Jobs-Housing Imbalance at Root of Bay Area Housing Situation

February 15, 2019

By Steven Scharf, Mayor of Cupertino, California

Little did I know that a topical joke, in my State of the City Speech, would gain me my fifteen minutes of fame.

My State of the City Speech took place shortly after the time that President Trump was throwing his big temper tantrum and shutting down the federal government because he didn’t get his $5.7 billion of taxpayer money to build his wall–a wall that he earlier had insisted that Mexico would pay for. I joked about building a wall to keep Teslas from Saratoga from driving through Cupertino and clogging up our streets. Everyone laughed. Was I the next Stephen Colbert or John Oliver? Unfortunately not.

Most of the email I got about the joke was along the lines of “Liked the joke; people need to develop senses of humor for goodness sakes!” and “Well, I thought your comments about the wall were hilarious and a very good example of topical humor!“ On February 7th I was approached at a local Peet’s Coffee by an employee who told me that the workers liked the content of the State of the City speech, including the humor. At Fry’s, someone recognized me and said “liked the joke, people need to lighten up.” Some email was thoughtful and eloquent, demonstrating the writer’s high level of education (not): “If you like being surrounded by walls, we can shove you in a prison cell. The f**k is wrong with your NIMBY a*s?!?” Oh my!

In hindsight, I should have realized that there would be people that would intentionally take what I said totally out of context and would twist it in order to promote their own agendas and the agendas of the entities that fund both them and the organizations that they work for. After all, fact-checking nowadays is way overrated, and many people are easily misled by clever soundbites.

My Hospital Stay at Kaiser and “What’s Happening with Vallco?”

Another joke in my speech was about being constantly asked “What’s happening with Vallco?” While a patient at Kaiser in October 2018, I was being transported on a gurney into the operating room and the transportation orderly asked me “what’s happening with Vallco?” (actually she asked me “what’s happening with that shopping center?”). I joked that that person was sent to the emergency room. Everyone laughed, including the representatives from Sand Hill Property at the event, but later I received an email claiming that I was encouraging people to assault nurses. I have no idea what this individual’s hidden agenda actually was; I’m sure that her handlers made up this bizarre story and then convinced her that it would be a good idea to spread it around. I don’t hold it against her, I just think that it’s very sad when people are persuaded to do this kind of thing, not realizing how badly it reflects on them. For the record, I am not in favor of assaulting doctors, nurses, orderlies, any other hospital personnel, or anyone at all, and if that was truly what anyone believed, which I highly doubt, then I apologize.

Who Exactly Decided to Exploit a Topical Joke?

The individuals that latched onto the joke, and twisted it, were the usual suspects: anti-affordable housing advocates and organizations that are heavily funded by real-estate and development interests. They lobby for high-cost housing and against affordable housing, see: YIMBYs: The Darlings of the Real Estate Industry.

Others were upset that the wall joke clearly made fun of the President of the United States and his obsession with a border wall, see: Why the Wall Won’t Work. Perhaps they believed, correctly, that I am not his biggest fan. If I upset the MAGA people and the anti-affordable housing people then I must be doing something right!

Still others were those residents that remain angry that a pro-sensible growth majority was elected to the Cupertino City Council in 2018, and that all three developer-supported candidates lost despite an enormous amount of money being spent on their behalf and against the three candidates that won.

The faux housing advocates claimed that the joke implied that Cupertino was trying to keep people from moving into our city by preventing the construction of new housing, which of course has no basis in fact.

Progressive, Pro-Affordable Housing Candidates take Control

Like some other City Councils in the Bay Area, Cupertino now has a progressive, pro-affordable housing, majority which is pushing for the construction of more affordable housing units, including ELI (Extremely Low Income), VLI (Very Low Income), and moderate rate housing for the “missing middle.” One of my goals is to also push for ELI housing that is expressly designed for, and limited to, those with developmental disabilities because there needs to be a long term plan that provides subsidized housing for them once their parents are gone. I have met numerous times with the parents of developmentally disabled adult children, we have three potential sites in mind for some of these homes, and we are working with both a non-profit and a developer to see if we can move forward in a timely manner.

