Where To Build Housing In California Through 2030

Join Berkeley Law’s Free Webinar On Wednesday, May 17th, 11am to Noon

California isn’t building enough housing to meet jobs and population growth, and what housing is getting built is happening too much in sprawl areas on greenfields. While this greenfield-focused development may please pro-sprawl conservatives, it will worsen traffic and air pollution and keep the state from meeting its long-term environmental goals.

To discuss where and what type of housing the state should be encouraging, please join me for an upcoming Berkeley Law webinar on May 17th from 11am to noon. We’ll also discuss the recent report Right Type, Right Place, which is the first academic, comprehensive evaluation of the potential economic and environmental impacts of infill housing development — compact housing in already urbanized land near transit, jobs and services — on California’s 2030 climate goals under Senate Bill 32 (Pavley).

The report was authored by UC Berkeley Law’s Center for Law, Energy and the Environment (CLEE) and the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley and commissioned by Next 10.

In addition to me, the webinar will feature:

  • Nat Decker, researcher at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley
  • Colleen Kredell, Director of Research, Next 10

Registration is now open. Please tune in and send us your questions!

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Reader Comments

8 Replies to “Where To Build Housing In California Through 2030”

  1. Ethan said;
    “…..While this greenfield-focused development may please pro-sprawl conservatives, it will worsen traffic and air pollution and keep the state from meeting its long-term environmental goals….”

    Dear Ethan,
    California simply cannot build enough affordable housing to support jobs and population growth. Ordinary citizens must choose between either leaving or staying and paying more taxes to support public employees and mitigate climate change.

    Most of the undeveloped land in California is encumbered by a myriad of environmental regulations and protected as habitat for an ever increasing list of protected plant and animals, so new land development is highly restricted.

    Since land development has become virtually illegal in California, there is very little land available for human habitat. Ordinary citizens seeking human habitat quickly discover they must leave California and move to places like Texas where we have plenty of good affordable human habitat and jobs.

    The California Environmental Bar is largely responsible for causing this enormous problem but they cannot fix it, in fact their actions tend to make matters worse for affordable housing, jobs and population growth.

  2. There are a fair amount of brownfield sites available (for example, Mare Island). In fill is another possibility.

    However, one problem is that the housing needed is not necessarily the housing that is most profitable for the builder. One answer to this is various type of regulatory efforts, but a better one is owner/developer cooperatives.

    In this model, people who need housing group together to form a NFP co-op to develop housing. They get the financing needed (or at least pre-approval) to buy the housing when they eventually move in and then the group develops it. This reduces investment risk, eliminates construction bridging loans and sales costs and ensures that what people need will be what is built. It may also provide investment opportunities for other sources of finance, such as Silicon Valley firms trhat are sitting on enormous cash reserves.

    1. CDBARRY said;
      “….There are a fair amount of brownfield sites available (for example, Mare Island). In fill is another possibility….”

      Sorry, but all brownfield and infill sites in California are encumbered by a myriad of environmental regulations and other rules. Such sites cannot be developed in a reasonable and economical manner, and are therefor rendered unsuitable for human habitat.

      Owner/developer cooperatives cannot overcome these barriers and that is why this approach has not been successful in the past and probably never will be, because new land development of any kind is virtually illegal in California.

      Real estate developers have known for years that California is far too risky and prefer to do business elsewhere. California will never be able to build enough affordable housing to support jobs and population growth.

        1. Sean,
          Infill construction activity is limited to urban areas that have been previously developed. There is very little construction on undisturbed raw land in California.

          Infill construction may have less impact on habitat for protected species but it worsens traffic and air pollution which cause premature deaths. That is why the California Environmental Bar generally opposes most new construction projects, especially infrastructure and affordable housing projects.

          1. “Urban areas that have previously been developed” is the definition of brownfield and infill.

            One interesting possible future source of infill housing, by the way, is dead shopping malls, thanks in part to Amazon.

      1. Again a specific example:

        The new housing being built on Mare Island in Vallejo was doing just fine until the 2008 crash, when the for-profit developer went under. (See remark on owner/developer co-ops.) I was on MINSY a couple of months ago and all of the houses were occupied and looking quite nice. Only one or two were for sale and they were occupied.

        There is a lot more room, just on MINSY, for a lot of additional housing, and there is a ferry across the channel (you could row across in ten minutes), the ferry maintenance center is also on MINSY.

        There are a lot of other opportunities like that in the Bay Area – I worked at a plant in San Jose that occupied a square mile until the company was bought up and moved to York PA.

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About Ethan

Ethan Elkind

Ethan Elkind is the Director of the Climate Change and Business Program, with a joint appointment at UC Berkeley School of Law and UCLA School of Law. In this capacity, h…

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