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97% of California Cities Failed to Meet State Housing Goals (thebaycitybeacon.com)
177 points by apsec112 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 180 comments

I've been attempting to get building permits for a small personal residence in a So Cal coastal town for nearly 3 years. The experience dealing with the city has felt very adversarial. The sense I have is that the city and most neighbors don't want new construction, and in that spirit put up as many roadblocks, opposition and red tape as possible to slow you down, and in many cases stop you through attrition. I've seen many try for years and give up including one project that has been ongoing for over 10 years.

The first major hurdle is obtaining approval from a Design Review Board consisting of 5 elected board members who subjectively determine if the project is "neighborhood compatible". Even while complying with all zoning requirement for setbacks, building height and envelope, lot coverage, environmental impact, etc, and not requesting any variances, most projects stall here, some for years. The board convenes monthly and invites public participation and comments, and if there is opposition either from board members, or neighbors, you're in a very long and arduous process in getting approval. Common complaints are mass and scale, incompatible architecture, view blockage, noise pollution, excessive glazing, color choices, and the list goes on.

When/if you get through design review, you're then off to coastal commission and building and safety for more review and approvals, and eventually building permits if you make it through it all. The entire process will take many years, and potentially 10s or 100s of thousands in expenses before you even break ground. This is for a single residence - I can only imagine the hurdles and expense for a multi-unit project. So I understand and agree with the state attempting to legislate a reduction on the restrictions and roadblocks that local municipalities impose on residential construction.

have you heard of the housing accountability act? The law was strengthened last year to protect you from having your project denied for arbitrary reasons. I'd reach out to CaRLA (california renters legal advocacy fund, http://www.carlaef.org/), and/or victoria fierce on twitter

We haven't been denied yet - we've been taking the friendly approach - meeting with board members, neighbors and attempting to address concerns before our hearing. CaRLA looks like a great resource if we were denied after all of this effort. We're attempting to build a small home and accessory apartment which will contribute in a small way to the supply of lower cost rentals which are scarce.

hello, victoria fierce here. CaRLA is collecting data on small projects like this so we know what parts of the state are friendlier to small homebuilders and not. If you've got a few minutes, can you submit your project here?


we'd be happy to look over it and track your city council's actions on this as it moves along.

in particular, it sounds like your project is zoning compliant and follows all the objective standards. at this point there is pretty much no legal reason for the city to hold up your project in design review or even deny it for arbitrary things like "too much glazing" unless they've already sent you a letter explaining--with quantifiable numbers--how much glazing is "too much".

Thanks for responding here. I'll submit our project soon. We're hoping to have plans submitted and scheduled for the first hearing soon. We met 1:1 with 2 board members last year to solicit feedback, and we've made extensive changes already based on their input.

One point of contention has been ADU parking. SB1069 65852.2 states that ADU parking should be waived if the unit resides within 1/2 mile of public transit which our unit will. However, city staff made the decision that because the city's public transit is subject to seasonal schedule and occasional route changes, they will not allow it to be considered for ADU parking waivers. Instead, only the county (OCTA) route will be considered which services PCH only and is well outside of the 1/2 mile range for most of the city. I find this to be a very convenient way to get around this requirement, which effectively eliminates many potential ADUs due to the unfeasibility of onsite parking - e.g.


Oh dang, yeah, ADUs! We're actually launching a new ADU department this year dedicated to ADU law. This is extremely relevant to our interests! :]

Thats an odd determination for staff to make. I've not heard of that trick before but I'll certainly look into it!

If local public transit is seasonal, should it not be considered then? That seems reasonable to me.

You could carefully review your local ordinances, if your allowed to make "improvements" to your house. You could theoretically tear down an entire house with the exception of a single internal wall. Then build you to your desire what you wish around this existing wall. Once enclosed, repair or accidentally knock over said wall and continue building. It's not as nice a starting fresh but it gets around a lot of the stifling that happens in regards to building new buildings.

If your just making improvements there is a lot more freedom in refurbishing and most code enforcement municipalities just drive by to check on your work. Your most likely not going to run into trouble.

Let me end with, this was done in another state, not by a lawyer, just some random guy on the internet.

This is very common in California because under this scenario your house is not reassessed for prop 13 property tax purposes. Your cost basis only goes up by the dollar value of the improvements (which you can easily understate). If you do a complete teardown, the county reassesses at current market value. A lot of people leave the chimney up because you get the added benefit of getting grandfathered on the air quality ordinances.

Remodeling down to the studs is what many people do, but we have an empty lot.

This only works if you're in a nice neighborhood or well connected. If you're in a part of town that "the powers that be" see as a stain on the rest of the town it usually doesn't work out.

excessive glazing

Wait – neighbors complain about a (potential) new home because it is designed with too many windows?

Yes citing reflection of the sun off the glass, light pollution, privacy and inefficiencies for heating/cooling the home.

It's almost like they've never heard of orientation, shading, or SHGCs.

Privacy?! How does that affect the neighbors? Or is it related to future "property value" and its influence on the whole neighborhood?

I would encourage folks to apply for these boards (look for "Planning Commission" on your city website). They are appointed commissions usually looking for volunteers. I applied. I think it's the best way to change things.

California always amazes with its goals, decade after decade of leadership among the states. Building is promoted to improve affordability. Building is discouraged to preserve the environment and maintain a local culture. Building is promoted to provide new transportation options. Building is discouraged to reduce congestion, contain sprawl. Building and not building at the same time helps California maintain its unique logical and psychological balance.

It’s as though California is a giant state with a diverse population, both politically and geographically, with lots of competing interests that, over time, has gone through various political and leadership changes that reflect that diversity.

Apparently not, because 97% of the NIMBYs are winning.

The instant you sign a mortgage it becomes in your economic best interest to limit the supply of housing.

Housing cannot simultaneously be affordable and a good investment.

Homeowners on average tend to be more politically engaged, so homeowners dominate state and local politics. As for why every prosperous state doesn't have this problem as badly as California you can add prop 13 which hugely limited property tax increases for existing homeowners. This eliminated one of the major checks on real estate hyperinflation. You can further add the fact that the San Francisco Bay Area (the region with the highest prices by far) is geographically constrained and the fact that earthquake risk imposes additional site preparation and construction costs.

It's really a perfect storm for real estate price insanity, specially in the Bay Area. It's less insane in SoCal but still pretty high, especially when compared to median income in LA County and San Diego. SoCal is less geographically constrained.

I don't really get this mentality. Yes, its good to have your home go up in value, but when you sell, are you moving to South Dakota? If not, then the houses your hoping to move into have ALSO gone up in value. The difference being that nobody can afford 'starter homes' at the low end, so people have a harder time selling them, and moving up to a nicer house.

In the Bay Area, they sell and move to Oregon, driving up our prices. And because they're retired, don't have kids in schools or anything, they mostly vote against taxes.

There are also plenty of entrepreneurs and hackers and so on who move up here, so that balances things out to some degree. Still, though, California's NIMBYism has repercussions throughout the entire west coast.

I call that social pollution. It's no different than a resource boom decimating a landscape then moving on and leaving the place in a really bad situation.

It's almost as though people don't realize that lots of small things (like local zoning for example) add up to all the big differences that made the place so attractive that they moved there.

Specifically with regards to a bunch of retirees moving in, I'd take that over young couples any day of the week. People raising family will have much more impact than people who just want to enjoy retirement.

A lot of people view their home as part of their retirement plan. Buy house, raise kids, retire and sell house. Buy new house outside of work center. House prices in places like Redding CA are in the 200K range. Same house in the bay area is around 1million.

What advantage does that offer compared to just having cheaper housing and putting the difference in other investments?

To me it certainly seems worse than other retirement approaches. You are forced into making a single asset a huge percentage of your net worth, which utterly destroys your diversification. Real estate is also notoriously illiquid, so if something forces you out of the area, you could take an enormous loss.