Gentrification and Displacement and the YIMBY Movement

Understandably, advocating for more BMR housing is not a popular position with developers, real estate companies, or with the YIMBY movement that they control. Developers and YIMBYs both advocate strongly for more high-cost market rate housing, the most profitable kind of housing to build. They also lobby for more gentrification which ultimately causes more displacement; they are unconcerned about the fate of the displaced residents. San Jose decided that the displaced lower-income residents where a new Google facility, and new housing, will be built simply don’t matter, see: Is San Jose Deliberately Trying to Displace People? Displaced residents, mostly lower-income residents, end up moving far from their jobs and then commuting long distances, which in turn causes even more traffic congestion. Some live in their cars or in RVs. Some become homeless. Developers, YIMBYs, and some larger cities may not care about displacement, but as elected officials in more responsible cities it is definitely our mission to not worsen the affordable housing situation in our towns.

Pro-Gentrification and Displacement Candidates Don’t Understand What Voters Want

One San Francisco supervisor candidate, who has relentlessly promoted gentrification, helpfully explained, in a series of tweets, how gentrification benefits black homeowners because they can sell their homes for “huge amounts of money.” Yes they could, and then, that once-affordable for-sale housing, would be replaced by high-cost luxury rental housing, further driving up housing costs, which of course is the whole idea behind gentrification.

Suffice it to say, progressive voters in San Francisco, who were actually concerned about affordable housing, and that possessed critical thinking skills, were not fooled by the YIMBY-backed candidates and they did not vote for them–one finished in a distant last place with 19% of the vote, in a three-way race. Another YIMBY candidate in San Francisco also lost, coming in third, in an eight-way race, with only 12% of the vote. These candidates had the totally wrong message in a city that prides itself on being progressive and inclusive, see: How the Yimbys got slaughtered in the November SF election.

Ballot Measures Taxing Corporations for Money to Address Homelessness and Transportation Win Big

In the same election that the YIMBYs lost, progressive San Francisco voters approved a ballot measure to tax tech companies to raise money to address homelessness, It was promoted by Salesforce CEO and tech billionaire Marc Benioff, and opposed by San Francisco Mayor London Breed, the Bay Area Council (a corporate lobbying organization), and now-governor Gavin Newsom, who bizarrely stated “problem is going to get a lot worse” if San Francisco spends hundreds of millions to address homelessness. Prop C is being challenged by those that insist that the ballot measure needed a two-thirds majority. In Mountain View, voters passed Measure P, a business tax based on the number of employees, by a 70% margin.

Beware of Faux “Housing Advocates” and Look at What Progressive City Councils are Actually Doing

“Too bad that so many people are making so much noise just to hear themselves that no one is listening anymore.” William Matthew Kelllert

One self-promoting, self-proclaimed, faux “housing activist” showed up at a public forum in Cupertino and bizarrely accused a Palo Alto City Council member of owning three houses in Hawaii; it wasn’t true of course, but even if it was, what’s the problem with owning property? That same Palo Alto council member recently voted, in a unanimous vote, to approve an 100% affordable housing project, see First affordable-housing project in seven years wins approval and has done far more in terms of promoting affordable housing than any of these self-proclaimed “housing activists” have ever done. The Palo Alto City Council also approved $14.5 million to save the Buena Vista mobile home park from being turned into market rate housing, saving 117 vitally needed affordable housing units, see: Buena Vista sale is final. Oh, and that faux “housing advocate” also supported the “California Housing Displacement and Gentrification Act,” SB-827.

In Cupertino, I was part of a 5-0 Council vote to approve a 100% affordable housing project and it’s actually under construction and nearly complete, see Senior housing project with 19 units coming to Cupertino. 19 units isn’t a lot, but originally it was only 11 units, and unlike the other 1389 entitled housing units, at least these are actually being built. The fact is that in a city that’s built-out, new affordable housing is usually going to be put in wherever some small piece of land can be found. Progressive city councils throughout the Bay Area are doing the real work when it comes to promoting affordable housing.

