Sunday Commentary: Governor Newsom Tells Paper ‘NIMBYism is Destroying the State’

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Sacramento, CA – If you live in Davis, it is worth keeping an eye on what the governor says about housing—especially when he told the SF Chronicle Editorial Board that he was going to crack down on local opposition to housing projects.

Newsom is one of those concerned about the housing crisis.  It is hard to know if the housing issue is of sufficient strength to start realigning state and local politics.

I keep wondering what this pushback against NIMBYism means for places like Davis—so far, not much.  Davis has one of the most extreme land use policies in the state.  That is particularly so because limitations on growth are not due to geography or space limitations, but rather policies.

At the same time, Davis has kind of skated by, so far, unscathed because it is small and insignificant in terms of state housing needs.

Thus if Davis is impacted by statewide policies it will be collateral damage rather than a targeted strike—most likely.

Still, it would behoove Davis residents to pay attention to what is happening across the river in the Capitol.

“Taxpayers deserve more in terms of results, not just inputs,” Newsom told the Editorial Board. “They want to see results.”

Newsom has made housing—affordable housing and homelessness programs in particular—a priority.  The Chronicle notes, “Newsom has been responsible for putting more state funding into housing and homelessness programs than any other recent governor. His previous budgets have poured billions in funding to increase housing production and help get homeless people off the streets, but Californians aren’t yet seeing results they want, as they continue to rank housing and homelessness as top concerns.”

The Chronicle asks “where’s the holdup” and Newsom’s answer is NIMBYism.

“At the local level, Newsom argues, where “not in my backyard” politics prevent homeless shelters from being constructed and housing projects from being approved,” Newsom said.

“NIMBYism is destroying the state,” he told the editorial board during his interview with them as they determined who to endorse for DA.  Today they endorsed the governor for four more years.  “We’re gonna demand more from our cities and counties.”

Again, the good news for Davis is that when he says that he is thinking the Bay Area and LA, not necessarily tiny Davis.  But, as we saw with the RHNA numbers and the response of the HCD to Davis’ Housing Element, that doesn’t mean Davis is off Scot-free.

We have seen increased tensions between the state and local level, as well, in recent years.

“Tensions over state intervention in local housing policy have escalated in California in recent years as the housing crisis has raged and lawmakers have passed dozens of new laws pressuring local governments to build more homes,” the Chronicle wrote.  Local cities have pushed back, resisted, and litigated SB 9 and SB 10.

However, the courts have largely sided with the state and on the side of housing.  The one place where they didn’t, in the Berkeley issue, the state legislature overturned the court ruling in a blink.

So far local communities have found themselves at a decided disadvantage and it’s not clear which way the winds will blow.

“A proposed ballot measure that would override recent state housing laws and give local jurisdictions far more power over housing decisions did not qualify for the November ballot, but organizers have said they’ll try to make the 2024 ballot,” the Chronicle noted.

As I have noted in the past, it’s not clear there is still enough energy to really push back against the state—part of that is that a lot of people regard housing and homelessness as top problems and part of that is because the direct impact of things like SB 9 and SB 10 are small and experts expect them to stay that way.

Still, as we saw with the affordable housing proposal from Buffy Wicks, after the state audit criticized the state for failing to utilize existing land for affordable housing, the League of California Cities pushed back against that.

While the League of California Cities recognizes, “Housing affordability and homelessness are among the most critical issues facing California cities,” and, “Affordably priced homes are out of reach for many people, and housing is not being built fast enough to meet the current or projected needs of people living in the state,” they don’t believe that this is the right approach.

They are worried that “AB 2011 disregards (the) state-mandated local planning effort and forces cities to allow housing developments in nearly all areas of a city.

“Public hearings allow members of the community to inform their representatives of their support or concerns. ‘Streamlining’ in the context of AB 2011 is a shortcut around public input. While it may be frustrating for some developers to address neighborhood concerns about traffic, parking, and other development impacts, those directly affected by such projects should be heard,” they added.

What’s clear is we will likely see more of this, not less.

“It’s critical to hold cities and counties accountable,” he said. “There’s a crisis. Why the hell are you stopping projects? I mean, we’ve seen it over and over.”

The Chronicle cited the battle with HCD and the SF Board of Supervisors in the rejection of the 495-unit apartment complex.

Writes the Chronicle, “That could potentially lead to the Newsom administration suing San Francisco, just as it sued Huntington Beach.”

Newsom told the paper, “that was just a preview of the work his office will do to hold cities accountable on housing and homelessness.”

That should get the attention of local residents in Davis as well as political leaders.  While many agree that there are housing problems locally, most would oppose the state usurping local land use control.

It’s a situation that bears watching.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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1 Comment

  1. Ron Oertel

    Sunday Commentary: Governor Newsom Tells Paper ‘NIMBYism is Destroying the State’

    Kind of ironic, given that a lot of the governor’s constituents (whom he labels as “NIMBYs”) believe that the governor (and folks like Weiner) are attempting to destroy the state.

    Mostly, in locales a lot more wealthy and powerful than Davis (and facing much larger challenges than Davis is, regarding the requirements).  Unlike Davis, most of them totally ignored the requirements until recently in the first place.

    In any case, good luck getting any of these new requirements met, given that the housing market is now declining.  (In addition, some of the locales in which these requirements are aimed are experiencing a decline in population, as folks leave.  And yet, the requirements don’t reflect that decreased demand.)

    The governor’s efforts will fail, as they have been already.  The governor’s own goals regarding this have already been significantly reduced.  And this was before interest rates started rising, and the stock market declined by some 20%.

    If you don’t think the housing market is next (regarding a decline), you haven’t been reading anything other than the Vanguard. In fact, it’s already starting to occur.

    ” . . . in 2018, Gov. Gavin Newsom insisted California would need 3.5 million new housing units within eight years just to keep up. That would have been more than 400,000 homes, condos and apartments every year, all supposedly getting snapped up as increased supply caused prices to fall.

    None of this has happened. Housing construction never has topped 110,000 units per year during Newsom’s tenure, and a good share of those stand vacant. Newsom’s administration now says California needs 1.8 million new homes by 2030, a huge drop in his needs assessment after less than four years. What happened to the other half of what Newsom said was needed? Maybe the need never existed.”

    But hey – if you’re concerned about the state “forcing” Davis to grow, maybe you shouldn’t vote for DiSC. After all, the state bases those housing requirements on the number of jobs in a given locale. Assuming the commercial component of DiSC is actually successful.

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