BOS to Address Sham “Affordable Housing” Tomorrow Afternoon

From Mary Ella Anderson’s continuing coverage of the Housing Element.  Continued gratitude Mary Ella!

Heads up! Hum CPR and the Realtor/Contractor interests are expected to push for a reinstatement of second units in rural areas as a solution to providing low income housing. This is a thoroughly discredited idea and one that will sink the Housing Element and leave the county in limbo. The public hearing for what should be the final approval of the HE before it goes off to the State HCD is scheduled for the afternoon session tomorrow, Tuesday, May 13.

Also, at the break room today I discovered a late April edition of the Redwood Times with some good reporting from Virginia Graziani on the Housing Element.  Much of this Mary Ella wrote about last week after the 5/5 BOS meeting on the Housing Element, but I did find this reporting interesting…

“A policy establishing incentives to landowners who build small second units on their properties was put off until the next hearing on Monday, May 5, to give planning staff more time to clarify the incentives.

A small second unit is defined as either no more than half the size of the primary residence or 800 square feet, whichever is less. Incentives in the provision include reducing parking requirements to one space, allowing the unit to be placed more than 30 feet from the primary residence, not requiring a “subordinate” access to the second unit, and exemption from solar shading restrictions.

As written, the landowner would be able to take any one, or several, or all of the incentives unless the lot size makes this impossible. ”  

As always with Virginia Graziani’s writings – highly recommended so please check out the link.

(Forgive me Mary Ella if I over editorialized your comment with the title.  Let me know, I will change it.)


20 thoughts on “BOS to Address Sham “Affordable Housing” Tomorrow Afternoon

  1. Anonymous says:

    You and Mary Ella are so right — poor and moderate-income people should be forced to live in cities, and rural areas should be just for those with lots of money.

  2. Mary Ella Anderson says:

    To put low income people in isolated locations far from services and facing huge costs for transportation is not a good solution for their well being. And second units can only be considered low income if you discount the cost of the property.

    1. Anonymous says:

      just like in arcata, where they got the land for nothing and then spent 3x the normal construction costs to provide low income housing. what’s your point?

  3. Mary Ella Anderson says:

    The Housing Element escaped largely unharmed from its time in front of the Board of Supervisors, despite the last minutes efforts of Hum CPR, the Humboldt Association of Realtors, the Builders’ Association and landowner Kent Sawatsky.

    But from a long discussion over the advisability of supporting “landlord rights” against the advice of County Counsel, it appears that the self-esteem of landlords is down in the cold, leaky basement of life and they need the support of the supervisors as they struggle to regain their sense of self-worth.

    Two county counsels and one public advocacy attorney did their best to explain to the supervisors that landlords have both rights and responsibilities and that the board had no place in that arena. Landlords have contracts with their tenants and these contracts are enforced in courtrooms and legal proceedings.

    This did not sit well with Bass, Bohn and Fennell who felt that it was basically unfair that the HE should acknowledge tenant rights without equal acknowledgement of landlord rights. They perceive the landlord/tenant rights as relationship of equality that needs to be supported outside of contract law. Tina Christenson spoke feelingly about how demoralized landlords feel at not being mentioned for special support in the document. The usual horror stories about tenants leaving messes behind and growers leaving destroyed houses in their wake as they make off with their marijuana wealth.

    The idea presented by that left Mark Lovelace that the board was there to support people who need support, the poorer classes who lack resources and money for lawyers , was not persuasive. Bohn and Fennell acknowledged that they had a responsibility to the weak and helpless but they weren’t about to let the document go without acknowledgment of landlords rights.

    It remains to be seen what the implications of that are or how the state HCD will view the addition, but for me I believe it’s time for the entire to community to rally behind these poor, self-loathing owners of rental property. Where are the “I (heart) landlords” buttons, the “God Bless the Landlords” bumper stickers? I suggested a Landlord Appreciation week be declared, but the supervisors didn’t want to do it. Surely someone should at least get a fundraiser going to at least provide a guided group therapy session so these folks can begin repairing their egos.

    1. Anonymous says:

      When you arrive at your retirement investment to discover the floor ripped up and your walls covered in mold, you might feel different.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thank you again Mary.

    I hope you realize that you are effectively the only one covering this issue. Sure, there will be a summary when it’s all done and passed, reported entirely out of context, without connecting the dots, devoid of any interest in the faces behind the photos, absent of any relevant analysis of why specific decisions were made or who benefits.

    Try as you might, you will not ever find a single news report covering readily available U.S. Dept. of Commerce statistics showing that over half the homes in Humboldt County are rentals.

    This, more than anything else, explains the anxiety and vigilance of property owners. Concealed behind the charade of the “freedom to live where you please” is the broader, unreported reality of continuing to harvest public subsidies, (beyond infrastructure capacity), to maximize profits serving cheap, remote subdivisions that most local incomes cannot qualify to own. In effect, the “right” to easy money promised by the next housing bubble, an unreported entitlement to the third housing bailout since 1980.

