Tag Archives: affordable housing

Gov. Brown Vetoes Atkins’ AB 1229 Inclusionary Housing Bill

Republished with permission from Beyond Chron

by Dean Preston

Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed the most important housing bill before him this year. AB 1229 (Atkins) would have restored to cities the power to enforce inclusionary housing laws that require affordable rental units as part of new construction. The veto was immediately condemned by tenant rights organizations and affordable housing advocates.

Over 150 California cities have inclusionary housing laws. An appellate court created chaos in 2007 by ruling that a local inclusionary law was preempted by the state’s Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act, a 1996 law that had nothing to do with inclusionary housing. The California Supreme Court refused to review the case, leaving Palmer / Sixth Street Properties v. City of Los Angeles in effect. AB 1229 would have overturned the Palmer decision, clarifying that it is up to cities whether they want to adopt and enforce inclusionary housing laws as a means to increase the supply of affordable rental housing.

The governor’s track record on affordable housing has not been good. As mayor of Oakland, he opposed inclusionary housing. At the state level he vetoed a housing preservation bill (AB 1216) soon after taking office. He dismantled redevelopment and has failed to offset the loss of funding or otherwise increase funding for the development of affordable housing. He has announced no major affordable housing policy initiatives since taking office. His solution to the housing affordability crisis in California appears to be to let the free market do whatever it wants.

Many hoped that the governor would sign AB 1229 as a local control bill. Whether or not he thought inclusionary was a good policy when he was mayor, the thinking was that as governor he might let local cities decide their own fate, as they did before the Palmer decision. Instead, as is clear from his veto message, he did the opposite — prohibiting cities across the state from adopting inclusionary laws because he didn’t like them for Oakland.

“As mayor of Oakland, I saw how difficult it can be to attract development to low and middle income communities,” Governor Brown wrote in his October 13 veto message. “Requiring developers to include below-market units in their projects can exacerbate these challenges, even while not meaningfully increasing the amount of affordable housing in a given community.” Apparently, the Governor believes he knows better than affordable housing experts across the state how to “meaningfully increase the amount of affordable housing.”

A broad coalition of tenant groups, affordable housing advocates, and community-minded developers, supported the bill, as did most major newspapers around the state. Big developers, mega-landlords and realtors fought it with all of their might.

Governor Brown knew the issue here. He prioritized maximizing the profits of developers and realtors over housing struggling Californians.

With rents skyrocketing, the need for affordable rental housing has never been greater. AB 1229 would have expanded the supply of affordable rental housing at no cost to the government.

Advocates cannot allow the gutting of inclusionary housing laws to stand. Through litigation, new legislation and/or a ballot measure, Palmer must be overturned so that cities can once again require affordable rental housing as part of new housing development.

Lancaster Leads The Way

More like this, please:

While other cities are hoping for federal aid to help them address the problem, Lancaster is using city funds to buy, renovate and sell vacant homes. The need is clear….

So far, Lancaster’s Redevelopment Agency has agreed to spend more than $4.1 million to acquire and refurbish 41 homes. The city took ownership of the first six properties beginning in May….

Lancaster’s program mainly targets depressed neighborhoods. The city is paying between $80,000 and $110,000 for the properties and will accept bids from contractors to renovate them. Proposed repairs would include environment-friendly features such as drought-tolerant landscaping and tankless water heaters. When sold, the city hopes to recoup the price paid for each home, including the cost of renovation. But Brubaker said the goal is to keep the selling price reasonable for a family of four whose income does not exceed about $71,800 — California’s average salary for qualifying for subsidized housing.

This is precisely what governments need to be doing right now. The right-wing effort to use government to stimulate homeownership has been a catastrophic failure, leaving the global economy in ruins, millions of families bankrupt and without a home, and California facing a very uncertain future.

Lancaster’s model is more along the lines of what should have been tried all along, and what is now a priceless opportunity. The foreclosure crisis has left cities like Lancaster with a huge glut of empty houses while everyone else struggles with still-high housing costs, as homelessness rises. It’s a small move to rectify a massive misallocation of capital and resources, but the bubble’s collapse provides opportunities for affordable housing that should be seized.

