buildings we 12+ people stuffed into a 1BR apartment then good luck in trying that out in the Midwest.

          • bsman

            Two things: First, we’re talking about the Bay Area, so worrying about the Mdwest is non sequitur, but point taken. Second, 12 people in a 1BR aparement is a consequence and symptom of the status quo in housing. This article in the Business Insider (hardly a liberal source) notes that it takes $30.92/hr over a 40-hour week to rent a 2-BR home in California (which would certainly be higher in the Bay Area ) http://www.businessinsider.com/how-much-you-need-to-earn-to-rent-apartment-us-2017-6

            Given this set of facts, it is difficult to believe that simply extending the status quo is a reasonable response to a problem of this magntude. Quite simply, we need a wide range of housing arrangements to provide for the needs and ability to pay of people at all economic levels. This is not a one-size-fits-all situation, but rather one that will require different approaches for different areas and situations. The idea of a single-family home for everybody will continue to be part of a portfoilo that includes appropriate housing for all working people, but it’s unrealistic to assume that this is the only workable model.

          • hoapres

            I just throw the issue in crude terms:

            You don’t get to trash America to make a buck.

            “Trash America” is defined here to be having 5+ story apartment buildings that (Yes they will in 20 years as it has already happened) slums.

            You can’t find Americans to work for peanuts so you bring in either illegal aliens or h1bs to do the work. Close that loophole and that solves a lot of problems.

            This is AMERICA and if you don’t have a common set of values then you don’t have a country. And this country is falling apart on a social basis faster than you can imagine.

            California is so far out of tune with the rest of the United States that it isn’t even a joke anymore.

            The solution is simple:

            If you can’t afford to live here then don’t.

            If you can’t afford to hire Americans then get out of America. (In this particular instance, Can’t afford American employees in Silicon Valley then get out of Silicon Valley)

            Those in the Midwest seeing the automobile industry being devastated with foreign imports didn’t have to put up with legions of Japanese workers coming over. The jobs went to Japan and the Japanese didn’t come to the Midwest.

            Same thing should happen to tech, We just can’t pay Americans $200K+ a year being the amount of money to live like an American in Silicon Valley.

            Solution, take your $60K+ software job to India and we will all be better off.

  • Thelip95032

    Yimby Action Executive Director Laura Foote Clarke was greeted with an outbreak of applause when she said, “I do think we can out-organize them,” meaning her organization’s NIMBY (“No In My Backyard”) opponents. Decrying the “collective action failure” that she said has led to the current housing situation, Clarke exhorted her audience: “People have to yell at their local state legislator… I assure you that they will be listening to the loudest constituency in their community.”

    This is why we have things like Charlottesville, if someone has a different opinion they have to be demonized and declared the enemy. This will always lead to some sort of violence and it is escalating as acceptable behavior , “because my cause is just and they are the enemy”.

    • hoapres

      >> This is why we have things like Charlottesville, if someone has a different opinion they have to be demonized and declared the enemy. This will always lead to some sort of violence and it is escalating as acceptable behavior , “because my cause is just and they are the enemy” <<

      We call them liberals.

  • hoapres

    If you can’t afford to live here then don’t.

    If you can’t afford to hire Americans then leave.

    I just solved the problem.

    You can say, Thank You.

  • hoapres

    If you are young then get a good job living in a homeless shelter for a couple of years along with buying a house for all cash in another part of the country.

 
 
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