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Silicon Valley Business Journal: Guest viewpoint: What’s wrong with California’s new housing laws

our neighborhood voices silicon valley business journal op ed Guest viewpoint: What's wrong with California's new housing laws
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By: Anita Enander

Guest opinion: A lifelong Santa Clara County resident, who also happens to be a city mayor in Silicon Valley, makes the case for why new state laws SB 9 and SB 10 could be bad for local communities.

Imagine a developer buys your next-door neighbor’s home, tears down that home and builds four or six units — or more — right next to you. 

You once had the right to speak out about such a major development in your own neighborhood. But that right has been taken away by Sacramento politicians. 

Now think about the consequences of increasing the density of your neighborhood by up to six-fold. You might think that the developers making so much money on these new homes would have to address the consequences of such density, like traffic gridlock, the need for new school funding, and parks and safety services. 

But thanks to those very same politicians in Sacramento, you and your local communities no longer have the right to require that developers pay for the costs of these new projects in your neighborhood. Under these new laws, you will pay the costs in new taxes while statewide developers make billions in profits.

All of this is being done by politicians in the name of “affordable housing,” so you would logically conclude that at least some of this new housing would be affordable. Well, once again, the politicians have different ideas. Under new laws like Senate Bill 9 and Senate Bill 10 and other laws passed in Sacramento, none of these new homes need to be affordable. None.

The politicians, and many of their Twitter followers, want to tell you that taking away your right to speak out about what happens in your neighborhood — ending single family zoning and handing a blank check to for-profit developers — is being done in the name of racial justice. But what they simply refuse to acknowledge is that studies show that low-income communities and communities of color are the most vulnerable to the kind of gentrification and displacement this blank check will bring. While the developers will certainly come for every neighborhood eventually, they will target low-income communities first where the profit margins are highest because land costs are lowest.

This obvious inequity is why organizations representing communities of color like the LA Urban League oppose these new laws that will lead to gentrification and displacement.

These groups are part of a growing statewide coalition of neighbors, local elected officials and advocates who are circulating a citizen’s initiative that will bring back community and neighborhood voices in planning and development. 

This Our Neighborhood Voices Initiative rests on a basic principle — you have the right to be heard about what happens in your own community. We all believe California needs new housing. The question is where that new housing will be built and who will pay for it and the required infrastructure.

Our coalition members support new housing near well­ served transit, in our downtown areas and other places where new housing can be built without creating even worse traffic gridlock, sprawl, displacement and environmental damage.

We also point out that just a few years ago, Sacramento politicians took away funds that were being used to support affordable housing and spent them for their own purposes. They helped cause an affordable housing crisis – and now they are blaming you for it.

They say you just need to sit down and be quiet when the home next door to you is being demolished, replaced with six units or more, and the developer leaves you with the infrastructure bill.

We have a different idea about that. We are not sitting down – we are standing up to fight for your neighborhood voice.

Anita Enander is a life-long resident of Santa Clara County, and former owner and CEO of Arabian Horse World Inc., who serves as mayor of Los Altos. The opinion expressed here is her own. Learn more at www.OurNeighborhoodVoices.com.

This article originally appeared in the Silicon Valley Business Journal

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