If someone proposed another retirement investment strategy with these characteristics that didn't involve your home, people would say, "I'll pass... that sounds like a really bad deal."

Other investments aren't as reliable and secure as real estate.

I think the calculations here can get a bit complex, and you don't often see the full argument made.

Let's say you buy a house at price 100, and the market doubles bringing the price up to 200. If you then sell and move into a house that was 120 and is now 240, then you've got to find 40 extra for the upgrade instead of the 20 extra you would have paid absent the price change.

That might hurt in the short-term, but in absolute terms your asset is worth a lot more, so you're winning. And depending on how much of your mortgage is paid off, you could be ahead in the short-term too; if you have paid down 25, when you sell you get 50 back to put into your new mortgage, and that more than covers the increase in cost of the upgrade (you got 25 profit from the market movement, and had to pay 20 extra for your upgrade, so you're up 5).

Not to mention that if you don't decide to move house, the nest egg that you're leaving to your kids (or sitting on until you downsize later in life) just doubled in value.

As you can probably see it would be easy to construct a set of parameters where the short-term price change hurts you (e.g. you're moving before paying down much of your principal), but property owners tend to be optimizing for the long-term gains.

> Yes, its good to have your home go up in value, but when you sell, are you moving to South Dakota?

Yes, lots of people plan to sell and move to a less expensive locale in retirement. Often, people who came to expensive places for good jobs but not because they had any particular desire to live in that place plan to return to where they came from in retirement. I've known lots of people from the Midwest working in CA where this is their plan.

> The instant you sign a mortgage it becomes in your economic best interest to limit the supply of housing.

Not always. Being able to flip a single family to a developer who is going to build multifamily is often the best return on your investment. The more confidence the developer has that their proposed building will be approved, the higher the price you can get for your lot.

In doing this, you are no longer an owner, thus no longer have a vested interest in limiting housing.

You profit from this, but at the expense of your neighbors. Imagine the opposite scenario where all over your neighbors do this, but you're the single hold out. Would your home be worth more, less, or the same with twice (or more) the number of people living on the block? Obviously, we don't really know, but the holdout is likely fearful that their property value would go down dramatically.

You can see why people who have $1,000,000 mortgages don't want to see the value of their house fall to reasonable levels, because they'd be the ones taking the six-figure bath.

Your house is worth what people are willing to pay for it. Developers are willing to pay a lot for it since a multifamily building can yield a lot more rent revenue than a single family house. The house is probably worth more in this scenario.

> Imagine the opposite scenario where all over your neighbors do this, but you're the single hold out. Would your home be worth more, less, or the same with twice (or more) the number of people living on the block?

As a single family house its value would be less. But since all your neighbours already flipped their home for a developer building multifamily buildings, you surely can do the same, and as land to build an apartment building, your property probably is more valuable than it ever could have been as a single family home.

The holdout’s subjective experience might be ruined, but their land value would skyrocket.

> The instant you sign a mortgage it becomes in your economic best interest to limit the supply of housing.

Not if you own the underlying land, or at least a portion thereof, and willing to build higher and denser and rent it out. For example, if I own a 1 story house, NIMBYism prevents me from building another story and renting it out as a separate unit for extra income. NIMBYism raises the value of my current property but lowers its potential value.

> The instant you sign a mortgage it becomes in your economic best interest to limit the supply of housing.

In the long-run you want economic development to happen though.

You can be a homeowner and also not be a misanthrope at the same time. The min/max attitude of tech workers has always disgusted me in his regard.

Edit: I don’t retract my statement, but at the time of posting this my parent comment only contained the first paragraph. I agree with most points brought up

Averages matter a lot. You can be magnanimous but it doesn't take that many greedy bastards to have an effect.

I also think closet classism/racism plays into it. California has a liberal facade but there's a lot of "we don't want those kinds of people" in our neighborhood sentiment below the surface. Making sure housing is unaffordable for minorities and the poor is a great passive-aggressive way to implement segregation without having to admit it.

The poor would never be able to afford food at the Gelson’s in those areas.

The state is diverse, but perhaps typically the people with serious power are far less diverse. There are many voices, but only a subset get to be heard in a way that matters.

Superficially, this may be the case, but when it comes to land use, entrenched interests tend to win - and those interests are the current homeowners who block new growth.

In short, it's a lot easier to not do something than to do it and in an environment of diverse, competing interest, the easiest route is the likely winner.

That's not an excuse. CA is anything but politically diverse.

The people of LA, SF and surrounding cities have done a very thorough job of consolidating power and marginalizing everyone else.

The source of your problems is in the mirror.

To think in terms of a false dichotomy like building/not-building just reduces a very complex policy area down to something so oversimplified as to be meaningless. It’s like asking, “technology good or bad?” Not very useful.

It is an example of Doublethink [1].

"Doublethink is the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct, often in distinct social contexts.."

I believe this site is also full of that all the time. From metered usage of all resources but internet, doctors vs bankers pay and so on.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doublethink

Doublethink is when an individual holds mutually contradictory views. There are 40 million people in California.

Then what's it called when two counteracting policies produce outcomes that are strictly worse than no policy at all?


Corruption. Dysfunction.

Is it not more accurately a fight against sprawl and call to increase density in city cores?

Progress is messy.

Oh, you mean building with discretion.

I think everyone's realizing that the solution to various housing crisis is to build more homes for all income levels. Artificially manipulating prices via rent control mechanisms; or only building homes for a specific income level doesn't work.

Markets don’t restrict themselves based on the income level of buyers. As long as there are more people who want to come to California than there are houses, all house prices will increase. You can build a cheap home, but unless you means test buyers, it could be purchased by Bill Gates and rented out for twice the mortgage rate.

The number of people waiting to move to California at current price points (or even substantially lower ones is not limitless.

That's why you build more houses. The more you build, the less contention for housing at whatever quality level.

If they're realizing it, local governments are still not acting on it

- Brisbane still does not want to build any housing at the Baylands, just south of SF. Developer wants to build 4400 new housing units.

- The Central SOMA Plan (in SF) as written would add 50,000 new jobs and only 7500 new housing units.

- San Mateo blocked new housing just last week: https://www.smdailyjournal.com/news/local/council-denies-con...

- Local governments in Marin County and Beverly Hills are lobbying against SB 827, which would upzone large swaths of land near public transit.

"I think everyone's realizing that the solution to various housing crisis is to build more homes for all income levels."

Of course this is correct. However, it is also correct that many, many of these are badly mischaracterized as "crises".

It is not a crisis that you cannot afford to live in Aspen.

It is not a crisis that you cannot afford an apartment in the very specific neighborhood in the very specific borough of New York City that you prefer.

It is not a crisis that you cannot afford to buy a house, with a yard, in Marin County.

Is it a crisis if I can't afford anything within an hour and a half commute of my job?

If that’s a sacrifice you are unwilling to make and you can’t find work elsewhere, maybe

> It is not a crisis that you cannot afford to live in Aspen

It is a crisis if you work in Aspen and can not afford to live in Aspen.

> It is not a crisis that you cannot afford an apartment in the very specific neighborhood in the very specific borough of New York City that you prefer.

It is a crisis to work in NYC and are not be able to afford to live in NYC, which is real situation that actually exists for many people today.

I understand there are a tiny few percent of people who's issues are 'badly mischaracterized as crises'. But the vast majority of the crisis is correctly characterized. We have a major urban housing problem. We should not dismiss it with a "let them eat cake" attitude.

"It is a crisis if you work ..."

No, it's not. It's very inconvenient, certainly. Further, it is completely incompatible with many very fashionable life scripts.

However it is trivially solved in any number of different ways (relocation, downsizing, commuting, etc.) and is therefore not a crisis.

