Editorial: California Usurps Local Control in Orinda

Editorial: California Usurps Local Control in Orinda

Orinda no longer has control over the land inside the city’s borders.

The State of California, using its vast powers, had made Orinda (and other cities) a colony of California.

Orinda, in the area of building heights, zoning practices, and housing density (houses per acre), must now take dictation from Sacramento.

Gov. Jerry Brown of California has shown that he and the state legislature are acting like emperors, not elected officials.

Brown, a Democrat, signed 15 housing bills on Sept. 29, 2017.  The bills strip local cities of political control over their respective communities.

Towns like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose no longer have the power to use their land as they see fit.

One of the bills Brown signed is Senate Bill 3.  According to the Los Angeles Times (Sept. 29, 2017), Senate Bill 3 creates a “. . . $4 billion housing bond, which would go toward helping pay for the development of new homes for low-income residents . . .”  In 2018, California’s voters will have, in a statewide vote, an opportunity to approve or reject the $4 billion measure.

Another bill, Senate Bill 2, “is expected to raise $250 million a year by charging people a $75 starting fee to refinance a mortgage or make other real estate transactions, except for home or commercial property sales.”  (Los Angeles Times, Sept. 29, 2017).

Senate Bill 2 is designed to create a stream of permanent funds for the construction of low-income housing.  The bill would collect $1.2 billion by 2022.  Certain real estate transactions could cost up to $225.

Brown also signed Senate Bill 35, designed, according to the Mercury News (Sept. 14, 2017), ” . . . to tackle the housing shortage by making it faster and cheaper for developers to build projects that meet a city’s zoning requirements . . .”

Under Senate Bill 35, California would tell cities how many units of housing need to be constructed to meet a given city’s share of regional housing demand.

On August 18, 2017, Orinda Mayor (and city council member) Eve Phillips sent a letter to members of the state legislature.

Phillips wrote:  “The City of Orinda is opposed to SB 35 [Senate Bill 35] . . . which would pre-empt local discretionary land use authority . . .”

Phillips continued:  “Forcing nearly all communities with a population over 2,500 to ‘streamline’ housing approvals by eliminating opportunities for environmental and public review of major multi-family developments goes against the principles of local democracy and public engagement.”

Phillips is to be congratulated for her bold letter written to members of the state legislature.  As mayor of Orinda, Phillips showed leadership and initiative on a matter of importance to the city’s residents.

Other city council members were asked if they supported or opposed SB 35.  Council members Dean Orr, Darlene Gee, and Inga Miller said they opposed SB 35.  Orr wrote:  “I am oppose[d] SB 35.”  Gee said:  “I do not support SB 35 as written and enacted.”  Miller replied:  “I joined my fellow council members in opposition to Senate Bill 35.”

City Council Member Amy Worth, when asked about SB 35, said:  “The Orinda City Council voted unanimously to oppose SB 25.”

Who benefits from these housing bills?  The answer is:  real estate developers; banks; insurance companies; lawyers; architects; and others.  Did Brown sign these bills to appease special interests or for the good of the people of California?

State of California intervention into a local community’s housing situation is not new.

According to the website www.ca.gov:  “Since 1969, California has required that all local governments (cities and counties) adequately plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community.  California’s local governments meet this requirement by adopting housing plans as part of their ‘general plan’ (also required by the state). General plans serve as the local government’s ‘blueprint’ for how the city and/or county will grow and develop and include seven elements:  land use, transportation, conservation, noise, open space, safety, and housing.  The law mandating that housing be included as an element of each jurisdiction’s general plan is known as ‘housing-element law.’ “

In the spring of 2017, voters in the City of Los Angeles rejected Measure S, a ballot initiative that would have placed strong controls over development in the city.  Initially, the measure appeared headed for approval.  Later, Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti vigorously opposed Measure S, and the measure lost.

Instead of using governmental power to create more housing, Brown could have offered a voucher to an individual seeking shelter.  A voucher is like a free (or subsidized) “ticket” that allows an individual to decide where he wants to live.

In California, individuals can elect to live in Chinatowns.  Chinatowns exist in such cities as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland.  What is wrong with a person’s living in an area where there are people of a similar ethnic background and where there are shops and restaurants that cater to a local community’s needs and desires?  No one is forced to live in a Chinatown.

Other examples of ethnic communities are Koreatown in Los Angeles and Japantown in San Francisco.  (In cities like New York City, there are Italian, Chinese, Greek, and Jewish neighborhoods.)

Brown is principally known for environmental activism.  He supports plans to reduce the release of pollutants into the atmosphere.  He believes that mankind has contributed to alleged climate change and has favored governmental action to reduce the reported warming of the earth.

However, Brown has been inconsistent.  He supports the construction of a high-speed railroad project to carry passengers between Northern and Southern California.  He also favors the construction of two water tunnels in the Delta, an area east of San Francisco Bay where the Sacramento River and the San Joaquin River come together.

On Oct. 6, 2017, Brows vetoed two bills that, according to the East Bay Times, “. . . would have banned smoking and all state beaches and state parks in California.”  According to the Times (Oct. 8, 2017), Brown said, “There must be some limit to the coercive power of government.”

By signing 15 housing bills, local governments are not needed.  These governments are really administrative appendages of the State of California.

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