The Cost of Affordable Housing

There’s no question that affordable housing is expensive to build, see Why Is ‘Affordable’ Housing So Expensive to Build? There’s not a lot of money to be made in the construction of affordable housing so when a city advocates for that type of housing there is always going to be pushback from those entities that profit from building more high-cost housing. Building $5000-7000 per month luxury apartments is obviously much more lucrative than building $1500-2000 per month BMR (below market rate) apartments, especially since the cost of land and construction is not very different, and developers want to maximize their profit. Market-rate housing needs to subsidize BMR housing.

Recovering Some of the Increased Value of Rezoned Land

When a city like Cupertino makes zoning changes on a parcel of land to permit higher density, or to allow office space where retail space stood before, we are causing the value of that parcel to increase in value, often astronomically. Cities can capture some of the increase in value by requiring that development on that parcel include benefits to the city, including a reasonable percentage of BMR housing. Developers try to build as little BMR housing as possible because it’s unprofitable, often insisting that more BMR housing “doesn’t pencil out.” Cities, including Cupertino, try to get as much BMR housing as possible because it’s desperately needed.

SB-827, the “California Housing Displacement and Gentrification Act,” Goes Down in Flames

I opposed SB-827, along with the other affordable housing advocates that are fighting against more gentrification and displacement, see A major California housing bill failed after opposition from the low-income residents it aimed to help. Here’s how it went wrong. SB-827, a YIMBY and developer-backed bill would have caused severe displacement of low-income residents in large cities across California. SB-827 went down in flames after actual housing advocates opposed it. One housing advocate wrote “The minority groups who opposed SB 827 support increased housing construction–just with better protections against displacement than what CA YIMBY has been pushing. To suggest otherwise is a false dichotomy. Minority and low-income housing activists are broadly opposed to YIMBY policies.” Thankfully SB-827 failed to make it into law, but those groups supporting it have not given up–they know that there’s big money to be made in gentrification and displacement. SB-827 has been brought back as SB-50.

The Law of Supply and Demand is Not an Actual Law

The biggest cause of the affordable housing shortage is extremely high demand which has been driven by uncontrolled growth in commercial office space. Without addressing the demand side there is no solution to affordable housing. Despite what some people believe, “the law of supply and demand” is not an actual California law. The San Francisco Controller even showed how “supply & demand” does not work in the San Francisco housing market, see SF Controller Shows “Supply & Demand” Does Not Work in the San Francisco Housing Market.

Jobs/Housing Ratios and, Transportation

California’s goal for the jobs to housing ratio is about one housing unit for every 1.5 new jobs though the exact number varies by city and factors such as the availability of mass transit are taken into account. It’s important to maintain a good jobs/housing ratio because it reduces sprawl and congestion if you can get employees closer to jobs.

Unfortunately, despite what a few well-intentioned people believe, you can’t tell people where to live and you can’t force workers to move every time they change jobs or their company moves them from one location to another. If a tech worker in Cupertino or Mountain View decides that they’d rather live in San Francisco and take the free corporate bus to work then that’s their decision; I’m much more concerned about the lower-income workers that are forced to commute in their own vehicles from Los Banos, Tracy, Stockton, or Manteca.

Even for lower income workers, some willingly choose to live far from their jobs because they can afford the type of housing they desire in more distant communities. Buying a $287,000 single family home in Stockton, versus renting a $2500 per month apartment in San Jose, is a choice that some people make, see Faced with Increasing 90-Minute-Plus Commutes, Northern Californians Resort to Desperate Measures.

The real housing solution is to create transit solutions that allow fast transportation from housing-rich areas to job-rich areas, a solution in place in cities throughout the world, but the money needed to do this is not available in this area. All the billions that corporations are saving in taxes, as a result of Trump’s tax cuts, are billions less in federal revenue that will not trickle down to states, counties, and cities to solve vital infrastructure problems. Just a few years of the tax savings from Bay Area tech firms could build a high speed rail line from the housing-rich Central Valley to the jobs-rich Silicon Valley.