A starter home in a downscale neighborhood and a second job were, at one time, life scripts that were enthusiastically embraced as the necessary rungs on the ladder into the middle class. It is hard to believe that a generation later these actions are "unthinkable" and evidence of a "crisis".

Nobody owes you living in Aspen.

Luxury ski resort cities aside, there are cities where a teacher at a public school downtown, who is a civil servant serving the community, cannot live in the very community they serve. That is problematic. It is not particularly healthy to have major service workers forced out of the communities they serve.

Your ignorance within the space shows with some of your suggested 'solutions.' You do realize some people are too poor to move, right? You do realize some cities were designed around cars and lack decent public transit, right? And downsizing? The people who are affected by housing crises spend their months in shelters and being evicted from apartments.

Your lack of care for fellow members of your community aside, you could at least recommend equally outlandish solutions that align more with your view of the people affected like, 'just give the serfs a shack and stop the whining.'

"Your ignorance within the space shows with some of your suggested 'solutions.'"

When I was growing up in a poor, semi-rural community in Colorado, my father drove a four hour round-trip every day to his job in Denver. I know of other people in my peer generation (late generation x) whose parents made similar decisions and sacrifices (second jobs, starter homes, relocation) that are now considered unthinkable and evidence of a crisis.

I reject that line of thought.

And I agree that for your father, while it was a sacrifice, it was not a crises. However, it is more than a major inconvenience if one 1) does not own a car, 2) was born within the city of discussion, 3) has literally no free time or free capital to spend 'finding a better job in a better COL area.'

I agree two software engineers in the bay area who want to raise their child in a single family home in the peninsula, but can't shell out the millions necessary to do so don't quite fit the bill for those affected by a housing crises. In fact, that scenario allows for all of the solutions suggested above (relocate, commute, etc).

The crises is that in a large number of American cities poor and minority populations were left in the urban core while wealthier families moved out into the suburbs. Several generations later, wealthy families now want to flight back to the urban cores, while plenty still occupy the suburbs. This leaves almost no area for the poor people to go. That sounds like a crises to me - and I am thankful I never have to be personally afflicted by it, but I do no good whatsoever making absolutist claims about how poor people just need to work harder. You are being ignorant of the single mother of two raising her children, the father isn't paying child support, and 80% of her ~$700 income (all welfare) goes to rent - and pretending these highly complex, largely ignored cases are not massively present in those afflicted by poverty, that is wrong. The above scenario is not an exception, but largely par-the-course.

What solutions do you have for her?

it is a crisis that cities like Cupertino are building office space for 12k workers, but not building housing for them.

It is a crisis that the bay area has created office space for 8 new jobs for every 1 new unit of housing built.

Yes, and these highly paid employees displace lower-income people. It's not low-income housing that's needed; it's new housing for highly-paid employees so they don't outbid low-income people.

It is actually a crisis in Aspen. The City Council had to buy land to build housing for teachers, after realizing that high housing costs were hurting teacher recruitment. "The board's approval comes when it is looking for more ways to house teachers and staff in an area known for its exorbitant living costs. "


Ignoring 'crisis', not being able to 'afford' to live in many – most – 'attractive' places is a widespread systemic problem due to concentrated political power that significantly limits the supply of housing in 'attractive' places.

Or artificially limiting supply by doing things like limiting apartment/condo buildings to 4 stories tall...

More housing needs to be built. Even if it mostly for high income people, since high income people will always beat lower income people.

I disagree. The housing crisis is caused by economic inequality concentrating capital to a handful of cities. Housing costs rise because that's where the money/power/jobs are. Instead of slapping a bandaid on it by increasing housing(which would just lead to further capital concentration and political polarization), we need to address capital concentration.

edit: To those downvoting me, can you please explain why? Was something that I said inaccurate?

You're being downvoted because your comment doesn't make any sense. To elaborate:

> The housing crisis is caused by economic inequality concentrating capital to a handful of cities

This is a pretty bizarre claim, since by definition a city's housing crisis is a local affair, so what does it have to do with capital being concentrated in a 'handful' of cities? But assuming your claim is that wealth in a city ---> housing shortage, then you need to explain how you make that connection.

> Housing costs rise because that's where the money/power/jobs are

What does this mean? If you mean that you need money to build housing, then shouldn't capital concentration to a city mean more housing? If you mean that wealthy or powerful people benefit from less housing, show your work. If you're trying to demonstrate the above connection between wealth and housing shortage, there are a plethora of cities with high wealth and no housing shortages (Singapore, Chicago, Budapest, Seoul...)

Also, aren't housing costs driven by the same forces that drive the cost of anything else? Namely, supply and demand?

> Instead of slapping a bandaid on it by increasing housing

If the definition of the housing crisis is 'not enough housing for the people who need homes' then why would "increasing housing" - the literal solution to the crisis - be considered slapping on a bandaid?

> which would just lead to further capital concentration and political polarization

Again, this makes no sense. If more houses means more wealth concentration, then shouldn't the wealthy want to build more houses? But in your previous comment, you made it sound like the wealthy don't want to build more houses.

> we need to address capital concentration

This is a altogether different point that you are welcome to argue on your own time but it really has nothing to do with housing shortages unless you want to expound upon the above a little more clearly.

The amount of money a household can spend on a mortgage increases drastically as income increases. Because, for the most part, the costs of raising a family doesn't have to increase in proportion to income.

What this means is that a family making $100k/yr can spend dramatically more than one making $50k/yr, and making $200k can spend more on housing their the other two families make in a year.

In most cities, this plays out by having islands of expensive neighborhoods in desirable areas. And housing decreases proportional to desirability as you get out. The problem in some cities in California is that there are so many extremely wealthy families, that the island of desirability has become so large that there are no affordable housing anywhere close to where the good jobs are, so lower income people are forced to commute for longer and longer.

Most other cities do not have the same numbers of extremely wealthy people. But in every city where a large number of disproportionately wealthy people move in, a housing crisis seems to follow.

It used to be, living closer to the city meant a compromise in some other area. Maybe you lived in an apartment and took the bus everywhere because you couldn't afford to have a house and a car in the neighborhood you want to be in. But now, people can afford to have a single family home with a garage in areas that really should be limited to large apartments.

I most definitely agree with your last paragraph. Living in the urban core of a city should entail complete reliance on taxis, public transit, mopeds, and bicycles. Those in my city who are living downtown, yet willing and able to shell out $300+/month in parking fees shows there is room for more housing instead of parking spots.

Capital concentration is the whole point of cities. The only economically equal and balanced settlement pattern is everyone getting a small farm.

The problem we’re trying to solve here is that people are artificially denied access to the (jobs, infrastructure, culture) benefits of concentrated capital.

If you think we shouldn’t have cities, that’s one thing. If you think they should be reserved exclusively for the people who already live in them, that’s quite another, and you’re simply creating a new form of structural inequality based on birthplace (even within the US).

Yes. So, you are saying there is a big demand for housing in the city close to jobs? True dat.

Econ 101 tells us the way to meet that demand without increasing prices is to increase supply. That part hasn’t been done. No amount of “housing denial” and rent control will change it.

The reason you are downvoted, is because there's one part you're extremely wrong about: Increasing housing is not a "band aid". It's the lack of supply of housing which is the ENTIRE cause of the housing crisis. Any solution to the housing crisis MUST in some way increase the housing supply, or at least decrease housing demand (say by getting rid of jobs).

Even without lots of rich people/capital concentration, you would still have the same problem (housing prices wouldn't be as high), but the percentage of people able to afford a house would remain the same.

Supply/Demand is the problem -> Supply is not allowed to increase to meet demand and at the same time we're encouraging all kinds of demand by increasing the number of companies and jobs in CA. It's like playing musical chairs with 1000 people and only 5 chairs. No matter how you split up those chairs, there's gonna be a lot of unhappy people.