It’s good that Lancaster is also promoting sustainable renovation, something that is often overlooked in the foreclosure crisis – too many cities simply want to recreate a failed 20th century model of car-dependent, resource-wasting suburbia. And Lancaster’s move isn’t a long-term solution nor a sign that suburbia is still viable – we do still need to redefine the California Dream by promoting greater urban densities. But that doesn’t preclude governments from using the foreclosure crisis to create truly affordable opportunities for Americans to own homes.

The details matter, and the public has to be engaged to ensure that cities don’t use this as a way to give away refurbished properties to developers or speculators. Still, it’s good to see some California cities getting smart about how to deal with this crisis.

The Defender of LA’s Homeowner Aristocracy

Marc Haefele has an excellent, and troubling, op-ed in today’s LA Times on Zev Yaroslavsky: “LA’s anti-density warrior”. It is a portrait of one of Southern California’s most powerful politicians who, apparently, fights urban density for its own sake. Although it is the Republicans that I have labeled as the chief defenders of the “homeowner aristocracy” – those particular homeowners who seek to preserve their property values and obsolete concepts of the urban landscape at the expense of everyone else – Supervisor Yaroslavsky shows that it doesn’t take a conservative to help lock out the mass of Californians from their dreams of economic security:

Yaroslavsky flatly denies that there’s any good in the city’s turn to greater density to create more affordable housing. Before cheering neighborhood councils and homeowner associations, he argues that greater density will destroy the ambience of neighborhoods and fill the pockets of developers but will do nothing to add to the city’s housing stock. Recently, he took Times columnist Steve Lopez on a city tour to point out what Yaroslavsky considers overdevelopment eyesores.

It is a portrait of a politician playing to the homeowner aristocracy, despite the complete absurdity of the position that density has no place in providing the affordable housing the region so desperately needs. More below.

Last summer, spurred by several developments in Los Angeles, I wrote Redefining the California Dream for the 21st Century, where I explained that the 20th century California dream, based on suburban sprawl, was dying, why urban density was the only path to economic security for most Californians in the 21st century, and how a “homeowner aristocracy” was emerging to fight this in the delusional hope of hanging on to the 20th century vision.

The gist of the argument is that due to rising fuel costs and declining fuel supplies, folks are going to need to live close to where they work and shop, where they can commute without having to get in a car. This means more people will want to live in urban centers, and that will mean a need for affordable housing, which we are already witnessing. But density provides not just affordable housing but affordable living – with lower fuel costs and the more efficient use of resources that comes with urban living, working Californians can have a hope of economic security – of the California Dream that has driven our state for decades.

None of this is new knowledge. We’ve known since the 1970s that California needs an urban density strategy. The governor at the time, Jerry Brown, recently returned to that theme in his speech to the California Democratic Party Convention last weekend, describing this as “elegant density”.

But neither is Zev Yaroslavsky’s anti-density politics new. He came to political prominence in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a defender of “neighborhoods” on the prosperous Westside from various kinds of development. He has been one of the most dogged opponents of the proposed “Subway-to-the-Sea” and in 2000 helped author and pass an ordinance preventing the MTA from using sales tax money to build it.

His current fight against density is broadly-based, but has zeroed in on SB 1818, a 2005 law that makes it easier to construct new density projects as long as they contain a specific proportion of low or moderate income housing. To Yaroslavsky this approach “doesn’t take into account the individuality of neighborhoods.”

But there is nothing that says a neighborhood will lose its individuality if it grows more dense, and certainly nothing that says neighborhoods never change over time. What he is really saying is that density upends the 1950s model of detached single-family homes and single-story strip-mall commercial centers – which is of course the point, because that 1950s model no longer works for most people:

About 62% of the city’s inhabitants rent, and the monthly payment for a typical one-bedroom unit is more than $1,400, according to city housing statistics. That’s unaffordable to anyone making under $50,000 a year, given the rule of thumb that a tenant should spend no more than 30% of his or her income on rent. The housing meltdown has made matters worse, as foreclosures push former homeowners into a rental market with a 2.5% vacancy rate.

And as jobs become harder to find, it’s going to add even more pressure to this housing crunch. Ed Reyes, who represents the 1st District on the LA City Council, described to Haefele what conditions were like for most of those lower-income workers who managed to find a place to live in the urban center:

This density can be found on the 500 block of South Berendo Street in Pico-Union, in Reyes’ district. One of the buildings on the block contains 40 units and is 80 years old. Its pale blue exterior paint only partly hides rotting woodwork underneath. A 400-square-foot unit in this building can cost $900 a month. The apartment I recently visited had three double beds; the sink and refrigerator were in the living room. Considering the apartment offered 50 or 60 square feet a person at full occupancy, it was neat and clean, but irremediably run down.

