For three years, California’s legislature has tried to pass a series of draconian housing bills that would:

  1.  Deprive cities and counties of their self-determination as local governments,
  2.  Usurp local zoning and planning policies throughout California, and
  3.  Impose fixed, state-mandated development standards upon established single-family neighborhoods, making them the state’s new frontiers for high-density development.

All these bills were fueled by a false narrative, propagated by law makers beholden to the real estate development lobby, that California faces a housing shortage and that local government is to blame for it. While that’s since been proven utterly fallacious by the Embarcadero Institute, Sacramento remains on a blind tractor beam pursuing legislation that’ll forever and unnecessarily change our neighborhoods for the worse.

These bills never made sense in pre-COVID times. They make even less sense now today. High-density development served by shoulder-to-shoulder mass transit being promoted by these bills only increases California’s vulnerability to pandemics and the economic disruption to follow.

Today’s housing legislation is going in precisely in the wrong direction. Let’s put them on ice, press the reset button, and really consider where our housing policies stand today. Let’s make a paradigm shift away from false narratives and towards dealing with the realities of this very different post-COVID world.

In starting that paradigm shift, let’s paint a picture of the pre-and-post-COVID conditions affecting housing in California.

Pre-COVID Conditions:

Years before Sen. Scott Wiener hatched his ideas for the bad legislation that he’s been pushing, California’s governance had been showing how ill-prepared it was to arbitrarily shoehorn millions of new homes into its cities, counties, and neighborhoods. Conditions had already been worsening for such a strategy right up to the arrival of the coronavirus in February 2020. Consider these points:

Despite these conditions, legislators have continued to push for far more housing development dependent upon proximity to public transit and without the statewide or local resources and infrastructure needed to support high density development in California’s cities, counties, and neighborhoods. 

And then came the coronavirus and the George Floyd murder that have truly rocked our world.

Post-COVID-19 Realities:

A new set of circumstances has been unleashed that should have caused the state legislators to pause and throw their conventional wisdom out the window:

These demographic trends demonstrate that the state’s present legislative efforts on housing are going in precisely the wrong direction. The legislation that’s been Sen. Scott Wiener’s brainchild feeds a dystopian vision of creating high-density warehouses for the living while snuffing out the American dream of living in one’s own home with a yard in a decent neighborhood. And his strategy for achieving his vision is bereft of virtue.

It’s time for California to say NO too that vision and press the restart button to start dealing intelligently with today’s realities.