Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill in San Jose on Thursday to extend development regulations that allow for expedited reviews of environmental effects.
Senate Bill 7, authored by Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, will allow developments like housing and mixed-use projects to qualify for an expedited review process under the California Environmental Quality Act.
The legislation extends, for four years, the provisions of a 2011 law that initially created the expedited judicial review under CEQA for large housing, clean energy and manufacturing projects.
SB 7 also makes it easier for projects to qualify for the expedited process, lowering the threshold to those with investments between $15 million and $100 million that also dedicated at least 15 percent of a project to building and maintaining affordable housing.
“This bill is about an investment in the future of the state of California,” Newsom said Thursday during the bill-signing ceremony. “This bill is about our comeback. This bill is about our grit, our tenacity. This bill represents the best of California.”
Newsom, Atkins and Santa Clara County officials held the ceremony at the site of Google’s Downtown West project, which would include 4,000 housing units, 25 percent of which Google has pledged will be affordable and rent controlled, and retail and office space.
Newsom originally certified the project for an expedited CEQA review in 2019.
“This legislation ... defeats many of the false narratives about California and our valley,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said. “The pessimistic pronouncements and downcast declarations of the ‘Eeyore caucus,’ about California not being able to get red tape out of the way to make big things happen.”
SB 7 will take effect immediately, as it was approved as a so-called emergency statute.
A century of private real estate development in the valley has clearly shown itself to be an utter failure in providing affordable housing to all who need it. Even with local governments completely captured and at the mercy of landowners and developers, and with voracious and rapacious “horizontalist” zoning and land use policies, there are sizable accumulated housing supply deficits (https://staging.sanjoseinside.com/news/another-206-acres-purchased-in-coyote-valley-for-preservation/#comment-1698588). Anyone arguing that government regulations are an impediment to housing construction–e.g. Gavin Newsom and Sam Liccardo–just does not understand the history of this place.
Expedited California Environmental Quality Act review processes may indeed quicken the realization of the existing Google downtown project should it be approved. And I wouldn’t be surprised if that legislation was rushed through by the numerous recipients of Google lobbying money in Sacramento as a special favor–a cutout–to the tech giant. But to suggest that Senate Bill 7 will, in and of itself, unleash a housing construction wave across the valley or elsewhere in the state is to delude oneself and to gaslight everyone else.
Spatial limits on development and open space regulations–which are good things from an environmental and urban planning point of view–are combined with a long history of overwhelmingly detached, single-family suburban housing development model. This means the only way forward is up, i.e. intensified densification of housing and of land use. Should the Google project be approved, it will entail dense housing, as it should but, in the larger picture, will not have any appreciable positive impact on housing supply or affordability.
Significant quantities of affordable housing supply will not come through reduced taxes, fees and regulations for private housing developers. If that were the case, then the hundreds of millions in reduced fees and taxes and the many affordable housing exemptions gifted to developers by Liccardo’s councils and its predecessors over the decades would have prevented the persistent housing shortages we have faced (see my comments under https://sanjosespotlight.com/san-jose-city-council-commercial-linkage-fee-gaining-favor-ahead-of-vote/). The key ingredient to resolving the housing crisis is publicly-produced housing built on public lands and managed by the public sector in the public interest. This is the only effective, cost-efficient and sufficiently-scaled solution to the housing shortage we have been facing for decades (see https://staging.sanjoseinside.com/news/scc-supes-set-to-approve-350m-in-bonds-for-affordable-housing/#comment-1701435). No amount of wishful thinking on the part of Newsom, Liccardo or Atkins regarding market-based solutions will change this basic reality.
San Jose does not have a housing problem, it has a population problem, too many people.
Wishful thinking…….Move big tech elsewhere, and the techies will follow.