    Where’s the journalists that once hungered for the flagrant hypocrisy and spectacle of “property rights” vigilantes running roughshod over the property rights of the people that are rapidly finding our urban and rural cities less livable as a result of greedy, irresponsible growth?

    1. Green anon – I wish I had more time to blog and I’m sorry I don’t – at least not until after the election. I’m OK with that b/c I am putting some time set aside to do what is a proven GOTV strategy – canvasing. I do want to say again thank you for participating. I am really interested in this comment in particular.

      On this ..” you will not ever find a single news report covering readily available U.S. Dept. of Commerce statistics showing that over half the homes in Humboldt County are rentals” … I would like to hear more. I’d be honored if you wrote something and I could post it here, but even more importantly I’d like to read more anywhere. If you have the time, gather the stats, I’d like to help.

      My family is part of the problem. We are transplanted Bay Area folks whose family bought homes as a capital investment. I don’t think this is wrong, it just is. I also think we as a society have to make sure people are not in some sore of soft indentured servitude unless they make it through life with a halfway decent paying corporate job without every taking a sabbatical or getting ill.

      I remember the PC meeting when Lee and those who would honor “landowners” as a principle instead of “residents”tripped over the language in the housing element supporting tenets rights and added language to support landlord rights – or some such thing.

      This is an area where the environmentalist like myself, a low income affordable housing and journalist like Mary and yourself all get what is going on. I think like you say, the media should be expanding on the quote you made above, but in lieu of that, it’s going to take us. So any links to raw data or articles or even better reviews of what you know or what you learn is greatly appreciated.

      This is a new world and there just isn’t money or interest from the general public for thoughts on housing statistics when there is Duck Dynasty or Giants game on tonight.

      It’s not that the general public doesn’t care, it’s because they are sold an escapism (and yes, we buy it) that we need b/c the cards so often are stacked against us and it’s often just easier to be interested in something else on the few precious moments each week we get to. (assuming of course you get the honor of having a job which won’t allow you to own your own home)

      Long story short – if you ever feel an interest or compunction to write on issues – especially related to housing which you know so well – please let me konw cause I’d love to post your comments as posts if you are interested.

  5. Mary Ella Anderson says:

    Both The Nation and In These Times have had articles about the new housing bubble, which is being built by large Wall Street corporations buying up foreclosed houses with the intention of becoming landlords and making bundles of cash. Obviously, if rents rise and wages remain flat, this is a scheme destined for failure.

    Virginia Graziani will have a report of that meeting in the next Redwood Times, but the corporate owners of the paper have determined that her reports need to be much shorter. I don’t doubt that she is up to the challenge and her report will be worth reading.

    1. MOLA42 says:

      I’ve noticed lately that there are now commercials on radio and TV that look a lot like the stuff that used to run before the housing crash.

      Either these folks have learned nothing from the last real estate debacle or they have learned two very important things:

      1: Society has a serious short term memory problem.

      2: Uncle Sugar will bail them out (again) so this is really a low risk strategy.

      An additional thought: Home owning is a major part of not just the “American Dream” but also to the survival of the middles class itself. The cynic in me sees an opportunity for the One Percent to do away with the middle class once and for all.

      They would be able to hold our very roofs over us if we get out of line.

  6. Mary Ella Anderson says:

    Here’s another statistic related to housing courtesy of the US Census via Daily Kos: over one-third of new housing starts are multi-family – from duplexed to apartment buildings. This is a reversal the previous trend. The report suggests that with the loss of job security, people don’t feel confident enough in the future to buy a house. All those houses that Wall Street has purchased could become a glut on the market, On the other hand, single family homes can be retrofitted to become shared housing – say for three or four seniors and their caregiver, or some other configuration of the family of the future.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Interesting idea Mary, and probably the only way the elderly-poor, (soon in their tens of millions), have any hope of a more life-sustaining environment….like a garden…

    And Jon, thank you for the invitation. It’s a ridiculous burden that average folks like me must do elementary research that newspapers used to routinely keep communities informed with. At least the NCJ excels twice a year, or so. When I canvass Eureka, few people say they have computers or the time to maintain them, blog, or do research. Last time I visited the county library, there was an hour wait for a 30-minute computer session!

    As for rentals….there absolutely nothing wrong with owning them, unless it’s in a county like Humboldt with a 22% home affordability rate. In this case, it’s an abomination.

  8. Mary Ella Anderson says:

    Yesterday’s Board of Supervisor’s meeting on the GPU – specifically Open Spaces, was not very well attended, although the environmentalists outnumbered the realtor/developer contingent by a wide margin.

    Quite unexpectedly, Supervisor Ryan Sundberg played a recorded phone message from an outraged constituent making the point that he had not been truthful in saying that trails were not protected and fully supported in the plan. This is true, as the language was changed by the Planning Commission to water down the strong version presented in the 2012 version. But Sundberg apparently wanted to vent his frustration at being criticized with anger by a constituent and so played her phone message for everyone to hear. His fellow board members, at least Fennel, Bass and Bohn, got a good laugh out of hit, as did Tina Christenson and Kent Sawatsky.

