Friday, June 26, 2009

Jerry Brown Sues Pleasanton About Housing Cap

This is very interesting. I've been calling for him to sue Bay Area cities for homebuilding restrictions, ever since the AG sued Stockton for having too much growth and sprawl in their plan. The cause of rapid development in San Joaquin County was the lack of housing development in places like Pleasanton.

I don't really believe in the general idea of the AG filing suit about local General Plans. However, if this is the approach the state is going to take, he should have sued Pleasanton long before Stockton. Better late than never.

From the AG's office:

"Pleasanton's draconian and illegal limit on new housing forces people to commute long distances, adding to the bumper-to-bumper traffic along 580 and 680 and increasing dangerous air pollution," Brown said. "It's time for Pleasanton to balance its housing and its jobs and take full advantage of its underutilized land and proximity to BART."

If Pleasanton continues to enforce its housing cap, the consequences for the region include: - Increased traffic congestion and longer commute times. Interstate 580 has some of the longest commute times in the region, with evening eastbound commuters delayed 7,410 hours and morning westbound commuters delayed 5,120 hours in 2007. - Urban sprawl. Communities outside of Pleasanton will continue to lose farmland and open space to accommodate Pleasanton's workers. These communities will have to build more schools, fire and police stations to keep up with anticipated growth.


  1. The state is severly pushing higher densities in the name of the environment. The arguments sound good, but they are predicated on many assumptions that don't hold true in the real world (in my opinion).

    Let's take this specific example of Pleasanton. If Pleasanton does not have enough housing for it's workforce, it sounds like increasing local housing is the answer to traffic. Well, this solution works only if two conditions are met: a) greenspace is actually preserved and not developed at some later date. Are these guarantees in place? b) the people who move into this new housing actually commit to working in Pleasanton, and they move when they stop working in Pleasanton.

    I assert both of these assumptions do not hold true in the real world.

    a) Unless the cities buy up the green space to be preserved, then the green space is privately owned.. and the owners may assert their rights to develop at a later date. Property rights issues. This happened in San Diego where high density happened downtown, and remaining greenspace was also developed, and traffic got way worse simply because there were more people in the region.

    b) It is likely that people will live in the new Pleasanton housing, but work somewhere else. Sure, some people who work in P will buy the new digs in P, but many will buy in P because it's a nice town.. and they'll work somewhere else. If their new work is not at a BART stop, they'll get on the freeway anyway.

    This also happened in San Diego, where many people wanted to live in a downtown urban setting, but they worked in north county. So after the condos were built, downtown bound traffic was virtually unchanged, but outbound traffic became a nightmare. Plus this assumption that people will work, play, shop, live near their transit village just doesn't pan out. Some trips are averted, but these people still go places in their cars. The result: worse traffic, worse pollution, increased strain on infrastructure (utilities, water, refuse), decreased quality of life.

    Pleasanton should make a concerted effort to place any new commercial development near the BART, so that workers can easily take a short trip from their home wherever to their local BART, then BART into Pleasanton.

    If there is a case study where traffic was actually reduced by adding more people... I'd like to see it. Take a look at what happened to San Diego to see what your region is in for if you don't limit growth.

  2. Is "True Freedom" defending growth restrictions that constrain property rights?

    What would the world be like if every community imposed the conditions True Freedom wants for Pleasanton? It would be poorer and not much greener. If just Pleasonton does it, yes it makes those who live in Pleasanton better off.

  3. Just so you know, I don't have a dog is this particular fight... I live in SoCal.

    But, yes, I am defending growth restrictions, but not in the name of restricting property rights. Property rights are a misnomer. We currently do not have complete property rights. There are an immense number of restrictions currently on any property owner.

    Many property restrictions in place today seek to limit one property owner's impact on another. I can't build a chemical factory in my residential neighborhood.

    I would argue that the state mandating that cities UP-ZONE properties to high density is removing property owner's rights of protection from other property owners.

    I currently live in a single family residential area which was developed in 1927. Our city is upzoning the streets that border our 4x4 gridded neighborhood to have high density condos up to 5 stories (with affordable housing setback,height,density bonuses while reducing environmental review of the projects).

    All neighbors on the edge will have 5 story condos looking over their single story home... blotting out the sun. All of these new residents will have cars and will drive them. Few if any will work within walking distance. Pollution, traffic, water usage will get worse.

    So, if Pleasanton kept these restrictions... it WILL be greener. Can't speculate on "poorer" and if that would actually be a bad thing or not.

  4. True Freedom,

    I don't disagree that Pleasanton will be greener, and probably richer with these restrictions.

    My question is about the impact if every city acts the same as Pleasanton.