San Francisco’s housing crisis made simple

A man walks his dog on a hilltop overlooking San Francisco and the bay.

There’s a big patch of bare land near SF on which a developer wants to build 4,400 “sorely needed” homes in a project called Baylands. But the land is inside the city of Brisbane.

“We’re a small town,” a City Councilman says, “and we’re a small town by choice.”

There you go. Cities in California have the last word on land use. All too often their last word is “no.” The Brisbanes of the Bay Area are a big reason why 60% of the applicants for a recent affordable housing project in Stockton were from Oakland.

Another reason is the tax system,says this instructive article in the L.A. Times.

“Last year, Brisbane hired a consultant who found that the city would net $1 million a year in tax revenue by approving the Baylands. But if the city instead approved a project with lots more commercial space, a larger hotel and no housing, Brisbane would gain $9 million annually — an amount equivalent to more than half the city’s current day-to-day operating budget.”

Gov. Jerry Brown recently pledged to tackle the housing crisis when the legislature reconvenes from its recess. Dems want to raise taxes and fees to subsidize affordable housing. Republican’s want to cut regulations, which are a big, big part of the problem.

Public CEO has an article about the philosophical divide:

“The Union-Tribune’s Dan McSwain compared the process to something out of a Kafka novel: “Raise the overall price of market units, thus ensuring that fewer get built, in order to subsidize a handful of poor families … who win a lottery administered by local government agencies, with staffs funded by housing fees that inflate prices.” McSwain blamed high costs partially on city-imposed fees that inflate housing prices by 20 percent or more.”

The Legislature isn’t about to tackle that broader problem,” the piece goes on. “Legislators have yet to reform the California Environmental Quality Act and other environmental rules that drag out the approval process for major new developments.”

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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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