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Guest Opinion: A Refusal to Seriously Address California's Housing Shortage and Affordability Crisis Is ALREADY Destroying California As We Know It

Original post made by Dean Wallace, Stoneridge, on Jul 3, 2021

“State lawmakers in Sacramento have decided they know better than the rest of us how we should live.”

“Towering five-story projects could be built in currently protected areas like our downtown."

“The yards and trees will have been ripped out.”

“Our neighborhoods will be changed forever.”

There’s a lot of bluster, and warnings about what nightmares may lay ahead, if California's State Legislature “forces” cities to build more homes to address our state’s abysmal record of keeping up with the needs of California’s growing population. But for all the bluster, and dire predictions in recent conversations about our housing crisis, there’s scant reference to the current reality facing young people in California. The crisis we are facing. Because the fact is, the California that many in Pleasanton, understandably, pine for — is already a thing of the past.

Let’s look at some basic facts that face a “hopeful young family” looking to buy a home in Pleasanton right now. This past May, Pleasanton home prices were up 42.1% compared to last year — selling for a median price of $1.6M. The average rent on a one-bedroom apartment in Pleasanton, anywhere from $2,500-$2,700. The average student debt a college graduate in California leaves school with: $35,000. The average cost of childcare in California, for one child, during their infant and preschool years: $15,000-$20,000. Per year.

Those are basic facts facing hopeful young families today. Now, you may look at all those numbers, and ask yourselves: How can young people possibly afford to do it all? Because, traditionally, the tried-and-true advice is to have 20% saved up as a down payment on a new home. Right now, for the average home in Pleasanton in 2021, that means having $320,000 handy. How on earth are young people today supposed to come up with that sum, on top of their already unaffordable rents, paying down their student loans, and all the rest?

The reality is, many just can’t.

The California that many like to recall with a glint in their eye, is already a thing of the past. From 1981 to 2019, the average age of home buyers (according to the National Association of Realtors) went from 31 to 47. The average age of a first-time home buyer is now 35. And that’s before the latest, crazy, surge in home prices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By age 30, 51% of Baby Boomers had already purchased their first home. 48% of Gen Xers had purchased their first home by 30. Millennials? 42%. And with the current trend of ever-increasing home prices, the next generation will fare even worse.

It’s easy to blame faceless legislators in “Sacramento” for our housing woes. For our housing affordability crisis. Images of trees being uprooted, “towering five story buildings downtown,” and speculators looking to get rich quick — make for easy scapegoats. Nobody likes change. Nobody wants to see the neighborhood they love, forever altered.

But the truth is, our neighborhoods have already changed. They are older. They are more exorbitantly expensive and out-of-reach to the recent generations of high school graduates of Pleasanton schools — cordoned off to the sons and daughters of many of those still living in these beautiful neighborhoods.

The rhetoric used in our conversations about housing tends to be intense, dramatic, vivid, and disconcerting. But the fact is, the reality is already incredibly dire for those who don’t already have the good fortune of owning a home in California.

We need less bluster, and more solutions. We need to have the tough conversations about how we fix this predicament we find ourselves in — how we are going to build more homes, and fast — so that those hopeful young families aren’t forever priced out of Pleasanton.

Because the way things stand now, most already are.

And that can’t be blamed on those legislators over in Sacramento.

We find ourselves in this predicament because of land-use decisions made over the course of many decades — at the local level.

- Dean Wallace

District Director for State Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, and proud Pleasanton resident/renter

Comments (22)

Posted by Rich Buckley
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 5, 2021 at 11:29 am

Rich Buckley is a registered user.

A percentage of housing needs seems as though it can be met with carefully worked Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU's) Appraisers are having much difficulty appraising ADU's because the inventory of comparable sales of ADU's do not exist. The state could cut some slack in valuing ADU's.

Perhaps California could start a State Owned Bank, not a state chartered bank, but a state owned bank.

"The Bank of North Dakota (BND) is a state-owned and state-run financial institution, based in Bismarck, North Dakota. ... The state and its agencies are required to place their funds in the bank."

OUR FEARS HAVE TO BE CONFRONTED

The hard part is disconnecting from the existing debt-slave system and enabling a state level owned bank. Then there is the unfortunate, well grounded contention that all government always ends up doing the wrong thing, lying about it, and doing it too late ending in bankruptcy that the taxpayer has to bail out.

I'm not sold on the idea that it would work, but I'm open to experimenting to see how it might be achieved with a state owned bank capitalized perhaps like North Dakota, and maybe grant new lending functions to local credit unions.