“This is what we call invisible density,” Jaime Rojas of the Latino Urban Forum said. “To say that it doesn’t exist is wrong.” Hundreds of thousands of people live in such apartments in L.A.

And for every person living in a dilapidated building like this, there is another low-income worker who had to move to Ontario, or Palmdale, or Norwalk, and fight traffic and rising gas prices to make it to work. LA’s working core, the people who keep the city alive and prosperous, are in need of new density to make a living. So why should homeowner aristocrats and their political defenders try and stop them?

Reyes sees the rising anti-density fervor in the city as veiled opposition to finding suitable affordable-housing sites outside low-income ghettos.

That would not surprise me. Opposition to urban density in California has usually taken on a mixed race and class character, where mostly white and well-off homeowners fight against density that they worry will bring a “lower element” into the neighborhood.

The article closes by showing how out of touch Yaroslavsky is with the politics of affordable housing:

“There are funds available,” he replied, citing federal block grant money and county money that originates from such federal agencies as the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Such funding, however, has been scarce since the dawn of the Bush administration. Nonprofit housing groups say it started disappearing in the Reagan years.

Yaroslavsky didn’t seem to know this.

In other words, Yaroslavsky is still playing the same game in the late 2000s that he was in the 1970s and the 1980s, despite fundamentally changed conditions and an even more staggering need for dense, affordable housing. At precisely the moment when LA’s future can be secured by turning to a new density, which in turn would secure the future of its working population, those few who benefited from the late 20th century policies of sprawl and cars are working to protect what they have – even if it means nobody else can enjoy economic security.

Yaroslavsky’s LA is dead. It’s time he acknowledged it, and that the city moved on into a more prosperous and equitable – and dense – future.

Density is Not a Four-Letter Word

David Lazarus is showing to Southern Californians what Bay Area readers already knew: the man really understands the problems facing working Californians, and is not afraid to write about them directly and engagingly. In January he took on Prop 13 and called for it to be revamped, if not scrapped. Today he has shifted his focus to the struggles renters face in LA.

As any of us who have lived in the area realize, rents are nearly unaffordable in the urban center of LA – the place where it’s easiest to live without a car. Lazarus opens his column with the story of a single mother who makes $38K as an admin assistant and who can only afford a rental way out in Lancaster. This is a familiar story to me – I know a LOT of Californians who make a similar commute. And as oil prices soar toward $4/gal, it is becoming more difficult for working Californians to get around.

For the last few decades, Californians have been told the solution is more of the same – more sprawl, more freeways, more commuting. The obvious solution – to build more housing in the urban core – is opposed by those who believe, as a USC professor lamented in Lazarus’ column, “density is a four-letter word.”

Lazarus helps explain why the anti-density movement is blocking what I described last summer as the redefinition of the California Dream for the 21st century – that unless we invest in greater urban density, we will inscribe inequality permanently on the urban landscape.

For example, one of the major obstacles to affordable rental housing construction in the urban core is the archaic parking requirement:

One reason housing prices are so high is a requirement that newly built multiunit dwellings (and condo conversions) provide at least one — usually two or three — parking space per unit. This inflates the cost of each apartment and discourages construction of smaller, more affordable units because developers would be required to provide even more parking.

“The fixation on parking in Los Angeles has driven up the price of housing and increased congestion on our streets,” said Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at UCLA. He said including two spaces with a unit can add about $45,000 to construction costs.

One solution would be to waive the parking requirement for smaller apartments, thus creating an incentive for developers to place more such units on the market. And because there’d be no parking cost built into the rent, such units would (in theory) be cheaper than apartments that come with extra room for vehicles.

This could have the added benefit of increasing demand for public transportation — presuming, that is, people would trade car ownership for reduced rent. Increased demand would hopefully spur development of commuter-friendly projects like a long-delayed Westside subway line.

But Gail Goldberg, L.A.’s planning director, said any proposal that includes cutbacks in parking tends to go nowhere. “People feel like there’s already not enough parking and that people are intruding into their neighborhood. This is a difficult discussion to have.”