Jobs to Housing Ratios in Bay Area Cities

How are Bay Area cities doing in achieving sustainable jobs to housing ratios? Each California city has a Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) that mandates the quantity of housing that they must entitle. Cupertino has entitled developers to build 1408 units, 32% more than required, with many affordable units. Cupertino’s jobs/housing ratio is 1.08, the second best of job-rich Santa Clara County cities. Santa Clara is 2.08. Palo Alto is 3.02; California’s goal is around 1.5.

Worsening Housing Deficits by Adding Jobs without Commensurate Housing

What we shouldn’t be doing is worsening the jobs/housing balance, but many cities have been doing exactly that. San Francisco had been adding about eight times as many jobs as housing units, see SF added jobs eight times faster than housing since 2010. far higher than the state goal of about 1.5:1. It’s getting better in San Francisco, where they just approved 8,800 housing units and 32,000 jobs in a new development, see City approves Central SoMa plan, paving way for unprecedented development boom. 32,000 jobs would need about 21,333 housing units so this project will increase the housing deficit in San Francisco by a whopping 12,533 units and it has a jobs/housing ratio of 3.64:1, more than twice the state goal, but better than 8:1.

Santa Clara approved a 1,360 home, 28,000 job project near Levi’s Stadium with an astoundingly bad 20.6 to 1 jobs to housing ratio, and an incredible 18,000 home deficit, see Santa Clara Approves $6.5B Megaproject Near Levi’s Stadium, Largest in Silicon Valley History.

Where will all those extra workers be commuting from? It could be from Tracy, Manteca, or other areas with sufficient land for more affordable housing. They could be living in RVs. They could be living on the street.

Vallco Specific Plan, Vallco SB-35 Plan and Housing Deficits

Vallco is an excellent location for more housing, including affordable housing at all levels. Housing at Vallco would not cause any displacement because there is no existing housing that would be removed. However the two Vallco proposals currently being considered would create big housing deficits because of the large amount of office space. New projects should, at the least, not create a housing deficit, even if cities like Santa Clara and San Francisco are doing just that.

The Vallco Specific Plan, which is being challenged with referendums, has a deficit of 1888 homes.

The SB-35 Vallco Plan creates a larger housing deficit of 2287 homes. On the plus side those 1201 small BMR units would actually have to be built. The SB-35 plan received “ministerial approval,” the City Council had no say in its approval.

Those deficit numbers for the Tier 2 Vallco Specific Plan and SB-35 Vallco plan are conservative; they use 300 square feet per office worker, while more realistic numbers are 200-250 square feet per office worker. The deficit numbers also don’t include all the indirect lower-paying jobs that are created by tech jobs. The spreadsheet for this can be viewed at https://tinyurl.com/VallcoHousingDeficits.

Some people are saying things like “I don’t really care what gets built at the site, as long as something does.” This is not a very intelligent thing to say. We all should care very much what gets built at the site. If possible, we need to ensure that whatever is built there does not create a housing deficit, does not further overcrowd our schools, and does not add too much additional traffic and worsen our existing traffic congestion problems. We also should advocate for sufficient open space because that side of Cupertino is park-deficient. We won’t get everything we want but this has been dragging on for far too long.

We need a community process, funded by the City, to determine what the community wants and what the property owner is willing to provide, and come to a compromise. I’ve never favored the “Community Benefit” approach where a developer provides token benefits in exchange for being allowed to build a project that would never otherwise be approved. If Cupertino needs a new city hall, a performing arts center, an aquatic center, or other public buildings then we need to find a way to finance those facilities, whether it’s from reserves, debt financing, parcel taxes, or bond measures.