Posted by Dean Wallace
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jul 5, 2021 at 12:32 pm

Dean Wallace is a registered user.

Rich -- Totally agree, and it's in the works! A public state bank is currently in the works in the State Legislature. My boss is a co-author of AB 1177, which would create CalBank. It passed the Assembly, and is now in the Senate: Web Link


Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 5, 2021 at 5:09 pm

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

You think downtown townhouses and condos will be affordable?


Posted by Dean Wallace
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jul 5, 2021 at 5:18 pm

Dean Wallace is a registered user.

@Pleasanton Parent: More affordable than a $1.6M house outside of downtown? Yes, I do. Condos and townhomes are absolutely more affordable than most homes currently in Pleasanton.


Posted by Pete
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2021 at 9:32 pm

Pete is a registered user.

Mr. Wallace, why use Pleasanton as a reference for your concerns...? You do not suspect Dublin, Livermore or San Ramon do not have the same problems/concerns? Are you of the belief that if you work hard, you should/can buy a home in Pleasanton...? We have children who have a good head on their shoulders. They live,work and play within communities that they can afford...with a quality of life...one out of state, other the Central Coast.
You work within a sector of our government that is paid for by the taxpayer. You choose to live a long way from your employment...? That is telling to me. BTW, Dean, most young adults, over the last 50 years who have graduated from our schools have chosen to live elsewhere...simply. Pleasanton was always more expensive than most areas.
When you faceless legislators can use context to assemble a plan that remotely resembles a solution, speak you mind. A suggestion that may assist you...come down on those subsidized housing landlords that use these investment properties as nothing more than investments with little maintenance/attention to those living in/on their property. The state could probably free up a couple hundred thousand units to enterprising young family’s... by condemning the crap that these landlords force on their tenants.


Posted by Dean Wallace
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jul 5, 2021 at 9:45 pm

Dean Wallace is a registered user.

@Pete I live in the Tri-Valley because it’s my home. I went to Dublin High School, went to Stanford for college, worked in Washington DC, then decided to move back home because I wanted to be back in the Bay Area and near my mother. And for which I am incredibly grateful to have done after the past year and a half. Having her so close has been a blessing.

And, I work in Oakland… so I don’t presume to know what you meant by your comment that my living here is “telling,” as you say. But I’ll tell you what is not a solution — and is very “telling” in and of itself — saying ones children, in order to have a “good head on their shoulders,” must “ live, work, and play within communities that they can afford...with a quality of life...one out of state.” I just don’t agree with that stance. And I’m happy to defend my position — which is we should build more homes to allow young people to have a chance to live in the Tri-Valley. Just like many of the good residents of Pleasanton — who have lived here for decades and raised families here — were able to do themselves. Because, while Pleasanton and the surrounding communities have always had above the avg cost of living in the US — it wasn’t until recently that having a good paying job that brings you a solid, middle-to-upper-middle class job in the Bay Area — meant your were somehow not smart enough to know better and leave the place you’ve called home. And I don’t think that’s right. I don’t think that’s smart public policy. And I don’t think I don’t have a “good head on my shoulder” for thinking and saying so.

And I’m incredibly grateful our state legislators are seeing how this isn’t a viable, long-term, situation we have on our hands here in California. And I’m hopeful many more *local* elected are starting to see it, too.


Posted by John Mirisch
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2021 at 3:18 pm

John Mirisch is a registered user.

Dean Wallace defends Sacramento and scapegoats communities throughout the state for the lack of affordable housing. This prevailing narrative is, of course, one of the Urban Growth Machine’s standard talking points, built upon Reaganomic trickle-down theories, which beyond the bluster and rhetoric, not only ignore individuals’ housing-lifestyle choices, but also fuel housing speculation and lead to increased housing costs.

Blaming cities for the lack of housing affordability in CA is de rigueur for Sacramento politicians, who seek to distract from their own failings. Yet it is Sacramento politicians themselves who eliminated redevelopment and the governor who vetoed SB5, with over $2 billion a year for affordable housing.

The reality is that upzoning schemes fail to address key causes of housing unaffordability such as an off-kilter jobs/housing imbalance, growing income inequality, and an overconcentration of opportunity in a few “superstar” regions.

And, as even Nancy Skinner has pointed out, there are already 1.2 million vacant units in CA. According to Freddie Mac, the housing deficit in CA is 830,000 units. The math tells a different tale from the narrative advanced by the Urban Growth Machine and their politicians.