I guess you're a big fan of China's city planning then.

I don't know a thing about China's city planning. How is it relevant to the conversation?

There's no well-known city planning being done in Venezuela, so there was a reversion to more traditional enemies.

My experience in driving through California's interior doesn't jibe with that headline. When I stop for lunch or a break I like to check out the local real estate scene and its often the case in these cities that there are many houses and other living accommodations available at modest prices. Hard to imagine a city like Mojave not meeting it "goal". Of course if you limit yourself to cities of 1 millions residents or more, well I could see that they were having challenges.

As other people have pointed out, if California wants to lead then the state should be something to admire. And being 42nd out of 50 on K-12 education and highest poverty rate, aren't good things to lead with. Lots of opportunities to improve.

> My experience in driving through California's interior doesn't jibe with that headline.

So, how does driving through the interior with apparently zero knowledge of what the relevant goals are do anything to inform you of whether cities are meeting them.

> When I stop for lunch or a break I like to check out the local real estate scene and its often the case in these cities that there are many houses and other living accommodations available at modest prices.

Modest for you, perhaps. Modest for the incomes in the area? Probsbly less so. In any case, does this tell you anything about whether they are meeting the needs assessments that look at availability in multiple levels? Probably not.

> Hard to imagine a city like Mojave not meeting it "goal".

Mojave is a “census-designated place” in unincorporated Kern County; it not a city or other jurisdiction of its own subject to the targets; Kern County is (the headline about cities is wrong, jurisdictions subject to the targets include both cities and counties, the latter for their unincorporated areas.)

Kern County is among those not meeting targets, though only in the Above Moderate income Regional Housing Needs Assessment, not the Low or Very Low income assessments.

So, a couple of questions:

1. What do you consider modest prices?

2. What exactly do you do to check out the local real estate scene?

Because I recently left California to get off the street after moving around California a bit in search of affordable living and doing like 3 years of research, and my point of view and yours are so not on the same page, they aren't even in the same book.

Both fair questions.

Modest is $150K to $200K for a home. I get there this way; At a salary of $48,000 / year (take home $38,753) and allocating a bit less than a third of the take home to paying the mortgage that is about $1K/month or, at current interest rates a $150K - $200K house. $48K/year is about 60% of the median salary in California.

As far as checking out the scene I look at things like how many days on the market for properties that are for sale, infrastructure (markets, transportation, nominal weather, services, crime statistics, Etc) all the kinds of things that I normally would check if I were moving there.

Thank you.

My experience has been that people who are more comfortably well off than I am are not really looking very closely at the details of homes when they survey the lower end homes. I have had conversations with people who claim there is tons of affordable housing and they pull up some low priced listing in Detroit, a city in such a state of crisis that a woman created a non profit to pay water bills there. I have looked at listings in Detroit. The dirt cheap listings I looked at while homeless were mostly a case of "Oh, god, no! I would rather keep sleeping in a tent!" I am talking about burned out husks or houses that had been flooded and now had horrifying mold problems.

Things I was looking for in a house as someone in genuine need of affordable housing:

In walking distance of basics like a grocery store or, at minimum, able to get to such cheaply and efficiently via public transit.

I want something at $100k or less that can qualify for financing. When you look at a lot of super cheap housing, it is cash only and has defects that disqualify it from any kind of bank financing. I have seen houses listed that explicitly said "No foundation. Will not qualify for financing."

A single family detached house that is not a trailer where the price includes both house and land. When buying a trailer you are frequently buying only the trailer, not the land it sits on, and it is located in a trailer court where you have additional rental fees for being on that land on top of the purchase price of the trailer.

I want a modest home in decent shape. I don't mind a fixer, but a lot of cheap housing in the US has major defects that will cost serious money to remedy. It is a sucker's deal. You should not buy a house like that because budget matters. You buy a house like that because it has amazing views or historic significance or something and you have deep pockets. Poor people buying that kind of house are getting stiffed.

I basically want the kind of house I grew up in, something that affords one a lower middle class life with security and financial stability and a future. And it is extremely challenging to find that anywhere in the US. I concluded it does not exist in California. A lot of lower end housing is trailers and condos and stuff being sold as a tear down because it survived a fire.

So the next time you survey local real estate, maybe consider looking a little more closely at the details. Because your opinion that this is not really a problem in California flies in the face of countless articles about the affordable housing crisis in the state that routinely make the front page of HN. There is lots of homelessness there and people getting roommates to be able to afford a place at all. And I have difficulty fathoming how you can so cavalierly ignore the overwhelming evidence and pronounce this not really a problem.

Thank you for your very detailed thoughts. In your experience, are the barriers to small, good quality, affordable homes mainly market dynamics, or do housing codes and local regulations play an outsized role as has been mentioned in other comments?

Government policy, tax incentives, zoning codes, and financing mechanisms are a very large part of the problem. This is not just local. It goes all the way up to the federal level.

I wanted to be an urban planner before life got in the way. I have formal education and have done a lot of reading related to this. It is not an uninformed opinion.

I have seen your comments on many threads here on HN. I just wanted to say I always come away more enlightened about difficulties and nuances of the housing crisis after each additional read. Thank you.

He referred specifically to the California interior. Most counties not on the coast or bay have very affordable areas; I've driven the northern 2/3rds of I-5, most of US50, and all of I-80 in CA and seen hundreds of properties for a fraction of Bay Area prices. Things look different once outside of a Bay Area (or San Diego) bubble.

I was in Fresno for more than 2 years. I spent a lot of time doing research on the internet. I was willing to move anywhere within California where I could afford to buy a house and where I could make my life work without a car. This means, no, it can't be some cabin in the middle of nowhere where you have to drive for an hour to get to a grocery store.

I would still be interested in the OPs answer. I wasn't just living on the coast or researching coastal communities before finally looking elsewhere and ultimately leaving.

May I ask where you ended up? If you're uncomfortable sharing the city, state would be fine. But: Where are the walkable cities in the US?

I (coming from Europe) travelled on the East and West coast and both times was astounded by how much US living relies on having a car. I'm myself pretty anti-car-ownership by now, but I think this is much easier to do in European cities.

I am in a small town in Washington state, maybe a couple of hours from Seattle. It doesn't have everything I want, but I am off the street and my life is slowly coming together here.

One of the reasons I ended up here: I had no problem arranging to get here affordably and efficiently via train and intercity bus. Many of the small towns I researched in the western half of the US were a case of "Good luck trying to get there!" and/or would have cost a great deal more just to get there, on the order of two to three times what it cost me for train and bus tickets to get here just for tickets. And the reality is that if you travel for a couple of days or so, you want the sleeper car if possible or to stay at a hotel at some point, etc. Thus,the places that are that hard to get to wind up having additional expenses involved in just getting there.

An additional benefit of that is that I don't feel trapped here. If I want to go somewhere for any reason, whether for travel or to move again, getting out of here without a car is not some intimidating obstacle. I can readily get on an intercity bus and go to a variety of places in this region. I haven't looked into it, but I imagine it would not be too hard to get to the Seattle Tacoma International Airport and, from there, out into the world.

I was a military wife for a lot of years. I like living within a couple of hours of a major city and a major airport. I have not flown in years, but I have friends and family all over the planet and I always keep it in mind that I might need access to the ability to seriously travel.

Many years ago, I previously lived in Richland, WA and its downtown center was fairly pedestrian friendly as well. I don't know how easily you could get there without a car. It did not make my radar for where to go to get off the street.

Hey, thank you for the reply. Very interesting insight into living without a car in the US!

> Most counties not on the coast or bay have very affordable areas

Very affordable by coastal standards, but with very low incomes by coastal standards, too. Which somewhat offsets the affordability, unless you are talking about, e.g., long-distance commuters working in the Bay Area.