If the Vallco SB-35 project moves forward it’s not the end of the world. There will be 1201 small affordable units for singles and couples that would have to be built. Unfortunately there will be no affordable units for families who really need that type of housing. It will worsen our jobs/housing ratio and worsen the housing deficit, but SB-35 is what it is, and that project can move forward regardless of what residents want or what is best for the community. If the property owner wants to come forward with a new Specific Plan, that doesn’t have a housing deficit, then that’s fine too.

Large Housing Projects with No Inclusionary BMR Housing are a Bad Idea

We also have cities allowing new projects that have no BMR housing at all. In 2017, San Jose approved a 307 unit high-rise project, on Winchester Boulevard, adjacent to Santana Roa. This area has no mass transit. The project has zero BMR units. It has insufficient parking, with residents in the adjoining neighborhood upset because they know that the new residents will be parking in their neighborhood. The developer promised the free use of a bicycle trailer for residents to use when going shopping so they don’t have to drive to stores. This kind of highly irresponsible development does nothing to solve the region’s affordable housing problem.

A developer that doesn’t include BMR housing does have to pay “in-lieu fees” but these fees are not sufficient to actually build much BMR housing, and the BMR housing that the fees are used for is often exclusionary housing. Do we really want to go back to the days of exclusionary housing?

Underparking is a Terrible Idea

While reducing vehicle use is a laudable goal, underparking new developments in areas with no mass transit is a terrible idea. Parking, especially underground parking, is expensive to build, so developers often push for underparking their projects, often insisting that new residents will not own cars and will walk, bicycle, or take public transit instead of driving. San Jose has an average of 2.12 vehicles per household. San Francisco, which has good mass transit, has an average of 1.10 vehicles per household; households where members use mass transit to commute to work still have cars that need to be parked, see Vehicle Ownership in U.S. Cities Data and Map. San Francisco just eliminated parking requirements for new developments without taking a long-term systems view. Cars should be parked under new high-density buildings, they should not be circling neighborhoods looking for parking spaces, crowding our streets, further congesting traffic, endangering cyclists, undermining pedestrian safety, and reducing walkability. And don’t believe for a second that the cost savings of not providing parking will be passed on to tenants in the form of lower rents.

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That’s not a real headline, it’s from The Onion, but it’s not that far-fetched. The idea that if we eliminate parking then people won’t have cars is ludicrous and naive–and no one actually believes it. A market-rate apartment is going to be occupied by multiple employed residents needing to get to work, and in areas with poor public transit, like Santa Clara County, nearly all of them will drive to work. Take a look at farebox recovery rates for public transit systems, and sort by farebox recovery: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farebox_recovery_ratio, VTA is not only the worst in the United States, they are the worst in the entire world, and the ratio has decreased from 10% since that article was written. The biggest problem with VTA is that it’s designed mainly to bring people into downtown San Jose where few people work. It was never designed as a system to be used by commuters trying to get from housing-rich areas to jon-rich areas.

Inclusionary versus Exclusionary Below Market Rate Housing

In Cupertino we push for inclusionary affordable housing, built to the same standards, and located with, market-rate housing. One developer I met with, who was opposing inclusionary housing, insisted that low-income residents didn’t want to ride in the same elevators with market-rate residents because they would feel bad that their clothes were not as nice. I found that statement to be in shockingly poor taste. I personally know two families that live in inclusionary housing in Cupertino, and the last thing they would want is for their family to be living in an exclusionary housing project.

RHNA

Each city in California is given a RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Allocation) number which is based largely on the number of additional jobs, in an effort to bring jobs and housing into balance. The RHNA also takes into account whether the city is served by mass transit. Each city needs to entitle developers to build at least that much housing. See page 26 of Regional Housing Need Plan San Francisco Bay Area 2015-2023 for Santa Clara County’s RHNA numbers.

For the current RHNA cycle, Cupertino needed to entitle developers to build 1,002 more units (our number is 1064 but some has already been built) and we entitled a total of 1,400 units (actually it is now 1,408 because one project went from 11 units to 19 units, 100% affordable). So Cupertino entitled about 32% more than required by ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments).