As empirical evidence from places like Vancouver prove, upzoning schemes do not create affordability. Allowing lot splits like those allowed under SB9 simply increase land value, putting homeownership out of reach of even more people. Unfortunately, that’s what happens when community-based urban planning is replaced by developer-oriented zoning and profit-oriented zoning.

If Dean Wallace and Buffy Wickes really care about housing affordability, then they will look to create anti-housing speculation policies (outlined below) which recognize that housing is first and foremost for living in, and not primarily an investment vehicle for private equity and global capital.

Web Link


Posted by Dean Wallace
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jul 6, 2021 at 5:53 pm

Dean Wallace is a registered user.

@John — Councilmember Mirisch, in the comments section of the Pleasanton Weekly all the way from Beverly Hills, I’m so honored you noticed my little post here. I have to say, as someone who has been a lifelong Democrat, and who has worked for progressive causes and electeds my whole adult life — including Assemblymember Wicks and Congressman Swalwell — I’ve never been accused of being a fan of anything Reagan (let alone Reaganomics). It’s a first! But the fact that you are weaponizing that here — yourself a lifelong Republican, who I can only assume always voted for Reagan when you had the chance — speaks volumes about the merits of your argument. They aren’t made in good faith. They are a smokescreen to obscure the fact that, the truth is, you don’t actually care about “affordable housing” at all. You only use it in bad faith to block any, and all, new housing projects. But if you want to go on the record as not having voted for Reagan, I will happily apologize for the error on my part.


Posted by MichaelB
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 6, 2021 at 8:29 pm

MichaelB is a registered user.

"And I’m incredibly grateful our state legislators are seeing how this isn’t a viable, long-term, situation we have on our hands here in California."


Would these be the same state legislators that are just fine with rolling blackouts, unreliable "green energy" sources, banning the sale of gasoline powered cars, and some of the highest gas prices in the nation - all to supposedly "save the planet"? So called progressives are completely out of touch with the average working/middle class person in the state - and are unable to see they are part of the housing problem. One party (rubber stamp) rule in California is just fun, isn't it?

Web Link


Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 6, 2021 at 8:46 pm

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

I’m tired of politicians pushing this on suburban neighborhoods.

You fail to support our schools, fail to provide safe public transit, fail to address wildfires, fail to address the drought, yet still raise taxes for these things……and in Ca we’ve been solid blue for a long time - not like you have a difficult vote.

So yes, stay out of our communities and fix the model cities you already screwed up before bringing those failed policies to ours, show me a working model before you ask us to solve your created problem


Posted by Dean Wallace
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jul 6, 2021 at 8:49 pm

Dean Wallace is a registered user.

@MichaelB — I would contend that what is “out of touch” with young working and middle class families is saying: 1) we are full and they should just move out of state because “working hard” doesn’t mean you should be able to live in Pleasanton, and 2) making such an argument while also pretending that one “actually really cares about affordable housing for young working class families” — while opposing any new homes from being built across our communities… and then also having the gall to make that argument as one sits in *their* own homes valued at $1.5M+


Posted by Dean Wallace
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jul 6, 2021 at 9:03 pm

Dean Wallace is a registered user.

@Pleasanton Parent, given your screen name I want to ask you one question, and it is this: Do you want California to be a state in which your own children can afford to live? Because if you do want your kids to have the same opportunity you’ve all had — to work hard, buy a house, and have the chance to create and raise a family of their own, right here, in this state we *all* call home — then we need to build more homes. Full stop.

Because after a year and a half during which we have all come to realize what *really* matters in life — of the importance of family and friends, and of being “home” — I think there’s no question what the answer should be.


Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 6, 2021 at 9:55 pm

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

Dean,
I also want them to be able to send their children to schools that aren’t dumbing down grading, reducing instructional hours ea yr, univ taking more out of state students, fighting to keep taxes low, have access to water, live in areas protected from wildfire, have access to public transportation that isn’t doubling as a trap house, so how about I take care of helping them with housing until you can do your job on the other areas before you try and take on something else you can’t handle.

Again show the public a working model before you force it on us.


Posted by Dean Wallace
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jul 6, 2021 at 10:06 pm

Dean Wallace is a registered user.

@PleasantonParent -- I can appreciate, sincerely, your desires to provide your kids with a good, quality, education -- right here, in Pleasanton, California. Emphasis on California. And I am, and will forever, be grateful for the public education I received at Dublin High School that allowed this, once shy kid right here, to attend a place like Stanford University. But, to be clear, I'm speaking up for those of us who don't have the good fortune of being able to rely on our parents to provide or take care of us anymore, have been doing our part to work hard, play by the rules -- and yet still are faced with an impossible task of trying to make ends meet when we balance our personal budgets on a daily basis because of the out-of-control cost of housing, and the severe shortage of homes we have in this state, and our communities. Your kids are blessed with time. And blessed to have you as a parent, looking out for them. And I do sincerely hope we can right the issues that we do have in this state, for them, and all of us who live here. Which, I personally believe -- unquestionably includes: building more homes for the people who live here.