Here we see the core problem: those who established themselves in these neighborhoods in the 20th century, under a now-obsolete version of the California Dream, refuse to admit that their perspectives and expectations need to change. Whether they know it or not, those who oppose density are helping establish a “homeowner aristocracy” – where the benefits of society go only to those who were lucky enough to buy a house before 2000, or who inherited from someone who did. In order to maintain the fantasy that urban neighborhoods can have enough parking for everyone who wants a car, LA is now making it unaffordable to rent a home if you are not making an upper middle class income, and those who can’t afford it are forced to drive – and bear the brunt of peak oil’s arrival.

San Franciscans might empathize. The squeeze on parking spaces there is legendary; a garage is almost a mythical prize. And yet, as many more San Franciscans are realizing, there is really no good reason to own a car if you live in the City. MUNI has its problems, but it gets people around. Carsharing services like Zipcar or City CarShare allow one to access a vehicle on the few occasions they might need it, reducing the need for parking spaces and car ownership.

As more and more scholars are coming to realize, car ownership has high costs for workers – “you work on Friday to pay for your auto”. Adding in the environmental and climate costs of long car commutes, and anti-density policies are clearly having a catastrophic effect on our state. City centers can thrive with less parking, and it brings the added benefit of not bankrupting the workers who keep that city going.

Lazarus suggests that alongside going after the parking requirement, we pursue mixed use development:

A more politically practical remedy may be to ease zoning requirements for mixed-use properties, thus allowing creation of urban villages featuring retail outlets at street level and moderately priced living spaces overhead.

This is already happening to some extent above a handful of subway stations, such as the Wilshire Vermont Station project in Koreatown. But creation of dynamic transit villages throughout L.A. remains a distant prospect at best.

It’s unfortunate that this seems a “distant prospect at best,” especially because so many other West Coast cities already embrace mixed use. Seattle, where I lived from 2001 to 2007, is an excellent example of mixed use, and in my last years there I got along quite well without having a car at all. SF and Oakland exhibit effective mixed-use policies. So does my current home of Monterey – virtually everything I need, from the library to the supermarket to bars and entertainment is a short walk or bike trip away.

Much of Southern California looked like this as well, at least before 1950. Since that time, under the leadership of conservative Republicans, SoCal pioneered the single-use, car-based sprawl that has now brought the American economy to the brink of collapse. SoCal gambled that cheap oil and affordable land would last forever. That gamble is now quite clearly lost – so why should we listen to the anti-density forces who basically would have us double down?

If we are to renew the promises of the California Dream – affordable, clean, pleasant living for all the state’s working people – we are going to have to turn to density. We need to invest in public transportation, apartments and condos, and mixed use policies. If we do, we can restore the promise of economic security to the people of our state. If we do not, we will create a pattern of inequality that will likely dominate our society for the entire century.

Can Disney Agree to Affordable Housing in Anaheim?

(Photo courtesy of OC Register; story cross-posted at The Liberal OC)

Oh my! Here’s some interesting news on the fight over affordable housing in Anaheim. The Register has a story on last night’s Anaheim City Council meeting, and of their latest decision to give Disney, Suncal, and the affordable housing advocates three weeks to work out a compromise.

Obviously, this leaves one HUGE question in my head. Can the two sides reach a compromise? Is there middle ground between affordable housing near Disneyland and giving Disney free reign to do as it pleases in the “resort district”?

Follow me after the flip for more…

Outside Anaheim City Hall, affordable housing activists staged a protest by pitching over 100 red-domed tents outside. They were doing this in an effort to  help people visualize the need for affordable housing for Orange County’s working poor. They used the tents to do a skit in which people were not allowed to pitch their red-domed tents in an area called “Disneyland”, and then they were forced away by “Disney Villains” from another area called “Nimby-land”. The people with the tents had nowhere to stop and put their tents down, just like how far too many working families in Orange County have nowhere to call home.

Inside city hall, an unusual sense of calm came upon council chambers. OK, so it was still kind of tense. However this time, the meeting went on fairly smoothly. And in the end, the Anaheim City Council voted 3-2 to give all sides in the dispute another 3 weeks to reach a compromise.