Nevertheless, yes, the interior is better at meeting the targets for Low and Very Low income affordable housing as specified in the report finding the 97.6% miss rate; lots of the interior jurisdictions are only missing on the Above Modest income targets. (Though there are exceptions, e.g., Fresno County also misses on the lower income targets.)

>> ...seen hundreds of properties for a fraction of Bay Area prices.

Anything under 300K? How about 200K? A fraction of the Bay area doesn't necessarily mean affordable.

You look at, say, Fresno and there are properties for sale under $200K (although that's below the median of $300K+). I assume those are not the most attractive places but they certainly exist. That's the 5th most populous city in California so it's not exactly the middle of nowhere.

I lived in Fresno. A lot of the stuff under $200k is a trailer, possibly a trailer in a seniors only retirement community. I don't consider trailers fit for habitation and my two adult sons still live with me.

This is part of why I want details. I need a house under $100k. After looking at what that kind of money buys in Cali -- anywhere in Cali -- and looking at what it buys outside of Cali, I eventually concluded it made more sense to go elsewhere. If you can't afford at least $200k in Cali, you can expect it to be a shithole. It would undermine my fragile health and also need ten's of thousands of dollars worth of work. I am happy to buy a fixer, but not one that will ruin my health and my finances.

I can see that you're facing challenges that put you in an untenable situation. And no, I haven't seen any place in California that has any sort of public services and employment prospects and housing where you own the house and land for under $100K.

Thank you.

I don't even need employment prospects. I have alimony and I make my money online. So that wasn't even a factor, and, no, it didn't fly in Cali.

> That's the 5th most populous city in California so it's not exactly the middle of nowhere.

It really is the middle of nowhere, despite being the fifth most populous city in the state.

But, you say, how can that be: the bigger cities are all embedded in even bigger urban clusters [0]. Fresno is, well, in the middle of nowhere.

[0] And even the smaller central cities; Sacramento, is a little smaller than Fresno if you look at the city itself, but the metro area is a time and a half the Fresno metro area.

> "... not exactly the middle of nowhere."

Anecdotally, a of my friend moved from the Bay Area to Fresno and explicitly claims it's in the middle of nowhere.

If you're in one of the largest cities in the state, I'd suggest you're pretty much not in the middle of nowhere by definition--any more than, say, Las Vegas is. Now, one may reasonably not like Fresno but that's a different matter.

I have some sympathy for why people feel there's nothing in Fresno. For a major city, it isn't very urban. It sprawls tremendously. There isn't really an urban core with high rises anywhere. It lacks a lot of amenities that people expect when moving to a big city.

Music events at Woodward Park often attracted women in shorts or skirts and cowboy boots. Culturally, the city reads sort of like half a million farmers and ranchers decided to move to the suburbs.

It is a fairly unique city, with an international airport and multiple national forests nearby. But "check out the natural beauty of our great outdoors!" is typically a small town or rural marketing pitch, not the pitch of a major city.

Last I checked, it was the 5th largest city in California and I think the 34th largest in the US. So I think there are 20 US states that don't have a city of that size. The entire state of Wyoming, our least populous state, has about the same number of people as the city of Fresno, in the neighborhood of about a half million apiece.

Fresno is a very unusual city and I think most people can't really relate to it. I spent considerable time baffled by its terrible reputation and simultaneously trying to wrap my mind around the place. It isn't like most big cities.

It has a terrible reputation for air quality. I found that weird when I lived there because I could see the stars at night better than anyplace else I had lived. On the other hand, moving elsewhere has dramatically improved my health. So, in retrospect, I think there are serious environmental issues there, though I am not entirely sure what they are because I remain baffled by the idea that air quality there is extremely bad when the stars are so much more visible than I am used to.

The two best suggestions are Bakersfield and Fresno (edit: or the middle of unincorporated desert LOL)

You're telling OP to live in hell and it still costs more than they can afford.

Per Wikipedia [0]:

> Between 1970 and 2010, Bakersfield grew 400% (from 70,000 to 347,483),[33] making it one of the fastest growing cities in California.[17]

It can't be too much hell if so many people want to live there that the population quadrupled in 40 years.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bakersfield,_California

Does that follow?

Here, I found another example: > Between 1968 and 1975 the Dubai's population grew by over 300%

Maybe OP could find a sweet oil job there!

I am sorry you got downvoted. I have been to Bakersfield. I absolutely consider it undesirable.

I don't know if you realize it, but oil is, in fact, a big part of the economy in Bakersfield. And air quality is terrible because of it.


You might have simply picked a bad example, but Mojave isn’t a city, it’s a CDP (census designated place). Most of rural California isn’t a city - but an unincorporated area.


Part of the point of SB 827 is to reduce CO2 emissions from transport by building at walkable density and increasing demand for existing mass transit services. Building a house in Mojave does none of those things.

Are you gonna commute from Mohave to Santa Monica for work every day?


Please don't start ideological or political flamewars on HN. They're not what this site is for, and destroy what it is for.


I was expressing a political view, which is no different than the link submitted.

I think its unfair to censor one political view and not the other political views.

That's not what 1 is saying, for the record. 1 is share of children with parents that are undocumented.

>How much does that have to do with its sanctuary status & high illegal immigration numbers.

Zero. It has zero to do with how California treats its most vulnerable immigrant population, and everything to do with how California funds its schools.

The Berkeley CA School board recently had to make hard choices in its yearly budget. Berkeley is one of the wealthiest cities in the state. It was forced to slash safety officers and special programs due to a $2 million dollar budget shortfall. Less than the cost of a house. [1] America funds its schools primarily via property taxes, so Proposition 13, a measure that freezes that tax revenue, keeps $2 million dollar properties taxed as though they were valued at ~$100,000. It ensures California schools will always be begging to meet the needs of the state's growing population. [2]

[1] http://www.berkeleyside.com/2018/02/09/berkeley-school-board...

[2] https://twitter.com/kimmaicutler/status/962425686039306240

Thereally are several examples of per pupil expenditure against student performance that suggest you are wrong. NYC for example spends about $22K per kid. Results are middling at best, even with a number of troubling things done to mask how bad things like attendance, test scores, and graduation rates really are. A similar situation exists in Washington DC. Money is simply not the answer to all problems.

That's a very common pattern. Look at any state with significant urban centers. It's very common for the city schools to have significantly higher per-student spend than affluent suburbs while simultaneously often being near the bottom in terms of test scores--which, while imperfect, are at least a reasonable proxy for the overall learning environment at a given school.

Money spent on education in the U.S has very little influence on test scores[1]. The top scorers on internationally standardized tests like Korea and Japan spend much less per student than the U.S. Countries that spend more have mixed results [2].

The education "debate" reminds me of the healthcare "debate" in which the sole issue debated is whether we should spend more money on it. The irony is is that we already spend plenty compared to other countries and in many cases get worse results.

We could adapt Japanese or Korean systems for teaching math and science, but that would be way too creative.

[1] https://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/pa746.... [2] https://www.facethefactsusa.org/facts/money-cant-buy-genius

Property taxes only make up 1/4th the school budget in CA.

Also let's do some math shall we. California has 12.3% illegal immigrant student population. Remove them and the same funds that currently exist would be funding 87.7% the current student population.

California currently spends $8,694/student. If you remove the illegal immigrants that becomes 8,694/0.877 = ~9913/student. Not great but a $1219/student gain in funds isn't shabby either. FYI california has ~6 Million k-12 students, or in other words the illegals are costing tax payers 6.66 Billion/year in k-12 education.

Now reducing our student population by 12.3% would also mean reducing the number of schools. There's likely even greater savings as not everything scales horizontally / sub-horizontally.

https://ed100.org/lessons/whopays https://edsource.org/2017/how-does-california-rank-in-per-pu...