Posted by John Mirisch
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2021 at 11:57 pm

John Mirisch is a registered user.

Dean,

Quite correct, I'm from Beverly Hills, born x raised. Proud to be a resident of my community as you are of yours. Despite having many friends in NorCal, as a native Southern Californian, I'm disturbed by the hubris of a number of NorCal Sacramento politicians who presume to know what is best for us in SoCal and by their belief that there is something inherently immoral and evil about single-family neighborhoods, while making the wild claim that "density is destiny." Nonetheless, I'm always happy to engage in real dialogue (and even debate) with those who scapegoat cities and communities and with those who misguidedly believe in "one-size-fits-all" measures. You make it difficult when you go completely off topic and lob misguided partisan attacks.

(FYI, it's true I'm a registered Republican, largely because I'm not a fan of one-party-government. I openly supported Biden, never supported Trump, and am an anti-corporatist who identifies as a Prius Conservative, Swedish republican and communitarian. Three years ago I proposed a corporate wealth tax:
Web Link. This year I wrote in Zócalo about how we can learn from Sweden, among other things, as an antidote to urban supremacism).

Hopefully, you can get beyond misleading labels and engage in dialogue. I'm glad you evidently oppose supply-side fantasies (which is what market-rate upzoning is) and would be glad to meet with you and Assemblyperson Wicks to discuss the issues, including the implementation of anti-speculation housing policy (an issue you completely dodge in your response). If you think that I (and many of my locally elected friends) don't care about affordable housing, then I challenge you to engage with us and find out for yourself.

I can be reached at [email protected], 310-285-1013. I look forward to hearing from you so we can set up a meeting on these important statewide issues.

Regards,
John


Posted by Dean Wallace
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jul 7, 2021 at 12:09 am

Dean Wallace is a registered user.

"Hopefully, you can get beyond misleading labels and engage in dialogue."

I ask you and your crew try and live out those values you speak of here. Because, I want to make clear, it was you who accused me of being in favor of "Reaganomics." And I've been dealing with lobs of personal attacks and assumptions lobbed at me over here. I've been trying to be considerate and respectful.

And, while I'm very glad to hear you support some worthy causes -- and have joined us on some of the things we believe (welcome!), I will point out you never denied having voted for Mr. Ronald Reagan -- man behind Reaganomics. (For the record.)

I've followed your work, and I am well acquainted with your arguments and view. You seem to believe that we don't really lack for housing, and that simply cutting down on speculation is the solution. I agree, speculation and the fact that the housing market is so out of control - and untethered from the behavior of a functioning market -- is a huge problem. But sticking your head in the sand, and refusing to admit that part of the driving force behind this dystopian housing market we have -- why it has become such an unhinged market that makes absolutely no sense -- is this simple fact: California does not produce the number of homes we need. We haven't for decades, and decades. And that's on local elected officials. Because, I want to remind you, that the decisions over land use have historically been *your* prerogative. Not the state's. We're here because of local failures to build more homes.

And, while I appreciate your offer to engage in further dialogue, I just don't think it would be a good use of either of our time. It's abundantly clear we will never agree. But, thank you, for the offer.


Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 7, 2021 at 7:18 am

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

I love that you completely ignore all the infrastructure related items you’re actually accountable for, and focus on something that requires those others to be in place if you want it to have a chance to be successful.

Oh and still can’t point to a model of what you want in the end that the community can see as an example of success


Posted by MichaelB
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 7, 2021 at 8:05 am

MichaelB is a registered user.

"You fail to support our schools, fail to provide safe public transit, fail to address wildfires, fail to address the drought, yet still raise taxes for these things……and in Ca we’ve been solid blue for a long time - not like you have a difficult vote."


And they will continue to fail. There are no consequences for their poor decision making. Media outlets/professional journalists will predictably come to their defense and claim we just need more of the same - and the opposing party is "racist", "favors the rich",is "against the children", etc. The only way Buffy Wicks ever gets voted out is if a candidate (from the same party) runs for the office promoting policies/positions even further to the left.

Expect the housing problem to be come much, much worse as progressives double down on economically unworkable/regulatory prohibitive "climate change" regulations. And don't forget the newest (and entirely predictable)claim from them: single family housing now being referred to as "racist" and the subsequent need to restrict/do away with it for "equity" purposes.