Entitling Versus Building

The huge problem that we have run into in Cupertino, and that many area cities also have experienced, is that there is a big difference between meeting RHNA entitlements and actually getting the housing built. Developers ask for, and receive, permission to build housing, but then they don’t actually build it. A city can’t force a developer to actually build the housing that the developer asked for permission to build. A city can’t entitle unlimited housing because of limits on transportation, schools, water, etc., so once one developer takes a RHNA entitlement that means that another developer doesn’t get that entitlement. These entitlements often have a long expiration date, up to ten years, so you can’t just take an entitlement away and give it to someone else when the housing fails to materialize. The state law that we really need is one that imposes hefty fines if someone takes a RHNA entitlement and then doesn’t actually build. But if you ever take the time to look at who’s actually funding the campaigns of state assembly and state senate members you’ll quickly understand why such a law will never happen. Be very careful about believing political rhetoric and look carefully at what’s behind it.

Later, in the same speech, I gave one example of a developer that had asked for, and received, permission to add 600 units to their existing 342 unit development, but after several years hadn’t made progress in building the additional housing. That housing would include a lot of below-market-rate housing, something that is desperately needed in Silicon Valley. Apple originally tried to buy that 342 unit apartment complex because it’s adjacent to their new campus is located (bottom left of https://tinyurl.com/hamptons-apple), but Steve Jobs said that the owner was unwilling to sell. As a result of my speech, that property owner called me of February 4th to set up a meeting to see how we can move forward. We have three other sites where the owner received requested housing entitlements but are not building.

Why do Developers Take RHNA Entitlements then Not Build?

The reasons that developers ask to build housing and then don’t build include fears of a slowing economy, the cost of construction, requirements for fees to pay for infrastructure (roads, schools, parks), and in this case the need to tear down existing housing prior to rebuilding, resulting in the loss of rental income of 342 units during construction. All legitimate reasons, but the bottom line is that much-needed housing ends up not being built.

How Has Cupertino Been Doing?

While it’s been popular to attack Cupertino, the reality is that Cupertino has done much better than most cities in the area in maintaining a sustainable jobs/housing ratio (see page 6 (page 314) of Focus Area: Sprawl Prevention/Infill Development to see the jobs/housing ratios for Santa Clara County). You can see the problem cities–Palo Alto and Santa Clara in particular, because they’ve added large amounts of additional commercial office space without commensurate additional housing. Palo Alto, belatedly, began addressing the root cause with a cap on commercial office space, see Palo Alto approves permanent office cap. San Jose has the opposite issue, too much housing and not enough commercial office space. It’s a problem for San Jose because residential property taxes don’t generate sufficient revenue to cover the cost of providing services. There are also one-time impact fees on new residential construction, but they are too low to cover the cost of building new infrastructure for that new housing.

Replacing Old Office Buildings with New Office Buildings

Cupertino has not added a lot of new office space which has helped us maintain a good jobs/housing ratio. The land where the new Apple campus is located was not a big empty field or an apricot orchard prior to Apple buying it and razing the existing buildings. It was an HP location (along with a couple of smaller companies). HP had nearly 10,000 employees (9,800) at the peak, and about 3,500 at the time HP closed the facility. Apple greatly increased the open space on that parcel by getting rid of the vast surface parking lots and building parking garages and underground parking.

The False Narrative About “New Jobs”

