PPIC Study Questions Housing Shortage

CP&DR Staff on
Apr 1, 2004

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released three reports of interest to planners in March. The reports address housing supply, the link between water and planning, and planned developments.

The housing supply study surprised many people because it reported a statewide shortage as of 2000 of only 138,000 units, when interest groups and other analysts have pegged the shortage at 500,000 to 1 million units. Authors Hans Johnson, Rosa Moller and Michael Dardia identified a shortage of 168,000 units in the Bay Area, 146,000 units in Los Angeles and Orange counties, and 87,000 units in San Diego County. However, they found that housing was abundant everywhere else in the state, especially in the Inland Empire and Central Valley, a situation that forces long commutes and traffic congestion.

Housing construction dropped from 2.1 million units during the 1980s to 1.1 million units during the 1990s. The researchers reported that macro economic trends — such as employment levels, U.S. economic policy and private investment strategies — and demographic factors — including a slowing of population growth during the 1990s, and more immigrants and children — accounted for 80% of the construction decrease.

"These findings do not mean that there are no hardships with respect to housing supply and new construction in California," the report states. "There may be serious problems in markets for low-income housing, and there is evidence of a housing shortage in the state’s largest metropolitan areas. However, they do suggest that the supply crisis may be overstated, and that our position in 2000 was perhaps better, and certainly not much worse, than in 1990."

The survey on water supply and growth found that most jurisdictions coordinate the two in some fashion. The survey by Ellen Hanak and Antonina Simeti found that 62% of cities and counties participate in the planning activities of their local water utilities. The survey also found that 55% of cities and 83% of counties require some sort of assessment of water availability before approving new housing, although the level of assessment varies greatly. About half of cities and counties also have policies that link new homes’ locations with considerations of stormwater management and groundwater recharge. The survey also found that half of counties and one-quarter of cities have conducted reviews under 2001 legislation (SB 610 and SB 221) that requires assurances of water availability for large developments.

The study of planned developments found that they are not the evil, walled compounds for the wealthy that some commentators have described. The study by Tracy Gordon found the percentage of middle-income people living in planned developments is the same as in similar areas. Gordon did find that planned development residents are more likely to be white, and less likely to be Hispanic or African-American, than in the community as a whole, but she said planned communities have a minimal impact on overall segregation in the state. The study also countered the belief that planned development residents withdraw from the larger community. Gordon found higher percentages of voter registration and turnout in planned developments, and voting preferences that matched similar neighborhoods.

All of the PPIC studies may be found at www.ppic.org

THE SAN DIEGO REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY did not provide replacement housing for units demolished as part of redevelopment projects, double-counted housing units and spent an inordinate portion of housing funds on planning and administration, according to a Department of Housing and Community Development Department audit released in March.

Auditors identified one project that removed 24 housing units that were not replaced. Two other projects that involved demolition of 137 and 19 units, respectively, relied on replacement units that had been built four years earlier and may not have been available to displaced residents. Auditors also identified four instances in which the redevelopment agency counted units as both replacement housing and toward low- and moderate-income housing production requirements. Additionally, over the three years audited, from 21% to 44% of low- and moderate-income housing fund expenditures were for planning and administration, HCD reported.

In response, the agency differed with HCD’s interpretation of state law regarding replacement units. The agency said that under state law, it may count units built as much as four years before demolition of existing units as replacement housing. Officials at HCD appeared to agree but only if the units were built or rehabilitated in anticipation of removal of the existing units. The agency did not do this, according to HCD.

As for double-counting of housing units, the agency said it would review its implementation plans and work with HCD. The agency contended that its planning and administrative expenses were justified and, because of accounting techniques, appeared exaggerated.

The state also knocked the redevelopment agency for counting ineligible units toward housing production requirements, not keeping bond proceeds for housing in a separate account, and filing inadequate reports.

THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS did not adequately analyze alternative sites for constructing a new death row, according to a report issued in March by the California State Auditor. Corrections is in the planning stages of a $220 million overhaul of the condemned inmate facility at San Quentin.

"Relocating San Quentin’s activities elsewhere and allowing Marin County to develop the property would provide an opportunity for the state to help Marin County address some of its housing and transportation concerns," State Auditor Elaine Howle reported. But Howle also concluded that relocating death row could cost $300 million more than the state would receive from the sale of the property.

Corrections officials said the report justified their decision to go forward at San Quentin. Developers and some Marin County officials have eyed the San Quentin site — overlooking San Pablo Bay, near San Rafael — for years.

Howle’s report is available at www.bsa.ca.gov

THREE BALLOT MEASURES that would have allowed development on small parcels of agriculturally zoned land in Napa County were rejected by voters in March. Voters said no to a proposal to expand a restaurant in Oakville (Measure Q), a plan to expand the Pope Valley Market (Measure R) and rezoning for a commercial establishment near Cuttings Wharf (Measure S).

The elections were required under 1990’s Measure J. Since then, voters have rejected seven of eleven measures to rezone agricultural land.

THE TOWN OF LOOMIS joined the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society in filing a lawsuit over the City of Roseville’s recent approval of the 3,100-acre west Roseville specific plan (see CP&DR In Brief, March 2004; Local Watch, August, 2003). The suit alleges Roseville did not adequately address traffic congestion, air quality degradation, the loss of farmland and impacts to wildlife habitat.

REUSE OF THE FORMER NORTON AIR FORCE BASE in San Bernardino advanced in March, when Stater Bros. Markets announced it would move its headquarters from Colton to 160 acres at Norton and build a 2 million-square-foot warehouse and distribution center. As many as 2,000 people could work at the new Stater Bros. facility, which could break ground this summer. Stater Bros. would join Kohl’s, which has already opened a large warehouse at Norton, and Mattel, which is planning a facility of its own.

The Inland Valley Development Authority, which is responsible for base reuse, continues to negotiate its assistance for Stater Bros.