In John Phillips’ Jan. 31 column, he suggests Gov. Gavin Newsom might improve the state’s affordable housing inventory by curbing the California Coastal Commission’s authority.
As proof of such overreach, Phillips cites how the fee has protected open house in the Santa Monica Mountains, world-class views alongside Highway 1 in Big Sur and wildlife habitat in the Bolsa Chica wetlands. Scandalous!
The argument that housing and a wholesome pure setting can’t coexist is a false alternative. Following this thread would imply the reply to California’s housing scarcity can be extra improvement in wetlands, excessive fire-hazard areas and endangered species habitat, and on geologically unstable slopes that routinely give approach in heavy rain. This isn’t a profitable imaginative and prescient for the housing scarcity on the California coast.
The Coastal Commission was created in the 1970s after the individuals of California grew to become so involved about shedding their world-famous coast to unchecked improvement that they handed a poll initiative to create the company. An enormous a part of the fee’s mission has at all times been to maximize public entry and defend pure assets. Chances are, if you happen to take a stroll alongside a coastal path, observe a path down to the seashore or take the stairs down a bluff to the sand, it’s as a result of the Coastal Commission required public entry on some improvement undertaking years in the past.
What many individuals don’t know is that the Coastal Act of 1976 additionally protected affordable housing. That’s proper. The authentic regulation afforded as a lot safety for moderate- and lower-income housing because it now does for wetlands, habitat and scenic views. In the first 5 years of the program, the fee efficiently required the building of over 5,000 affordable, deed-restricted, owner-occupancy and rental models in high-priced areas akin to Laguna Nigel, San Clemente and Dana Point. It additionally collected about $2 million in in-lieu charges for added housing alternatives all through the state. These models had been constructed proper alongside the market price models in most cases, outwardly indistinguishable from the full-price variations.
So what occurred?
Local governments objected to the misplaced property tax revenues. Realtors resented their diminished commissions. So in 1981, a coalition of anti-housing pursuits acquired behind a invoice by state Sen. Henry Mello that stripped the housing polices out of the Coastal Act. It additionally allowed any developer who had not but accomplished a coastal housing undertaking to demand the fee take away the affordable necessities from the allow. And it prohibited the fee from requiring native governments to embrace affordable housing of their Local Coastal Plans. Affordable housing floor to a halt in the coastal zone, and hundreds of models slated to break floor by no means materialized.
Despite this, in the 40-plus years since its creation, the Coastal Commission has carried out its finest to defend the California coast. The company has supplied greater than 1,500 factors of public entry, preserved a thriving coastal agricultural business and furthered the restoration of broken habitat and threatened wildlife populations.
The fee has carried out all this whereas approving over 90 % of all improvement purposes. Imagine what the Commission may need carried out if it had been allowed to proceed defending and offering for workforce housing as properly?
The California coast is loved by guests and residents alike, it doesn’t matter what their earnings degree, and is the motive for the state’s $40 billion a 12 months coastal economic system. But yearly, fewer and fewer individuals can afford to reside there. And but the fee has by no means denied a single affordable housing undertaking in the historical past of the company. The downside is, there’s little market-based incentive to construct such a housing.
Relaxing improvement controls in the coastal zone isn’t the reply, as a result of over-regulation was by no means the downside. The downside is there’s little market-based incentive to construct such a housing to start with, compounded by the undeniable fact that the Legislature stripped the regulatory authority from the company that was doing greater than every other to present precise affordable models.
The Mello Act was short-sighted; its pernicious results predictable. Over the years, legislators have tried to restore these insurance policies to the Coastal Act, solely to be thwarted by the highly effective actual property foyer. Maybe a brand new crop of coastal legislators will ultimate get it carried out.
Mary Shallenberger labored for the Legislature from 1984-2004, and served as a coastal commissioner from 2004-2017.