We sent the following letter to the CASA Committee on November 30, 2018. Read more about it on the CASA on their  website.

Dear CASA Co-Chairs and Committee Members,

We members of East Bay For Everyone are glad to see elected leaders and community organizations working together to tackle the housing crisis that is impacting the lives of everyone who lives in Northern California. Whether it is the abject misery of sleeping rough, the
lengthening commutes of workers across the region, or the uncertainty of being unable to afford the rent, the housing crisis has serious impacts on everyone. We particularly appreciate many of the proposals, some listed below:

  1. Expansion of just cause protection to renters across the Bay Area. The proposed protections would best function as a floor, allowing localities to adopt additional protections where needed.
  2. Anti-gouging legislation: Ideally we would see this applied statewide and without emergency status. This will provide immediate relief to renters in single-family homes or newer apartment buildings who currently receive no rent control protections.
  3. Right to Counsel: Incredibly cost-effective way to ensure tenants are able to use their rights and limit the power of unscrupulous landlords.
  4. Housing Near Transit: We supported SB 827 and look forward to its return this year. We think CASA’s proposal represents a strong statement that the Bay Area is ready to lead in achieving the bill’s vision with nuanced ideas like the Geography of Inclusion.
  5. Having shorter timelines for project approval in municipalities and rules against downzoning are important reforms. We support the changes made that require municipalities to have clear standards for historical importance, evaluated before
    projects are submitted, as well as clear standards for impact fees.
  6. Regional tax sharing is an important part of ensuring that the fiscal burden of providing housing is not borne by the poorest areas. Job-rich areas should share revenues with areas that are less well-off, and this proposal is a step in that direction.

All of these necessary and vital reforms are ones we wholeheartedly support. However, we feel that several proposals are rather tepid and should be enhanced.

  1. ADUs: Extension of best practices for enabling ADUs is good policy. However, the burdens of building an ADU, especially for lower-income homeowners, are not purely in the permitting process. We would be very excited to see proposals for making financing available to low- and moderate-income homeowner, as well as reduce construction costs through encouraging off-site assembled, modular models that can be delivered more cost-effectively.
  2. A categorical CEQA exemption should be extended beyond projects using SB 35. Too often CEQA suits are used to block necessary housing. All projects in substantial compliance with zoning laws that themselves have had EIRs should be categorically
    exempt from CEQA.
  3. Property tax abatement laws should have the state backfill the missing revenues. Opposition to housing will only grow if the result of permitting housing is financial ruin and municipalities already have significant challenges in affording public services.
  4. Job centers should be encouraged/required to add housing as well as transit-rich areas. Too much job growth in the bay is in regions that have added minimal housing, resulting in soaring prices.

Lastly, we have some proposals that we do not think appear in the proposed document and should.

  1. Missing Middle: Too many residential areas have banned duplexes or small apartment buildings, even in areas where those predominate from when they were legal. Row houses, duplexes, and modest multifamily housing types should be permitted in all areas that currently are single-family houses only. We appreciate the inclusion of these forms in the housing near transit element but believe the compact should go further with this tool for bringing low-cost density to more neighborhoods.
  2. Prop 13 Reform: Adequately funding any new regional housing entity will pose a real challenge to meeting the ambitious goals laid out. The people of California have already placed a similarly ambitious ballot measure to transform local finance on the ballot for 2020 in the form of the split roll initiative. We would like to see the governments involved in CASA commit to reserving a portion of the funds made available by the passage of this proposition to the regional housing entity. This would guarantee a sustainable funding source for the new entity and demonstrate a commitment to use the potential windfall for local governments to tackle one our most pressing regional issues.
  3. Homelessness prevention requires shelters, which too often are opposed by neighborhoods. We’d like to see shelter space be a use permitted in all zoning districts that aren’t legitimately industrial and requirements that all cities provide adequate shelter. This is a regional problem that demands a solution, rather than half-hearted bandaids.
  4. We oppose any changes to SB 35 that permit discretionary review. SB 35 is a valuable law that is providing much affordable housing. Given the continued application of HAA to projects governed by SB 35, any discretionary review is a charade.

In conclusion, we applaud CASA’s commitment to ensuring the Bay Area finally add the housing it needs, and hope that these proposals will be enacted shortly.