July 2, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Worst Housing Bills Fail; Solution via Market Forces Now Possible

By Tom Elias, Columnist

Evidence keeps mounting that California’s longtime housing shortage can be solved by market forces set loose by the lifestyle and workplace changes created by the coronavirus pandemic.

Now the failure of the worst parts of a sweeping housing package in the state Legislature leaves the path clear for those market forces to work themselves out. Had the most wide-ranging of the bills passed, there could have been far less motivation for developers and local governments to heed the accelerating non-political forces.

Potential housing effects of the viral crisis became noticeable almost immediately after “shelter-at-home” orders first came from county governments in the San Francisco Bay area, quickly followed by similar statewide decrees by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

White collar workers for companies large and small were suddenly ordered to work from home, as companies from Internet giants like Twitter and Facebook to law firms, insurance companies, stock brokerages and many more provided technology for workers to work wherever they like.

Soon, television broadcasters were shown in living rooms and backyards viewers had never before seen.

Vacancy signs proliferated in the densest of business districts from San Francisco to Santa Monica to Fresno, San Diego, Orange County and beyond. Said a stock brokerage vice president in Pasadena, “We spent $2 million over the last two years refurbishing our offices to accommodate more than 100 workers. Now we get five people a day working there. We don’t need all that space. Our people are as productive as ever; they’re just not in the office very often.”

Realtors report record levels of vacancies, but a building boom propelled by previous state demands for more and more mixed-use office and commercial buildings has continued.

As empty space appeared within existing buildings, spurred strictly by non-political events, state lawmakers kept pushing the most ambitious housing construction plan the Legislature ever saw.

Pushed by Democrats like San Francisco state Sen. Scott Wiener, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins of San Diego and Santa Monica Assemblyman Richard Bloom, this package included SB 902, allowing up to 10 units on any lot zoned for a single home; two other bills allowing developers to build more high-end units on one site if they constructed enough affordable ones on others; a fourth letting city councils overturn without a new popular vote all height-limit laws passed by local voters – and much more.

But the 10-unit bill died in a committee, along with the prospect of developers trolling established low-rise neighborhoods with fat bankrolls to tempt homeowners sitting on large amounts of equity. So did several other major proposals in the package.

If the lawmakers behind these measures paid any heed to what’s going on in their own districts, they might not have proposed these things, despite the strong support they quite predictably got from developers and building trade unions.

For Twitter’s building in Wiener’s district now stands mostly empty. Office towers in Atkins’ San Diego district are nowhere near filled and “for-lease” signs abound in downtown Santa Monica, barely a mile from Bloom’s home.

These empty spaces and many more like them will likely produce more than 1 billion vacant square feet that can be turned into apartments and condominiums in all price ranges with far less work, in far less time and with far fewer lawsuits to fight them than pushing for new construction. Building trades workers will be kept busy doing the electric, plumbing, elevator, carpentry and drywall work needed to convert commercial space into residences. Established neighborhoods will remain intact.

Yes, it will take some rezoning to accomplish this. But those changes are inevitable: cities and counties would otherwise stand to lose large amounts of property tax money as massive vacancies reduce the value of commercial buildings.

If legislators are really interested in solving the housing problem, and not merely in self-aggrandizement or feathering the nests of their campaign donors, they will leave well enough alone, allowing the market forces to play out over the next two to three years. That way, California will see the millions of new housing units it needs far faster than it could have under any of the failed new laws.

Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It” is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

Related Posts

John McEnroe and Patty Smyth Sell Malibu Home for $29 Million

July 2, 2022

July 2, 2022

Malibu Colony home sold to unknown buyer in private sale By Dolores Quintana John McEnroe, a retired former tennis star,...

SMa.r.t. Column: A Tale of Two Cities

July 2, 2022

July 2, 2022

The City of Santa Monica is surrounded on three sides by the City of Los Angeles. Therefore, while the jurisdictions...

Santa Monica City Council Approves Ballot Measure That Would Increase Hotel Bed Tax

July 1, 2022

July 1, 2022

Santa Monica’s bed tax has been raised since 2004 By Dolores Quintana In a vote on June 28, the Santa...

PETA Attempts to Stop the Beach Club From Holding Annual Fireworks Display

July 1, 2022

July 1, 2022

Parking lot where display is held is on City of LA land, not Santa Monica, allowing Club to obtain permit...

Column: Groundwater Law Has Not Stopped Subsidence

July 1, 2022

July 1, 2022

By Tom Elias Drive almost any road in the vast San Joaquin Valley and you’ll see irrigation pipes standing up...

Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Prepares for SMASH/Muir Campus Mold Removal

June 30, 2022

June 30, 2022

Exact costs for repairs still unknown By Dolores Quintana and Sam Catanzaro  It is unknown exactly how much the total...

Watering Restrictions for Santa Monica Residents Take Effect Soon

June 30, 2022

June 30, 2022

New restrictions will go into effect on July 5, limiting watering to twice a week By Sam Catanzaro New restrictions...

Daily Harvest Recalls Meal Kits Handed out at Venice Event Following 470 Cases of Mysterious Illness

June 30, 2022

June 30, 2022

Direct-to-consumer meal kit company under fire for handling of outbreak tied to lentil and leek meal kit By Sam Catanzaro...

SMa.r.t. Column: It’s Time to Look at the Facts of Santa Monica’s Housing History

June 30, 2022

June 30, 2022

The Narrative: Santa Monica’s decades-long housing construction “shortage”  The Narrative endlessly repeats the refrain that for decades Santa Monica has...

Central Coast Brewery Makes Westside Acquisitions

June 29, 2022

June 29, 2022

Figueroa Mountain Brewing acquires Broxton Brewery, The Stalking Horse and more. Staff, current beer taps to remain on board at...

Mexican Restaurant Possibly Expanding Into Former Swingers Space

June 29, 2022

June 29, 2022

Bar Hermanito applies for an alcohol exemption sales permit for space at 802 Broadway in Santa Monica By Dolores Quintana...

Six Family-Fun Westside Fourth of July Events

June 29, 2022

June 29, 2022

Fireworks, parades, runs and more taking place across the Westside  By Ashley Sloan  Pacific Palisades  The Pacific Palisades will be...

California Credit Union Awards Grant to Santa Monica Teacher

June 29, 2022

June 29, 2022

Building electric circuit friendship detectors and applying engineering principles to solve real world problems are Westside school projects receiving funding...

Santa Monica’s Building Bridges Art Exchange Presents: J.J. Martin’s “Role Models”

June 28, 2022

June 28, 2022

A traveling exhibit in partnership with Indianilla Cultural Center, Mexico City and Real de Catorce Cultural Center, Real de Catorce,...

Santa Monica City Council Approves New Rules to Streamline Meetings

June 28, 2022

June 28, 2022

Pilot program will run through end of year By Dolores Quintana At the Santa Monica City Council meeting on June...