But how can a compromise be reached? Is there land available for affordable housing in other nearby areas? Is there an affordable housing proposal in Anaheim that Disney can support? Is there another proposal for the “resort district” that Suncal and the affordable housing advocates can support?

As we’ve discussed before, the working-class folks who make the entire “Anaheim Resort District” work are in dire need of homes that are within their reach and within their budget. However Disney just doesn’t want to see any housing within the “resort district”, as that may disturb their “third gate” plan for a possible third theme park and plenty of new timeshare properties to go with it. So can both sides agree to “third gate” AND affordable housing? Is there room for both in Anaheim?

I guess we’ll find out in these next three weeks.


Sometimes, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. A couple of days ago, I opened up OC Metro to discover a feature article about all the major coastal resorts banding together to “brand the waterfront” as the ultimate luxury destination. And of course while looking for the article, I had to see a full-page ad urging me to “wake up to the waves” and “rest to the setting of the sun” at “Brightwater in Huntington Beach“, the new luxury housing development that sits just west of the other luxury housing development that sits atop what’s supposed to be protected wetlands. But of course, all this OC coastal luxuriousness mustn’t end there. I soon find a big ad telling me of all the decadently luxurious scenery awaiting me at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach. No matter where I turn the page in OC Metro, I find all this fabulous luxury. Who would have known that I was living in the lap of luxury here in oh-so-fabulous Orange County?

But wait, does everyone really enjoy the “luxurious lifestyle” in The Land of the OC? Can we afford those new houses sitting dangerously close to protected wetlands? Can we even reach the beach amidst all this development? Can we afford to continue ignoring the dire need for affordable housing in the region? Oh yes, and what about the poor kids who want to go to the beach, but can’t thanks to OCTA’s refusal to meet the demands of bus drivers who themselves can hardly afford the high cost of living in Orange County?

Follow me after the flip to explore just how luxurious (or not) life really is…

So how good do we have it here? Well, it depends how much of this “good life” one can afford.

Yesterday, the Coastal Commission decided to not decide yet on the proposed Parkside development. Now Shea Homes has been illegally filling in wetlands in order to plop a bunch of multimillion dollar McMansions there. They claim that they need to build these McMansions in order to alleviate the dire need for housing in Orange County. But is this the type of housing that we really need?

Why must all the new housing be these super expensive developments that encroach upon our open space? Why not work on housing near the areas where we all work? Oh yes, and why not work on housing that most of us can actually afford? People aren’t really clamoring any more for McMansions that they can’t afford. They need something that they CAN afford. Even the Orange County Business Council realizes that if they want to attract new skilled workers to OC, they’ll need to show these workers where they can find a house within their budget. We may very well risk a terrible “brain drain” if we don’t do something to ensure that our workforce can actually afford to live here.

Disney doesn’t want any affordable housing encroaching upon its resort district in Anaheim. They’ll do anything, even throw an initiative to “save the resort district” on the ballot, in order to save their plans for some lovely new luxurious timeshare units. But wait, aren’t there already plans for future hotels in the area? And don’t all these people who work so hard to keep the magic going at Disneyland deserve a decent place to live that isn’t so far away from where they work? Must a place for these workers to call home be an unattainable luxury that’s always out of reach?

Oh yes, and speaking of out of reach… Why is it allowable that in addition to affordable housing must always be out of reach to us working people, we must also be unable to reach what’s supposed to be our open spaces? Just think about all the recent developments that have eaten up our beaches, our hills, and our wetlands. Much of the Dana Point Headlands will soon be filled with overpriced McMansions. Just across the street from Crystal Cove, the old backcountry is now filled with overpriced McMansions. And of course, the Bolsa Chica Wetlands may have some unwanted new neighbors getting a little too close to the wildlife.

But really, why must we be robbed of our housing and our open space? Why must all the housing be built on our open space, and why can’t we be able to live within our means? While there will always be mid-level managers who may have received enough of a salary increase to buy one of these McMansions along the coast, nothing’s being done to ensure that all the folks who will be policing the new McMansion neighborhoods and providing fire protection for these McMansions and educating the children residing in the McMansions and caring for the seniors residing in the McMansions will have a place to live. Oh yes, and have we even talked about the poor folks who will have to clean the McMansions and the people cooking for the people living in the McMansions? Where the heck do they go?

