Plans For Low-Income Housing May Violate California’s Constitution

Plans For Low-Income Housing May Violate California’s Constitution

State of California and Bay Area regional governmental agencies’ plans to force local communities to construct low-income housing may be violating California’s Constitution.

In November 1950, California’s voters passed Proposition 10, which prohibits any public body in the state from authorizing a low-rent housing project unless voters in an affected community approve the project.

Proposition 10 was presented to voters as an amendment to California’s Constitution.  The amendment is now known as Article 34 of the state’s Constitution.

Specifically, Article 34 states that, “No low rent housing project shall . . . be developed by any state public body until a majority of the qualified electors of the city, town, or county . . . approve such project by voting in favor thereof . . .”

Article 34 contradicts an edict from the California Department of Housing and Community Development.  According to the department’s website, “Since 1969, California has required that all local governments (cities and counties) adequately plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community.”

Article 34 also contradicts efforts of a regional Bay Area governmental agency, ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments).  According to ABAG’s website a local community has to show how the community ” . . . plans to meet the existing and projected needs of people at all income levels.”

ABAG has responsibility in the area of land use.

In 2017, the California state legislature passed and Gov. Jerry Brown signed, Senate Bill 37, which gave the state power to reduce obstacles to a local community’s plans to construct extra housing.

In 2018, the legislature passed and the governor signed Assembly Bill 2923, which gave BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) the power to build additional housing on BART-owned land.

In the current 2019 session of the state senate, lies Senate Bill 50, which is sponsored by state senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).  The bill will allow construction of additional housing within one-quarter mile of a frequently-used bus stop or one-half mile of a train station (such as a BART station.)  The outcome of the bill is uncertain.  In 2018, Sen. Wiener sponsored a similar bill, Senate Bill 827, which died in committee.

Another housing plan is the Casa Compact, also known as the Committee to House the Bay Area.  The Casa Compact, according to the public information office of the Bay Area’s MTC (Metropolitan Transportation Commission), ” . . . is a 15-year emergency policy package to confront the region’s housing crisis head on.  It includes a series of policy reforms that will allow the Bay Area to build more housing at all income levels . . .”

MTC is a regional Bay Area governmental agency that handles transportation matters.

In 2017, MTC and ABAG merged.

The directors of MTC and ABAG are not directly elected by voters.  The directors come from a pool of locally elected officials.  Amy Worth, an elected member of the Orinda City Council, is also an MTC director.

The result of State of California mandates and regional governmental mandates can usurp the operations of a local community.

Such governmental mandates can affect the operations of local public schools, police departments, fire departments, the availability of open space, the availability of parking, and the degree of traffic congestion.

On Jan. 25, 2019, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who took office on Jan. 7, 2019, announced that the State of California is suing Huntington Beach, California, because the city, according to the San Francisco Chronicle (Jan. 25, 2019), ” . . . has refused to meet a state mandate to provide new housing for low-income people.”

While California currently does have a housing shortage, the problem may disappear.

On June 3, 2018, the Bay Area Council, a business group, released a survey showing that 46 percent of Bay Area residents are considering leaving the region.

On Nov. 30, 2018, Alert, a publication of the California Chamber of Commerce, released another survey which showed that 75 percent of voters in California are not earning enough money to enjoy a middle-class lifestyle.

In February 2019, the San Francisco office of Edelman, a public relations firm, released another survey, showing that 53 percent of Californians are considering leaving the state.

If enough people exit California, there will be no need for governmental mandates to build more housing.  ν

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