The narrative of “Cupertino added 12,000 new jobs” with the new Apple campus, but build no housing is oft-repeated but of course it’s not true. From the 12,000-13,000 eventual jobs on the new Apple campus you first have to subtract the jobs that left with HP (9,800). That leaves 2,200-3,200 more jobs on that parcel than before. For the total number of jobs gained or lost in the whole city you then subtract the Apple jobs that simply moved from other Apple facilities (the vast majority of the 12,000-13,000), then add the actual new jobs (a few thousand). The net net is not precisely known, but is probably around minus 3000; some jobs came in from Apple buildings in neighboring cities and some went out to another new Apple campus in Sunnyvale, see A sneak peek at Apple’s new “spaceship” campus in Sunnyvale and other leased buildings. Not sure how many employees on that new Sunnyvale campus but probably about 3000 considering that it’s 770,000 square feet (using 250 square feet per employee, see What is the average square footage of office space per person?). Apple also took over the old Measurex campus in Cupertino, see: Apple leases Cupertino office space that can hold up to 1,300 workers, but again, that parcel was not just an empty lot, and all the Measurex jobs left Cupertino. Ditto for the Tandem/Compaq/HP buildings along Vallco Parkway and the Tymshare buildings on Valley Green Drive and Bubb Road.

The takeaway is to a) be very careful to distinguish between new office construction on previously empty land and office construction wthere older, functionally obsolete buildings, are torn down and replaced with new Class A office space, and b) be careful about one company taking over existing buildings from another company; this is not just for Apple; Symantec left Cupertino and Seagate took over their building.

Be Cautious About Believing Rhetoric Not Based on Facts

When a newspaper or web-site publishes articles that are not based on actual facts and data it doesn’t help solve the affordable housing situation. It makes those people unaware of the facts angry, and it diminishes the credibility of the press in the eyes of those people that understand the reality of the situation. It’s equally bad when corporate lobbying groups in San Jose and San Francisco are untruthful–it should not be necessary to lie in order to promote the interests of your member companies. The public needs to very careful about believing statements from self-serving organizations that have no interest in accuracy. The CEOs of some of the big corporate lobbying groups have as much credibility as Sarah Huckabee Sanders when it comes to the truthfulness of their statements.

Every Problem is Not Automatically a Crisis

Be very careful of falling into the trap of creating a crisis where none exists. There is no “crisis at the southern border” as Donald Trump claims. We also hear endless talk of the “Housing Crisis,” but what we really have is an “Affordable Housing Crisis” and a “Transportation Crisis.”

Affordable Housing, Jobs, and Transportation

There is no shortage of exorbitantly priced housing, and building more exorbitantly priced housing isn’t going to fix the housing affordability problem. Actually, there is also plenty of affordable housing, but it’s not in the same place as where all the good jobs are, and there’s no fast way to get between the locations with affordable housing and the locations with the good jobs. I keep hearing that we need to add more jobs in housing-rich areas but tech companies have not shown any interest in expanding in Merced, Stockton, or Fresno. So we need to find a way to transport people between housing-rich areas and jobs-rich areas. The recent cancellation of the California High Speed Rail line is a huge blow to solving the housing affordability problem in the Bay Area. Forget about going between Los Angeles and San Francisco, what was really needed was a fast way to go between the Central Valley and Silicon Valley. We need a fast replacement for the ACE train, and another train that goes along the CA152 corridor and then up the 101 corridor into Silicon Valley.

“A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.” Enrique Peñalosa. This is one of my favorite quotes. There are parts of the world where this is true, even parts of the United States. But not in Santa Clara Valley where public transit has declined over the last 100 years. Look at the map below that shows how we’ve regressed in the past hundred or so years as interurban rail lines and streetcar lines have been removed.

Why We Serve as Elected Officials

Finally, those of us that are elected to local office don’t do it for the money. In Cupertino the stipend for City Council members is $726 per month, which works out to about 37¢ per hour. We do it, or most of us do it, because we want to make our communities a better place to live. We work to increase equity, we oppose regressive taxation, and we advocate for sensible growth that does not damage our environment, worsen traffic congestion, or diminish the quality of our schools. On the other side we have well-funded entities whose only goal is to exploit our cities for the maximum financial gain that they can extract.

Elected officials have a responsibility advocate for sensible growth that does not worsen the jobs/housing ratio, damage our environment, increase housing insecurity, or further overcrowd our schools. Voters elected us to do this and we take this responsibility seriously.

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Speaking for myself. If you find errors or omissions, or have suggestions for additions, please email me, smsccc.i@gmail.com