And what incentive do all these regular folks serving the needs of the people living in the big McMansions to live in such expensive places like Orange County? Why can’t we get to the beach? Oh yes, all the McMansions are getting in the way. Oh, and the people living in the McMansions would rather not see bus service in the area.

So is this all just a luxury that we really can’t afford? And is the luxurious lifestyle of a few shutting out the desires and necessities of the many residing here? I wonder sometimes.

Affordable housing and NIMBYism, a statewide problem

As I was strolling the newspapers of our fine state, I kept coming up on a theme of “affordable housing is great, but Not In My BackYard (NIMBY)”.  It’s something that we’ve addressed on these virtual pages, and it’s not to hard to find others talking about the subject.  But, how do we deal with NIMBYism?

So, take this one, from the Eureka Times-Standard:

A proposal by Danco Communities to build 56 affordable housing apartments on Moore Avenue has some neighbors rankled and ready to take their case to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors. (Eureka Times-Standard 7/2/07)

Or this one from the San Jose Merc:

Almost two weeks after Santa Clara leaders approved rezoning the city’s last 17 acres of farmland for housing, activists who want the land preserved as open space started walking around their neighborhoods collecting signatures for a referendum.

“People are tired and fed up with high-density housing and they want to do something about it,” said Brian Lowery, who spent about six hours collecting signatures this week.(San Jose Merc 7/2/07)

Kindly turn to the extended…

Of course, there are plenty more stories just like this in practically every city of mid-large size.  Housing activists want affordable housing, open space advocates want um…open space, and NIMBYs want pretty stuff in their neighborhood.  Satisfying everybody become nearly impossible to accomplish.

But clearly some of this work must be accomplished. We cannot continue to keep driving people further and further away from where they work. Gas prices aren’t getting any cheaper (nor should we really want them to be if we value our environment), but yet nobody wants that high-rise in their neighborhood.  But, at some level we all acknowledge this might happen.  Somehow people need to suck it up and figure out how we can set up a more efficient process to get affordable housing in all of California’s cities.

Listen to the Workers, They Need Affordable Housing

Cynthia Carranco, 16, must do her homework on the seats of dining room chairs because there is no other place to write in the three-bedroom house shared by nine people.

She knows her situation is not unique: A friend sleeps in a walk-in closet, and others also live in crowded conditions.

“Sometimes it’s hard being a teenager and not having any privacy,” said Carranco, an Anaheim High School student.

(From OC Register)

Cynthia Carranco was one of the speakers at last night’s forum on affordable housing in Anaheim. She and the other speakers spoke of their dire need for affordable housing. Yes, there’s the controversial push for affordable housing in the “Anaheim Resort” district. You know, the one where Disney is putting up an initiative to “save the resort district”. However, there are other battles being fought here as well. Of the 8,700 new homes going up in Anaheim’s Platinum Triangle “luxury urban high-rise” development, NONE of them will be available for the lower-income workers who already have jobs in the area. There’s a dire need for affordable housing, but that need is just being ignored.

But you know what? It’s not just Anaheim. It’s the entire Southern California region that’s facing this crisis of affordable housing. And what are they doing about it? Follow me after the flip for more…

“My prayer is that you guys think of my daughter when you consider whether to put affordable housing in the Platinum Triangle or anywhere else in the city,” said speaker Maria Mejia, who shares a mobile-home room with her husband and daughter.

Are we even thinking of Maria and her daughter? Are we thinking of Maria’s neighbors at that mobile home park? Do we think of them when they clean our hotel rooms? Do we think of them when they pick up our trash at Disneyland? Do we think of them when clean our plates after we leave the restaurant?

We should. After all, it’s getting harder to keep people filling these jobs, as they can’t afford to live anywhere in the area. Heck, it’s even getting difficult for employers to retain white-collar workers, as even they can’t afford housing in such expensive places as Orange County! Just what are we thinking?

And are we even listening?

[Anaheim] Councilwoman Lorri Galloway was the sole City Council member to attend the forum, put on by Orange County Community Congregation Community Organization, a coalition of faith-based groups. […]

The group asked Galloway to commit to supporting affordable housing as part of Platinum Triangle plans, which she agreed to do.

“It’s not the big developers they should be listening to. They should be listening to you.” Galloway said to the crowd.