1. The parents of those children contribute to the economy and pay taxes, and by deporting them you are harming the local economy, and also reducing your tax base. Thus the gain will be less than $1200/yr.

2. Some of the kids of unauthorized immigrants are US citizens, if they were born in the US, so your number 12.3% is not accurate. That is the number who's parents are unauthorized.

Edit: According to the source you cite, 80% of the children of unauthorized immigrants are US citizens, much higher than I expected. [1]

3. With proper education, these children will grow up to be productive, contributing members of society as doctors, engineers, etc. They will grow the US economy and pay taxes.

[1] http://www.pewhispanic.org/interactives/unauthorized-immigra...: "Children of unauthorized immigrants made up 7.3% of U.S. students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade in 2014, though the share varies by state. Most (5.9%) are U.S.-born children who are U.S. citizens at birth. The rest (1.3%) are unauthorized immigrants themselves."

> The parents of those children contribute to the economy and pay taxes

It's unlikely the parents pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits like free schooling for their kids.

And at the same time by working here they illegally decrease wages and jobs for the most marginalized Americans.

> Some of the kids of unauthorized immigrants are US citizens

They wouldn't be here in the first place if we enforced our immigration laws.

> With proper education, these children will grow up to be productive

Not with current levels of funding they won't.

And I don't see any political will in California to double the education spending per child.

> They wouldn't be here in the first place if we enforced our immigration laws.

A couple things to consider:

1) This is a nit pick, but remember that many of these children likely have a parent who is a green card holder or US citizen, and another parent who is an unauthorized citizen.

2) More importantly, these children are here, and they are citizens. You can't (or at least, modern societies should not) retroactively revoke citizenship. There are two separate questions here: first is how do we handle/regulate immigration into the country, and second is what do we do about people who are already here? These are related but separate issues. Figuring out how to educate children of unauthorized immigrants is part of the second question.


> Not with current levels of funding they [children of unauthorized immigrants] won't [become doctors and lawyers]

It takes time. The America dream works across multiple generations. Studies show that 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants have much higher income than their parents: for example the median income goes from $45k to $58k from 1st to 2nd generation [1]

[1] http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/02/07/second-generation-...

> These are related but separate issues.

Without solving the illegal immigration problem any fix to the education problem only increases strain on the system.

California has shown no political will to solve the underlying problem of illegal immigration.

> Figuring out how to educate children of unauthorized immigrants is part of the second question.

We (royal we) know how - it will just take time and a lot of money.

Nobody wants to spend that money unless it's for a long term fix.

In the mean time the poor and middle class Americans in California get poorer (or in many cases leave the state).

> It takes time. The America dream works across multiple generations

The American dream is not magic or inevitable.

Like any complex ecosystem it's only sustainable up to a limit.

There is significant evidence we are well past that limit.

> It's unlikely the parents pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits like free schooling for their kids.

I think it's a mistake to assign the educational benefits people receive (whatever age they are at the time) to their parents.


The money has to come from somewhere.

It is a parents duty to provide for their kids.

We have a welfare system that can step in when the parents can't take responsibility and this system only works when those parents are a small minority.

I think it's valid considering it's usually parents who pay for their children's schooling if it wasn't free. The benefit here is monetary, not academic.

That's an interesting point. On the other hand, where education is free it is so, to a large extent, because it is considered a worthwhile investment into a society's future.

Cant upvote this enough!

Gentrification also impacts the public school system. The highly-acclaimed elementary school down the block from me is going to lose a ton of money as their Title I enrollment is going to drop below 55%. That’s code for the poor folk being pushed out by gentrification.

>most vulnerable immigrant population

This strategic description really grinds my gears.

In this sense, GP's references to "sanctuary cities" and "illegal immigrants" are also strategic: they betray an obvious bias towards one side of this debate. (This is leaving aside the barely coded racism - and, ironically, questionable grammar - of their other statements, such as "You're only as good as who you surround yourself".)

I see no problem in providing a counterbalancing perspective. After all, it can be simultaneously true that these people have immigrated illegally and that they are among the most vulnerable. Issues like this are complex, and there aren't easy answers. To wit: what about US-born children - do we now split up families in service of proving a moral point? What about the opportunities for children in diverse schools to learn from other cultures and viewpoints? There's also the longstanding "no human is illegal" debate.

(As you may have guessed by this point, my own bias is globalist / humanitarian. I'd argue we have a moral duty to help those in need, and that it is fallacious to argue this necessarily takes resources away from others because that presumes economics, aid, etc. are zero-sum games. I also think, in a practical sense, that many of our laws around residency, immigration, etc. ignore the reality of an increasingly mobile and globalized world, and that the sooner we can transcend nationalist bullshit the better. Finally: I believe that American prosperity has had a net extractive effect on much of the rest of the world for the past century, much like the colonial empires of yore. Moral / reparative dimensions of that aside, it certainly creates a less peaceful world.)

I agree with you on the term sanctuary city being strategic. I think these phrases get under my skin because we just parrot back what we hear on CNN/NPR/Daily Wire, without adding anything new to the conversation.

I'm not sure I could disagree with you more on a lot of what you said, but it doesn't grind any gears to read your opinion because I doubt you copy/pasted that from a VICE article. I really think you've thought about that, and that is your opinion. It does worry me that there doesn't seem to be any common ground though.

The common ground used to be the Dreamers. Children that came across the border without documentation, but have proven themselves contributing members of society through objective, conservative metrics and trust in our institutions. These people voluntarily gave their personal information to the government in a hope that has now proven itself false: that they would be granted some semblance of stability.

We have walked backwards as a society, by putting people in power that would consider even that level of humanity to be too great a political burden to bear.

> we just parrot

Not a parrot, by any means. These people are every bit as real as my neighbors and friends. It's far too easy to fall into a silo when you take a narrow view and consider only the past decade of migrant history. Consider that: before 2003, ICE did not exist. That the first of our immigration laws: The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, was rooted in white supremacist ethnocentrism.

Consider: in pursuit of the foreign bogeyman, we have crafted a system of authoritative overreach that extends into a region occupied by 2/3s of our nation's population:


Hey, I'm with you on the "regurgitated thoughts are bad" front :)

On the rest, we likely have common ground somewhere; so far, I've stated my position without any nuance, to make its broad outlines relatively clear. Let's start with some extreme examples: we probably agree that no single country can support the entire world's population alone. We probably also agree that nationalism run amok can have terrible consequences, regardless of its potentially beneficial aspects. Most people would generally help out friends / relatives in need, provided they had the means (financial, emotional, logistical, or whatever else it takes) to do so - so we likely have some common ground there.

Other common points that come up in discussions like these...I would agree that some people contribute more than others to society. OTOH, I think we can't necessarily know ahead of time who will contribute more or less - in an immigration context, attempts to do so have a long history fraught with racism and xenophobia. (See: Angel Island near SF, Chinese Exclusion Act, refusing Jewish refugees during WW2, etc.)

Do you actually think California is trying so hard to keep these people out of altruism? This is clearly just an electoral strategy. And there’s no way that with such large numbers of a very poor foreign population that it isn’t going to disrupt institutions and daily life in California.

And that isn’t a moral judgement of any of those individuals, it’s just a reality that negative social conditions have a big impact on schools in particular. The wealthier schools aren’t just doing better because they have more money per student, they’re doing better because the kids that go there have a better social environment. You could pour 5x the money into the worst schools in the country and you wouldn’t be able to make a big improvement because the schools are not the root cause of the terrible social conditions in those communities.

I doubt the language is a problem, young kids pick it up extremely fast. I, myself, moved to the US in my 20's, and had no major problem assimilating. For the first few months I didn't speak English, my father would help me everywhere. But then I had to go to college, took ESL classes for a semester, and then started taking normal college classes.