Posted by John Mirisch
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2021 at 12:18 pm

John Mirisch is a registered user.

Hi Dean,

FYI I was actually a registered Democrat until 2008, so not sure why you conclude I voted for Ronald Reagan.

You seem to take great umbrage at the description of your housing policies as “Reaganomics.” Progressive Dick Platkin describes here just why that’s the case:
Web Link

While you’ve been scapegoating cities, people like me have been instituting more robust rent stabilization policies than those offered by the state. We created a rental registry – a model which the state should follow to provide the data needed to make good decisions.

I proposed a 2% transfer fee for affordable housing for buyers of luxury condos. How about proposing something similar at the state level?

I have openly supported the repeal of Costa-Hawkins/Ellis Acts to provide renters with better protections. Hoping we’re all on the same page here.

Glad you agree the unbridled Market itself is an issue when it comes to housing affordability. You accuse me of sticking my head in the sand when it comes to supply (at the same time you deny that you are a supply-sider), but I have been clear that we need to distinguish between the supply of market-rate and affordable housing and consider real people’s housing-lifestyle choices. Building more Porsches won’t reduce the price of Priuses. If people want Impossible burgers, producing more meat won’t help. But anti-speculation housing policies will.

Sorry you are not interested in thoughtful dialogue (or even an actual debate). The offer stands.

I’ll leave you with a link which shows just how damaging advocacy for private equity and “the Market’s magic” is even within the rental housing segment, (not to mention homeownership):
Web Link

Cheers,
John


Posted by Dean Wallace
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jul 7, 2021 at 12:30 pm

Dean Wallace is a registered user.

Councilmember,

Again, you have not gone on the record as never having voted for Reagan. Artful dodges though. You do your Yale degree proud, my friend (Go Bulldogs!). And switching to the Republican Party in 2008, and staying in said party given everything they currently stand for -- all they've stood for since 2008 -- shows questionable judgement on your behalf. To say the very least.

The one scapegoating here, from go, is you. You have nice little slogans, you brand yourself as a "different kind of Republican," but your grasp of logic falls short. Example: while the notion that building more units on a piece of land makes the property they sit on "more expensive" is true, the part where your logic fails you, is the part that doesn't lead to the other conclusion: which is while the *land* that those units sit on are more expensive, each individual home *is not*. There are more homes for lower cost, individually.

And to be clear: I have nothing against single family homes, and those who live in them. What I have a problem with is you deciding what others should be able to do with their properties. If someone has a single family home but wants to turn it into a duplex or triplex, is that not their choice? You say you stand for choice in housing -- what of that choice. How about this deal: you get to stay in your single family home, as can all who live in sfhs and enjoy them. I have zero issue with that.
But let others choice what they want to do with their property. That they own.

I will never be able to buy a home like yours, or any of those currently living in Pleasanton. Not for $1.6M. And I wish, just for a second, you could empathize with how demoralizing that is to all those not so fortunate as you. And to have you scapegoat me -- as some sort of tool for landlords and developers -- is not only disingenuous and wrong, it's thoughtless. Try listening to my concerns. Not telling me why I'm wrong from the start.

I like to engage in thoughtful dialogue with those who engage in good faith arguments, not those who do what you do.

With sincerity,
Dean


Posted by Dean Wallace
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jul 7, 2021 at 12:38 pm

Dean Wallace is a registered user.

Councilmember,

I did forget to thank you for the support of a rental registry! My boss, Assemblymember Wicks -- whom you denigrated in a previous comment (when you also disparaged me), has been tirelessly championing and leading the effort to pass that at the state level (Web Link).

So, thank you, for that good policy. There may be hope, yet, that you'll see more of the big picture re: housing. I'm rooting for it,

Regards,
Dean


Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 8, 2021 at 8:54 am

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

Dean,
I love that you'll make an explicit talking point out someone specifically avoiding a direct answer to your question, all while doing the same - albeit mine is directly related to your proposal - show the public a working model of what you're proposing before forcing it upon us.

I'll anticipate your next avoidance, and anticipate the obligatory "you must be a racist, privileged, boomer, Trumpist, etc" association tactic that seems so popular these days with anyone that challenges the Democratic party (whether registered Democrat or not!).

Think Newsom is aware it actually wasn't all registered Republicans that signed his recall.....maybe, just maybe, he should reflect on that and project a campaign that addresses all Californians interests and not resort to aforementioned name calling for anyone that disagreed with him on certain decisions?


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