We really should be listening to these workers. They are facing a huge financial burden. And as they suffer this burden, so does the entire economy in Southern California. Workers can’t afford to live here, and they can’t afford to shop here. And they can only afford to work here for so long, before that high cost of filling the gas tank finally catches up with them. And if companies start to lose their employees, they can no longer afford to do business here. If we can’t listen to these workers, then we’re not listening to the needs of the local economy.

But are we doing that? Anaheim so far is not.

Statistics were projected on the church hall wall, such as the city’s approval about 11,000 homes for higher-income families, but just hundreds for low-income families since 1998.

Developers don’t want affordable housing at the Platinum Triangle. Disney and the hotels don’t want affordable housing in the “resort district” around Disneyland. So where the heck is affordable housing “permissible”? Where can the workers live? And how long can they keep working here so long as there’s nowhere in the entire area where they can afford to live?

Why can’t Disney and the hotels and the developers and the Chamber of Commerce types realize that affordable housing for their workers is in their long-term best economic interest? Just how long do they think they can retain their workers if the workers can’t live anywhere? Just how long do they think they can can get away with avoiding these long-term crises?

The benefits of affordable housing in the area far outweigh the costs. Employers can keep their employees. Employees can keep shopping at local stores. The city can keep these workers as taxpaying residents. More money is kept in the local economy. Everyone really does benefit in the end.

It’s too bad that this problem is playing out in Anaheim. But you know what? It’s not just Anaheim. It’s Santa Ana. It’s Irvine. It’s Los Angeles. It’s Riverside and San Bernardino (yes, even parts of the Inland Empire are starting to lose their “affordable” edge!). Southern California desperately needs affordable housing. But so far, all our “elected officials and business leaders” want to do is talk about building more “luxury housing” in areas that are already over saturated with “luxury housing”.

Well, guess what? We already have plenty of “luxury housing”! What we need is affordable housing for low and middle-class workers! When will we start listening to them, and to their needs?

Laguna Beach: A Rather Exquisite Economy of the Arts

“This is the first time we could quantify what the arts means to Laguna Beach,” said Nancy Beverage, chairwoman of the city’s Arts Commission. “It’s important so we don’t kill the goose that laid the egg.”

And what a mighty goose this is. The OC Register is reporting today that Laguna Beach leads the nation in money spent on the arts. People from across the nation and around the world come to Laguna Beach to enjoy the artistic spirit here. And nearly $55 million was pumped into Laguna Beach’s economy in 2005, thanks to its art scene. Art truly is the economic lifeblood of Laguna Beach.

So just how important is art in Laguna Beach? How is the art shaping the local economy? How is it shaping the city?

Follow me after the flip for more…

Laguna Beach has a long history of artistic creativity. Ever since Norman St. Claire first abandoned the San Francisco fog to document Laguna’s natural beauty on canvass in 1903, art has shaped and molded the community in Laguna Beach. In 1918, the town’s first gallery opened (now the Laguna Art Museum). When Laguna Beach became the first community in South Orange County to incorporate as a city in 1927, it did so as an artists’ colony that was already becoming world-renowned.

And in 1932, out of the economic disaster of the Great Depression, the Festival of Arts emerged. The artists in town were just looking for a way to capitalize off the Olympic games in nearby Los Angeles. Instead they started a great tradition, and a real cash cow for the now booming arts colony.

But in the 1960s, a group of hippie artists were getting frustrated with all the rigid tradition and conservative conformity of the Festival of Arts. In 1966, the young artists staged a revolt against the local art extablishment and their jury system that excluded so many talented local artists. They began their own art festival out of protest, and out of this protest the Sawdust Festival was born. And now, this is one of the top five art festivals in the nation.

Clearly, Laguna knows how to capitalize off its art. And the tradition goes on today. From The OC Register:

Today, the 9-square-mile city with about 7 miles of coastline has about 90 art galleries […]

The findings of the study will help provide the city and its residents with a substantial way to measure the value of Laguna Beach’s artistic community, said John Hoover, member of the board of directors for the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts.

According to the report, “Arts and Economic Prosperity III,” art-related spending in Laguna Beach contributes about $2.7 million in tax revenue to the state and about $2.4 million to the city.

In Laguna Beach, a person attending an artistic event spends an average of $55.41, according to the report. That is about twice the national average of $27.79 spent per person.

