Staedler: We need action — not plans — to solve Silicon Valley’s housing crisis
Homeless tents line up near a train crossing at Autumn Parkway near the Guadalupe River. File photo.

    The Bay Area has been in the midst of a housing crisis for the last ten years. Regional leaders have spent the last 18 months on a ten-point plan. Basically, it’s a plan to have a plan and it’s being sold as an emergency policy package that could create another government agency along with employer/property taxes to generate $1.5 billion annually.

    Here are the ten points:

    1. Just cause for eviction
    2. Emergency rent cap
    3. Emergency rent and legal assistance
    4. More tiny homes
    5. Taller buildings near transit
    6. A better permitting process
    7. Fast-track certain projects
    8. Unlock public lands
    9. New taxes to generate $1.5 billion annually
    10. New, regional housing authority

    This is another lackluster wish list. It doesn’t create any real way to create housing or to eliminate roadblocks. The emergency rent cap would be the consumer price index plus 5 percent, per year. For 2017 that would allow a 7.5 percent increase, which is not anywhere near the levels of protection advocates say are needed to protect renters from skyrocketing rent hikes.

    The real problem of the housing crisis is that “local control” by NIMBY cities has created “local denial.”

    The consensus has always been that everyone thinks housing needs to be created — just not anywhere near their community. It’s become quite laughable how often the public and elected officials accepted hysteria surrounding the potential impacts of housing development.

    The Mercury News reported on a story in August 2018 where a resident claimed if a four-story housing project is built across from an existing four-story housing project that “pretty soon we’ll be going down a street that looks like a tunnel.” That type of nonsensical criticism is being used as a justification to deny projects throughout the Bay Area.

    In light of the low numbers of affordable housing production seen across the entire state of California, Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom should meet with leaders of the State Legislature to discuss dramatic changes to how housing gets approved.

    At this point, local control needs to be earned by cities throughout California.

    If they don’t eliminate roadblocks and streamline their approval processes, the state needs to step in and take that process away from them. The rapid job creation in smaller cities without the subsequent housing production has ramped up the housing crisis and exacerbated freeway congestion.

    The fact that it took 18 months to come up with a predictable Bay Area regional housing plan without any real consensus is beyond sad. The protesting at the Dec. 2018 San Jose City Council meeting was not really about Google, it was about the Bay Area’s inability to create an adequate number of housing units for all income levels.

    The lack of housing has pushed out a segment of the community and it needs to be addressed. Their frustration and outcry is real — they are being priced out of this wonderful and successful region without any options.

    The state of California needs to declare a housing emergency and give cities a deadline to address their problematic approval processes or lose local control. Action — not words — are needed at this time.

    Let’s see what happens next, and let’s hope it’s not another multi-point plan.

    San José Spotlight columnist Bob Staedler is a principal at Silicon Valley Synergy, a San Jose-based land use and development consulting firm. His columns appear every first Monday of the month. Contact Bob at [email protected] or follow @BobStaedler on Twitter.

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