    I personally felt offended by Suindberg’s decision to ridicule someone who disagreed with him. It’s the first I’ve ever seen such a thing in those chambers. Mostly the people who have sat in those seats have done their best to maintain decorum under some very trying circumstances. After all, isn’t it part of the job to listen to feedback and treat everyone with courtesy? That was my perception of the responsibility one takes on when one becomes a supervisor. Perhaps I was wrong to think so.

    In any case, they did pass some revised language about trails, not as strong as the 2012 version, but all in all it could have been worse.

    Something reminiscent of the haggling over where or not the Supervisors needed to express their support for Landlords Rights being equal to Tenant Rights arose in connection with trails, as it appears there is much fear in the hinterlands about the use of “eminent domain” to seize private property to build trails. The Four Reactionaries on the board were insistent that the Open Space element needed to express strong support for “Private Property Rights.” Without reassurances, it was felt that property owners would live in fear trespasser and usurpers and seizures by government entities. Of course there is a body of law that deals with trespass and victims of trespass can call law enforcement and have trespasser removed and prosecuted.

    Counsel Ruth intervened to say that private property rights “means different things to different people.” As will trespass, there is a whole body of law regarding property – its sale, purchase, use and so on, and one must question what the whole issue is doing in the GPU. I question it anyway. Sundberg suggested that the staff add Private Property Rights to the glossary that will be added to the finished document. Staff asked for direction. After much discussion, he agreed that the best definition would be Ruth’s “different things to different people.”

    There was also a long discussion about hazards such as earthquakes, fires, floods, and so on, that was way more convoluted than it needed to be. Remarks made by Bass as to where other parts of the document covered these topics made me wonder if any of them had actually sat down and read the entire document. One gets the impression that they haven’t read anything ahead of time and are just winging it, based on whatever phone calls they got from the people they trust. Perhaps they didn’t realize that this six figure salary job would require so much reading, and then being subjected to irate tirades on top of that must have seemed like just too much.

    Jon, if I’m posting here too much let me know. I’m just a compulsive writer.

    1. MOLA42 says:

      I certainly can not speak for Jon (or anyone else for that matter) but I always look forward to your reports. I hope to see many more.

      There is quantity. And there is quality. And sometimes (rarely) there is quantiality. You do the rare one.

  9. Bill Williams says:

    I heard the anonymous message left on Supervisor Sundberg’s voice mail and I understand his position is that when various people give out the message that the Supervisors had removed trails, which of course they did not, it caused many people to get slightly unhinged, exampled by the message. When Mr. Lovelace ranted on about the trails issue well knowing that he and his fellow Board members would be discussing it in the future, clearly was a tactic to play to the upcoming election. So as you attempt to ridicule Mr. Sundberg for not agreeing with you, it seems you are like the pot calling the kettle black.
    Also you were referring to the four reactionaries on the Board, but did not everything pass with a 5-0 vote? Seems that you are far to reactionary to clearly present your case.

    1. Mary Ella Anderson says:

      I was not attempting to ridicule anyone. I was making the point that they didn’t understand the issue any better than you do. The “trails” were still in the document – the word “trails” was used, but the overarching theme of support for the concept was absent. That’s what people were upset about. I believe it is a supervisor’s responsibility to listen to people he doesn’t agree with and to try and understand what they’re saying. My sense is that Supervisor Sundberg is uncomfortable dealing with conflict and doesn’t listen carefully to those who are not on his list of approved thinkers.

  10. Bill Williams says:

    You missed the point entirely, the Board did not remove any policy dealing with trails, so please refer to the Circulation element where they showed strong support fot trails. Your lack of understanding about Supervisor Sundberg’s ability to listen is clearly missing. Remember your school lessons on projection.
    By the way, why did you choose to not address the 5 0 votes?

    1. Bill – thank you first of all for using your name. I have to point out that these are the same typing points that I’ve heard all summer. Unanimous votes, etc. What happened Monday was quite clearly a step back after the public’s “rants” on trails. I think clearer heads did prevail, but only because of a vigilant public. The current PC and their enablers like the “Reactionary Four” and HBE’s lawyers are like two year olds, going as far as they can until they can’t.

      Did you hear Commissioner Ulansey broach the subject of a 3rd mother-in-law unit (would that be a mother unit?) on TPZ lands? The Open Space section is what they had their hands on and their intent in removing the trail language there was not simply to shorten the length of the GPU. There was a reason. What was it btw, I don’t know. It seemed to have something to do with Ulansey’s commitment to the disabled to hear him speak about it.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Nevertheless, a 5-0 vote, like Eureka’s 5-0 votes are exceptions.

    Maybe Lovelace felt that Fennel’s language was a suitable compromise in response to public outcry, although it remains consistent with her contributor’s agenda to add vagueness to the GP and its principles, as if property development is over-regulated!

    What’s truly unfortunate is local media’s endless regurgitation of “property rights” activist’s language, never bothering to report on how those “rights” have infringed upon the RIGHTS of everyone else by building our region into moratoriums, unsafe streets, massive sewer discharges into Humboldt Bay, and chronic deficits in affordable housing that directly impact local poverty, homelessness, drug abuse, crime and mental health issues.

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