By Ramneet Singh
BERKELEY, CA – In a July 13 report, the Othering and Belonging Institute found correlations based on high levels of single-family-only zoning, and future advantages or disadvantages of children depending on where they live—noting the influence of Davis in a few categories.
The report, which also laid out contenders for zoning reform moving forward, was produced by Stephen Menendian, Samir Gambhir and Marina Blum, who found correlations that connected levels of “single-family-only zoning” to race, “household income,” property value, “educational outcome,” environmental conditions and “economic opportunity.”
The report featured numerous data tables, diagrams, and graphs which may be accessed through the link for the report.
But researchers focused on the Sacramento region, which involves six counties and 22 municipalities, including Davis, with about 2.5 million people overall. They noted that this population may increase with rising living costs in the Bay Area.
In particular, researchers found that “77.10 percent of residential land in the region is exclusively reserved for single-family housing…From a cross-sectional view of local jurisdictions… on average, about 81.1 percent of residential land is restricted to single-family homes only, with a median of about 81.2 percent.”
The city of Davis has 81 percent single-family-only zoning as a proportion “of all residential zoning.”
There is a breakdown by jurisdiction into three categories of increasing percentage of single-family zoning: “low to moderate,” “high,” and “very high”—the city of Davis fell within the high category, which is between 77.4 percent to 89.5 percent.
Concerning race, researchers found “a striking relationship between jurisdictions with an extremely high degree of single-family-only zoned residential areas and the racial composition of those communities.”
From this, researchers understood that “single-family-only zoning has a racially exclusionary appearance.”
Although similar to their other findings, researchers noted trends for Black and Asian populations were different between the Sacramento and Bay Area regions.
In looking at segregation, the researchers claimed that “the highest percentage of Latino and Black residents is found in the category with the smallest extent of such zoning.”
In a four-part series from early 2022, Ananda Rochita wrote a story on Sacramento segregation. Jesus Hernandez, who has a PhD and has been involved in real estate, discussed the history of race covenants.
Hernandez charged, due to these covenants, “‘you see this east-west pattern of affluence and this north-south pattern of racial concentration and poverty.’” The pattern of affluence was in reference to “‘deed restrictions on property that limited the ownership to White people.’”
In the second part of the series, the article noted the displacement of minority communities.
Rochita described how “[r]edevelopment and freeway construction started in the mid-1950s. Minority residents were forced to move from the West End to neighborhoods that had no race covenants.”
Moving to household income, the researchers found that the greater the single-family-only zoning, the higher the household income. This relates to property value.
Concerning affordable housing, the Sacramento Bee reported, “Construction is about to begin on a 150-unit apartment building for low-income seniors in…downtown Sacramento.”
The same article states that “Sacramento needs to build more than 16,000 housing units this decade for low and very-low income residents” but that progress has been slow.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg remained optimistic about the situation and stated the need to find “‘local funding sources to match the new amounts of federal and state money.’”
Moving to environmental impact, researchers utilized CalEnviroScreen in determining the relationship. Researchers looked at broad and specific characteristics, like “particulate matter.”
Generally, the report shows that risks are lessened with a higher percentage of single-family-only zoning.
An article by the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health also noted research for the correlation between race and environmental aspects of a neighborhood.
Specifically, the article noted “the standard linear method underestimated the severity of air pollution in areas with low percentages of Black residents.”
The article notes, “These differences are important because even a 1 µg/m3 increase in PM2.5 can increase risk of numerous health outcomes including adverse birth outcomes and cardiovascular disease.”
In Davis, authors noted a “similar relationship (to household income)” between that type of zoning and property value.
A deviation from that relationship is in the middle category, which they attribute to Davis, “the data point with the highest median home value.”
They noted that Davis has the only UC in the region and that there is low supply of housing with high demand.
Of note is “the proposed plan would allow for the addition of 1,000 residential units and 600,000 square feet of nonresidential development in the area by 2040” by Davis’s Downtown Plan Advisory Committee.
The Vanguard’s David Greenwald also pointed out the DPAC’s 2019 recommendations. One of which is “DPAC unanimously voted to recommend that the Downtown Plan should support affordable housing downtown, but that it should be part of the larger city-wide efforts on affordable housing.”
Concerning educational outcomes, the researchers indicated that the relationship is “less clear.”
Areas with the lowest single-family-only zoning did the worst, with those in the middle categories doing the best.
The researchers stated “this result is likely due to the influence of Davis and Folsom, which have the highest (73 percent in Davis) and second highest (51 percent in Folsom) percentage of adults over the age of 25 with bachelor’s degrees.”
Lastly, researchers stated “a clear and consistent correlation between single-family zoning and positive outcomes for children across income distribution born” from 1978 to 1984.
This category is further divided into race. In all categories, those raised in areas with high single-family-only zoning do better than those raised with limited levels of such zoning.
However, they find that “White and Asian individuals raised in municipalities with middling levels of single-family-only zoning appear to earn more in adulthood than their counterparts in the top third of jurisdictions.” They attribute this to Davis and Folsom.
The researchers finished this report by providing a four-part identification of cities which could reform their zoning laws. These four parts involve: level of single-family-only zoning, level of opportunity, proximity to job centers, and “poor performance with RHNA targets.”
Concerning the level of opportunity, the researchers based it on the Tax Credit Allocation Committee information. They “chose municipalities with 85 percent or more neighborhoods designated high-opportunity areas.”
For proximity to job centers, they considered areas “40 minutes or less from the nearest central business district.”
RHNA stands for “Regional Housing Needs Assessment.” For areas that do not adhere to this, the researchers noted that “government agencies have already determined that they should shoulder a greater share of affordable housing developments.”
The researchers determined “Elk Grove, Loomis, Rocklin, and Folsom” were the top four areas which required zoning reform.