State lawmakers have decided that they know better than the rest of us how we should live.
That is the message Sacramento is sending with dozens of legislative bills that, if passed, will all but destroy local control over housing and development. Your community's future will no longer be determined by you and your local elected representatives, but by developers and speculators armed with money and state laws that empower them to control local land use.
The state-mandated housing requirements are unrealistic. Under state law, Pleasanton will be required to add 5,965 new units of housing, or enough to house 16,702 new residents within eight years from 2023-31. That would be a 20% jump in population.
Without the $1.5 billion needed to subsidize the required affordable housing units, we're being set up to fail. The new laws will allow the state to penalize us with a loss of local authority to review projects -- towering five-story projects could be built in currently protected areas like our downtown. The City Council's hands are tied and the neighborhood and community voice is silenced.
When lawmakers refuse to allocate funding to cover the costs of increased services for those thousands of new residents, it leaves us to figure out how to pay for essential services: leading to overcrowded schools, water shortages and gridlocked roads.
Senate Bills 9 and 10 are two of the worst. The bills trample the environment. Several streamlining bills will dismantle 40 years of CEQA protection, increase fire danger and drought.
SB 9 is of immediate concern because it has passed the State Senate and is scheduled for a vote of the Assembly in coming weeks. The bill does not require or provide for any affordable housing and allows for single-family lots to be split in two and four-plus homes to replace one existing home.
When your neighbor's house goes on the market, SB 9 will incentivize speculators with all-cash offers to outbid the hopeful young families. Soon there are four-plus -- market rate -- homes crowded where one single-family home once stood. The yards and trees will have been ripped out because lawmakers have restricted setback requirements. Our neighborhoods will be changed forever.
We need to work toward creating affordable housing but increasing density does not magically create affordable housing. In fact, up-zoning makes land more valuable -- making affordable housing more expensive.
The state is scapegoating cities; they blame us for not building sufficient affordable housing, knowing it cannot be done without subsidy which cities don't have. Until Sacramento provides the tools and funding the affordable housing crisis will not be relieved.
We need solutions that assure homes, health, safety and opportunity for all. The housing bills fast-tracking through to becoming law fall short of sound policy.
Please join me at a Zoom town hall on Tuesday (June 29) 7 p.m. to learn about how you can take action. Presentations by Maria and Jeff Kalban of United Neighbors, also Gab Layton of the Embarcadero Institute. Register at https://tinyurl.com/29TownHall.
Editor's note: Julie Testa is serving her first term on the Pleasanton City Council, having been elected in November 2018. She has been appointed as the city's vice mayor for this year.