Most of the money spent in Laguna Beach pays for meals, lodging and souvenirs, the study said.

Wow, so the tradition continues. Laguna Beach has now made its art into a tourist magnet. Laguna is the ultimate destination for people who enjoy some aesthetic pleasure with their travel. But is all this commercial success killing the artistic spirit?

Is the artistic spirit dying in the midst of all the wealth, all the excess, and all the episodes of that MTV reality show? Is Laguna Beach starting to act too much like its snooty sister next door? Maybe Laguna has become too prosperous for its creative well-being?

No wonder why even the Chamber of Commerce President has called for more affordable housing for local artists and their galleries:

As the Laguna continues to grow and tourism thrives, the city must preserve its artistic community, [Mayor Toni] Iseman said.

As housing costs rise, the city should consider providing affordable housing to artists, some of whom are being priced out, said Dave Sanford, president of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce. Galleries also need affordable space.

“When the city decides where to invest money, they need to consider this,” Sanford said.

Yes, perhaps Laguna beach should ensure that the artists are not priced out of the arts colony. Perhaps as the city considers new development downtown, the city should ensure that these artists’ lofts are spaces that young local artists can actually afford. Laguna has been so wise in making a living off its art. The colony certainly cannot afford to ultimately allow past success to choke future artistic endeavors.

After all if the art is gone, then ultimately the economy is dead. And more importantly, the creative spirit dies as the art leaves. Laguna’s history of artistic passion and astounding success is just too precious to be lost forever.

Developing for the Better in Anaheim?

Look at what I found in this morning’s OC Register. This looks interesting:

A new coalition of unions, faith-based groups and community organizations is pressuring developers to build low-cost homes and pay sufficient wages at a proposed complex next to Angel Stadium.

Three developers are competing for a contract to build offices, shops and homes on a 51.4-acre, city-owned plot, which the National Football League has considered for a stadium. On Tuesday, the City Council will discuss the proposals in a closed meeting and may narrow the field of competitors.

The new Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development, or OCCORD, is trying to persuade developers to commit to certain standards before the city awards a contract. The city’s lease with the Angels forbids homes on the land now, but developers are talking to the Angels.

OK, so these folks are trying to convince developers to just do what’s right for the community? How the heck does that work? Well, follow me after the flip for more on this interesting development…

So how well is it working? Pretty well, actually. Already, one developer is listening.

At least one developer is interested in making a pact with the coalition.

“We have a lot in common with the majority of their goals,” said Eric Heffner, a principal at Windstar Communities. “Our development site is trying to meet all the needs of the community.”

And why does this matter? Perhaps because there isn’t much affordable housing left in Orange County. Perhaps because there are so many folks out there who desperately need a place to live down here.

One OCCORD member, St. Boniface Catholic Church, is pushing on its own for affordable housing on the land by Angel Stadium, first by meeting with individual council members.

Some parishioners have trouble paying for homes, doubling up in apartments or moving to the Inland Empire, said the Rev. Tim Freyer, lead pastor. The stadium property is in the Platinum Triangle, where none of the 8,292 planned homes is set to meet affordable-housing guidelines.

“There’s an opportunity I think we should take advantage of,” said Freddy Hernandez, a St. Boniface member.

So if OCCORD can pull it off and get the developers to agree to good labor and environmental standards, I say more power to them. And if they can get these developers to agree to include affordable housing in their plans, then we’re one step closer to solving this housing crisis. After all, this is something that we can no longer afford to ignore. There really is hardly any affordable housing left in Southern California. That’s why we so need groups like OCCORD to push these developers to think beyond short-term profits.

Perhaps in the near term, we’ll be OK just building more luxury condos and exorbitant McMansions while ignoring all the poor and middle-class people who can’t find a place to live. However, this isn’t good for the long term. We need good, livable communities. We need communities with safe streets, and parks for kids to play. We need sustainable communities with services withing walking distance, and mass transit readily available to take folks farther distances. However, no good long-term plan for healthy communities is complete without a plan to ensure that people can actually afford to live in these communities. What good are the streets and parks and services and high-speed trains if no one can even really afford to live near these?

That’s why we need to think in the long term. That’s why we need for affordable housing. And that’s why I hope OCCORD can succeed in getting developers to do what’s best for everyone in the community. : )