I doubt it's poverty, I grew up very very poor (as many of my classmates did). Didn't stop me from getting good education.

Test scores show otherwise: http://laschoolreport.com/latinos-and-english-learners-are-b...

The majority of LA's Latino / Illegal Immigrant student body failed their standardized tests.

66% failed english language arts

76% failed math

And Latino's also had ~5% more kids failing than the average of LA's Scores. Its a fair argument that removing this population from the schools increase the % of kids who pass these tests by more than 5%.

" The percentage of LA’s Latino students who met or exceeded state academic expectations this year:

34 percent in English language arts, less than 1 percentage point higher than in 2016 24 percent in math, less than 1 percentage point higher than in 2016 The district’s overall average this year was 39.55 percent in English language arts and 29.86 in math. The percentage of Latino students in California who met or exceeded standards this year:

26.05 percent in English language arts, the same as in 2016 16.89 percent in math, slightly lower than in 2016 The state’s overall average this year was 48.56 percent in English language arts and 37.53 percent in math. "

> The majority of LA's Latino / Illegal Immigrant student body failed their standardized tests.

You seem to be conflating two groups: "illegal" immigrants, and Latinos. They are separate groups.

> Its a fair argument that removing this population from the schools increase...

While this is true, this is also the type of ethnic engineering that isn't acceptable in modern society in the United States. We don't remove ethnic populations in order to increase a test score number.

THe illegal immigrant population in k-12 in California schools are majority latino/hispanic. Therefore removing the illegal immigrant population from said schooling would reduce the latino population in the school.

If latino's are scoring poorly, then removing some % of them (due to their illegal immigrant status) would raise test scores overall.

> While this is true, this is also the type of ethnic engineering that isn't acceptable in modern society in the United States. We don't remove ethnic populations in order to increase a test score number.

Hu? I never was talking about ethnic engineering. I was talking about enforcing our immigration laws.

> THe illegal immigrant population in k-12 in California schools are majority latino/hispanic.

Sure, but you can't use generic statistics about Latinos—who in California are mostly not immigrants, much less illegal, and pretend they are specifically about illegal immigrants, or even accurate for illegal immigrants (fallacy of division.)

Immigrants assimilate in a couple generations. Parents instilling ambition and hard work in their children is what makes America strong.

You can't compare H1b/legal immigrants to illegal immigrants, they have vastly different educational backgrounds.

> The majority of LA's Latino / Illegal Immigrant student body failed their standardized tests.

The source you cite gives numbers for Latinos and English Learners, neither of which are equivalent to “illegal immigrants”.


Being the most populous, California is the most underrepresented state...

Aesthetic objections to new construction are 99.9% bullshit. Otherwise things like vomit- and baby-poop-green vinyl siding, uniformly white windows with fake grills and little to no trim, McMansion-style hip-roof horrorshows and gables on top of gables wouldn't exist.

Sounds very dystopian. Did not meet state's goals.

"Sounds very dystopian. Did not meet state's goals."

This is worth considering.

I find it despicable that otherwise liberal, progressive people are willing to immediately discard democratic results simply because they dislike them.

There is nothing unconstitutional (CA) or unlawful about "NIMBY policies". However you may feel about them, they are valid, lawful policy goals in a democracy.

If you don't like them, you should organize to defeat them democratically.

> If you don't like them, you should organize to defeat them democratically.

I spend my free time doing some advocacy in this space. Heres a few things you might not know.

1) Nimby's dont derive power from the ballot box, they derive power from distinctly undemocratic processes like courts and arbitrary middle of the day planning meetings. The biggest NIMBY tool is CEQA, the "california environmental quality act" which allows anyone to sue a project for "environmental" reasons. The reasons are spurious at best (project would increase traffic at an intersection). Nearly all CEQA law suits are filed by neighbors who want to kill the project, or by unions on projects that aren't using union labor. The law suits are rarely won by the plaintiff, but they are nearly always successful because they delay projects long enough to get them canceled. The second tool is the design review meeting, which often occurs around 2pm on some random mid week day, when most people are at work and unable to leave their job. A single project may go through 5 design review meetings where retired nimbys with nothing better to do with their time berate new developments for arbitrary reasons (make it smaller, its out of character etc). In this system, its not "one person one vote" but rather "your power in this process is proportional to how much time you can spend at city hall during normal working hours on a recurring basis and grind it out over months and months of meetings"

2) Nimby policies are being defeated democratically. Our elected officials are realizing the harm that these policies are causing and seeing that an anti-nimby constituency is forming. SB 827 is a democratic solution to this problem.

3) Hyperlocal control (aka, cities deciding their own land use policies) is undemocratic, and essentially feudal. It limits the voices heard in democracy to the people who are able to afford living in the city in question, but excludes the voices of those who stakeholders in the city in some other way, say by working in the city, or commuting through the city. Local control allows cities to capture outsized benefits of development while forcing other cities to absorb the negative externalities. For instance, cupertino built the new apple campus for 12k workers, but didn't build any new housing for them. Now the rest of the bay area needs to deal with the reality of these 12k new highly paid residents looking for housing. Another example is Atherton suing to block caltrain electrifiction within its city limits. A single city is blocking an expansion of public transit that serves 60k riders per day. Why is this city allowed to delay the project and create a negative impact on all of these commuters? Why are they not beholden to a larger set of stakeholders than just the people that live within their boarders?

"Nimby's dont derive power from the ballot box, they derive power from distinctly undemocratic processes like courts and arbitrary middle of the day planning meetings. The biggest NIMBY tool is CEQA, the "california environmental quality act" which allows anyone to sue a project for "environmental" reasons."

I agree that these things are annoying and selfish (and possibly mean-spirited) but they are not undemocratic. They adhere to the laws and regulations of our state. They are the (unfortunate) results of a democratic process.

I reiterate my objection to non-democratic solutions to these problems.

Further, as someone who lives in a design-reviewed community in a NIMBY county (Marin), my firsthand experience has shown me that these roadblocks and inefficiencies are applied equally to everyone ... it's not like there is some class of people who get streamlined approvals and fast-tracked homebuilding. Everyone has to deal with the same bullshit, as far as I can tell ...

We need off-grid housing with SpaceX satellite internet, Tesla car pods, Tesla Solar, and Amazon Prime deliveries.


Could you please stop posting unsubstantive comments to Hacker News?


For what it's worth, I partially agree with jnordwick's comment. I've noticed an uptick over the last couple of months in the comments that receive public callouts feeling ideological in nature. It may just be based on who flags posts, since a lot of non polemic low quality posts seem to go dead after a few hours without any flagging, but it may be worth looking into this pattern, because I imagine you don't want to give off the perception that the public callouts come from having the wrong opinions instead of nonconstructive ones.

That's a good point about flagging. It would be helpful if you (or anyone) would send links to us at hn@ycombinator.com when you notice comments that break the site guidelines (https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html) and don't seem to have been moderated. Examples would be comments that are generically ideological or unsubstantive, and certainly ones that are uncivil.

Whatever our biases are, they're not strongly ideological. This wouldn't persuade anyone, but FWIW the reason is that after slogging through hundreds of thousands of internet comments, one's only response to what people call their "opinions" is profound exhaustion. It's like someone took a sandblaster to the inside of your brain. The result is tedium, except that word doesn't convey how deep it goes. Imagine an existential void of pure tedium, tedium all around, nothing but tedium—then repeat that phrase in your head a thousand times, and you'll get a sense of how we really feel about these arguments. All of them.

So HN moderation isn't about suppressing opinions, though opiners who get moderated sometimes feel like it must be. It's about damping repetition in the hope of mitigating tedium. IMO that serves the community well, because the best users don't come here for rehashes of talking points and flamewars. They come here for something less predictable.

This would only explain why you don't reprimand some comments, not why you reprimand the comments you do.

