Monday Morning Thoughts: Did You Know They Can Decertify Housing Elements? Plus, Dangers of Walking Have Gone Up

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Revocation of Housing Element Compliance Finding

The affluent Bay Area town of Portola Valley, in the Silicon Valley, became the first in California to have their housing element decertified.

The letter from HCD (Housing and Community Development) dated March 26, revoked the January 30, 2024, finding that the town’s housing element was in substantial compliance with State Housing Element Law.

The remarkable thing here might be the speed with which this all occurred.  The Town of Portola Valley adopted its housing element on January 24, it was certified by HCD on January 30, but barely a week later, on February 5, HCD sent the Town written findings that it had failed to implement four programs and that failure “brought the Town’s housing element out of substantial compliance with State Housing Element Law.”

HCD provided the Town with 30 days to respond.  On March 4, HCD received the response and the response did not demonstrate implementation of three of the four programs.

“HCD thus finds that the Town’s housing element is no longer in substantial compliance with State Housing Element Law. Consequently, HCD is revoking its finding of the Town’s housing element compliance,” HCD wrote.

SF Gate reported that the town had failed make amendments to its zoning map.

It went on to report, “HCD will potentially recertify the town’s housing element once those zoning amendments are completed, which includes establishing a new mixed-use zone and two multifamily zones at two different densities.”

“Portola Valley missed deadlines that were in their housing element for critical zoning amendments,” Ali Sapirman, the Housing Action Coalition’s South Bay and Peninsula organizer, told SFGate. “Deadlines are something HCD takes extremely seriously, and when reminded of their housing element commitments multiple times, Portola Valley did not make efforts to remedy their missed deadlines immediately.”

But this is an illustration that communities can no longer simply show dots on a map, they have to actually carry through on their housing commitments.

“I hope this sets the precedent for other cities that try to find unique ways to obfuscate their housing element requirement,” Sapirman said of HCD’s decision.

SF Sent Hundreds of Homeless People Out of Town – No one Knows to Where

The San Francisco Standard reported last week that “San Francisco has no idea where hundreds of homeless people have gone after giving them bus, train and airline tickets to return to their families in other parts of the country over the past two years.”

“The origin of San Francisco’s homeless population is one of the most persistent and controversial questions posed about the city’s crisis, with some policymakers arguing that out-of-towners flock here for welfare and should be returned home,” the Standard reported.

But as Zal K. Shroff, Acting Legal Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, explained, this is false.

He said, “California cities are too liberal, that there are droves of unhoused people who come here to take advantage of lenient policies and good weather; that is false. More than 90% of unhoused people are from California with 75% living in the very same California county where they first were priced out of their homes in San Francisco.”

Nevertheless, San Francisco implemented “the Homeward Bound program, a city-funded service that officials say has reunited thousands of homeless people in San Francisco with their out-of-town families since 2005.”

However, the Standard found that the program “stopped collecting basic data about where people were transported to in early 2022. Officials said the program’s location collection efforts and database ended in 2022 but did not elaborate further as to why.”

The publication added, “Since June 2022, the city has spent $202,010 on the program” and “city records analyzed by The Standard estimate around 400 people were sent away on buses, trains and airplanes via Homeward Bound.”

Pedestrian fatalities at historic high

Last week, Smart Growth America noted that “the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) released final data for 2022 traffic crashes revealing 7,522 people were struck and killed while walking that year.”

They add, “This crisis isn’t new—pedestrian fatalities are on a consistent upward trajectory and have increased by 68 percent since 2011.”

They noted that “pedestrian fatalities increased once again to historic levels and our roads continue to grow more dangerous for people outside of cars.”

Not only are fatalities at a 40-year high, but the number of “pedestrians injured by traffic violence increased 11 percent over 2021.”

It’s not just pedestrians.  “According to the data, cyclist deaths increased by 13 percent to 1,105 people killed by cars in 2022, and reported injuries increased by 11 percent to more than 46,000 (thousand!).”

Finally, SGA noted, “2022 represents the largest proportion of deaths for those outside of vehicles in 40 years. What is frustrating and disappointing is that we both know our streets are dangerous by design and we know the steps that need to be taken to prevent death and injury.”

It has been just a few weeks since a UC Davis student was in a coma following injuries from a March 11 incident on Russell Boulevard at County Road 97.

Frankly, I have noted with growing alarm the number of near misses of serious incidents where vehicles are coming perilously close to collisions with other autos, with cyclists and with pedestrians.

While the data shows this is problem that predated the pandemic, it seems like in the last four years, drivers of autos have become more reckless and careless in their driving and it seems like only a matter of time before there are catastrophic injuries and fatalities locally.

The national data shows that this problem is not limited to Davis.

Smart Growth America believes there is more than can be done:

“Look at the drop in deaths for people within vehicles that have grown increasingly safer, thanks to new safety mandates and improved vehicle technology Those outside of vehicles have not received the same level of attention. Our streets continue to put people walking, biking, and rolling at risk by creating environments that prioritize speed over safety. Unfortunately, calls for change are often met with small incremental changes to funding or, even worse, silence.”

As Beth Osborne, SGA’s vice president of transportation and thriving communities, recently said in an interview with CBS News, “We spend about $50 billion a year on our roadway system and we have separated out spending on those safety considerations as a specialized small part of that funding, which shows you that that is not a priority.”

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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