Such as the example I gave in another cooment is definitely holding that comment to a higher standard than those you are more ideological sympathetic too.

If I were to point to a similar comment from the other side of the isle, you would rightly say it followed the site guidelines so it doesnt need to be flagged or the author scolded. However, your overly tight rein on one idiological side leads to a ratcheting down on it.

From what I see, the issue really isn't the ideology, it's the tone and/or substance of a post that really matters. "of course there is insider trading, duh" is significantly different from "Spoiler alert: Central planners' plans fail to materialize." The latter uses a speech pattern used in clickbait to illicit an emotional response, and the phrase "central planners" is a politically charged amplification of the actual situation.

Dang (and others) has a history of bias.

Here is the last political story from yesterday where he reprimanded a commenter:


The comment is certainly more productive than many others, but it commits the sin of calling the article "Communist apologia" and dang jumped on it. (I flagged dang's scolding for being inappropriate.)

Stop picking on opinions you dont like.

I noticed similar comments ("of course there is insider trading, duh") in the insider trading article with accounts of similar karma don't get flagged and reprimanded by mods.

But we all know why that occurs. Maybe you shouldnt go after comments if you find yourself disagreeing with their content.

The groupthink on HN had been accelerating lately.

California doesn’t have a housing problem. It has “companies insist on paying higher taxes and refusing to deploy in the wide open spaces between the coasts” problem. Deploying between the coasts helped Amazon greatly leverage its early entry position.

Those same companies are responsive to where their workforce wants to live.

And they know that exactly how? I see no evidence of A/B or multivariate testing vs employment for corporate locations.

I mean, Uber bought a giant office in Oakland and decided about a year later not to move there...

The part about increasing density near public transit was interesting. It's true that high density is a must to make public transit viable. However, I presume there is little vacant land near public transit. In that case, a mandate to increase density would be telling people to demolish and rebuild with higher density than what's there. If that's the case then the comparison to Putin might be justified - and perhaps the crony capitalism part depending who profits from this "upgrade".

It isn’t a mandate to increase density. The proposed law removes limits. It doesn’t mandate anything. Existing limits are preventing market forces from working.

In Berkeley there is a subway station surrounded by a five-acre parking lot. The owner of the parking list wishes to build there, but the city refuses to rezone the land, which is presently “U - Unclassified”. This law would remove Berkeley’s authority in the matter.

In San Francisco 71% of the land is zoned for detached single family homes, despite virtually all of that city being within half a mile of a rail or light rail station. This bill would raise all of those limits.

A very common limit around the entire US is the municipality-wide building height restriction.

Basically, the city outlaws any building taller than 40' above grade at its highest point. Between that, and minimum setbacks from the frontage line and other property lines, 90% of the work to prevent densification is already done. Once a building plan has grown to completely fill its legal envelope, there's nowhere else to go but down, and that becomes prohibitively expensive fast.

The remaining 10% can be handled by mandating a minimum square footage per residential unit that is slightly more than half the theoretical maximum from a building at maximum height and minimum height on the mean lot size for that zone. Then no amount of building up or out can allow you to squeeze another unit onto your property. You have to resort to tricks like lowering ceiling heights.

If you enact a law at the state level that triggers automatic lessening of restrictions on building heights or setbacks every time a municipality fails to grow enough housing, zoning boards will be a lot more tractable when a developer wants to build.

That's what SB827 does. If a property is within the given radius from a transit station or a high-frequency bus line, minimum height limits are imposed (between 45 and 85 feet, depending on other factors) and all design controls (parking requirements, floor area ratio, setbacks, bulk) are rendered ineffective.

Where in https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtm... does it say that?

65917.7.b.4.A and B both impose minimums on the maximum height limit that can be imposed. They do not impose a minimum on the height itself. This bill allows for building higher, it does not force it.

I said “minimum height limits” read (minimum)(height limits) i.e. the height limits may not be lower.

That wording is a bit confusing. You might think about changing it to be minimums on height limits for better readability.

Wow -- from afar, that's a great way to inspire local residents in bedroom communities to fight public transit.

I volunteer in the SFBA for housing and transit advocacy.

A loud minority of people already fight transit and successfully prevent it or water it down. The type of people who fight transit also fight housing. There isn’t really much headway for their coalitions to grow because they’re selfish old boomers who want to pull up the ladder, it’s not an message that inspires solidarity.

Which is exactly why it should apply uniformly to the whole municipality.

It's the same mentality that uses the "within X' of a school" that elides over the fact that a sufficiently large X will cover everything in the jurisdiction. The PLSS grid system put a school at every other corner, so there was a school every 2 miles, and no child would have to walk more than 1.414 miles to reach one. So if you had defined a zone "within 7500' of a school" that would have been a synonym for "everywhere" that bakes in "think of the children" to your legislation.

"Within X' of a public transit station" instead bakes in "think of the hordes of poor people".

>> It isn’t a mandate to increase density. The proposed law removes limits. It doesn’t mandate anything.

When I read the article I got the impression it was a mandate to increase the number of homes. They talk about targets and rolling over targets into the next 8 years. That seems different than just saying to change zoning and approve more projects that are already desired.

You don't have to mandate people demolish and rebuild: the market should adjust for this. (In short, if you have a one/two family dwelling on a piece of land, and each dwelling is worth $1.2M, then demolishing and rebuilding to provide five dwellings each worth $1.0M results in a net profit for the landowner.)

> a mandate to increase density would be telling people to demolish and rebuild with higher density

There is no need for a mandate. Just allow people to build more on their land if they want, and most of them will surely want because people like money. No need to force anyone to do anything. All that is needed is to remove artificial regulations and let the market run its course.

There is no mandate to increase density. The change is to allow density where it is presently illegal.

> However, I presume there is little vacant land near public transit.

Redevelopment is a thing that happens, and removing barriers to redevelopment for densification will encourage such development compared to the status quo ante.

This little bit of political sparring was my favorite part of the article:

>SB 827, Wiener’s bill to mandate increased density near public transit, was recently the subject of a spat on Twitter between the Senator and former Beverly Hills mayor John Mirisch. Mirisch began his tirade by calling the bill “a bizarre combination of Soviet-style master planning with raging crony capitalism…the urban planning lovechild of Vladimir Putin and the Koch Bros.”

>“Not quite sure how he got to this conclusion but definitely scores high in the melodramatic response competition,” Wiener responded. “Interesting to say that my authoring a bill to allow more housing near transit makes me Putin, since I sort of got the idea from a guy named [President Barack] Obama,” he remarked wryly.

The name dropping and mudslinging here is pretty laughable. The reason reason for conflict seems to me to be misaligned incentives though. The idea that a place like Beverly Hills is going to have to throw up a bunch of new housing to please CA congress is ridiculous, since essentially the city now has to find a way to destroy existing housing or places of business in order to throw up new, cheaper housing, assuming the bill passes.

SB-827 does not require the destruction of any housing. In fact it gives property holder's more freedom to build what they want on their own land. The reason is because it removes onerous regulations that have restricted the ability of a growing state to match it's housing needs. SB-827 isn't a long piece of law, I highly encourage everyone with an opinion on it to read the text of the law.

The bill says nothing of the sort.

I've noticed a common talking point among anti-development types is to assert that changing zoning to allow denser housing translates to mandating denser housing, which is obviously ridiculous.

Unfortunately at first glance the law is easy to misread. If you’re not careful it reads like it’s mandating a minimum height for new construction. Instead what it’s doing is mandating a floor on the maximum allowable height a city can set. So in other words a city can’t force a developer to shorten their building beyond the minimum heights in SB-827. Conversely a developer or home owner can construct a short building if they really want to.

> The idea that a place like Beverly Hills is going to have to throw up a bunch of new housing to please CA congress

They don't have to do anything except allow private landowners to build higher if they wish.

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