Citizen Marin

Dick Spotswood on Marin’s Housing Crisis

Dick Spotswood on Marin’s Housing Crisis

Dick Spotswood: Building our way out of the ‘housing crisis’

“We constantly hear that Marin and the Bay Area are enduring a housing crisis.

It’s obvious the price of purchasing a single-family house or condo has skyrocketed in recent decades. The impression development proponents and big-city politicians give is that the “crisis” is caused by us suburbanites. Those selfish folks enamored of their people-scaled communities force their compliant elected council members and county supervisors to disapprove needed new housing.”

“The story goes that prosperous coastal Californians are the cause of this unique “crisis.” If we’d just approve a slew of high-density development, presumably the so-called crisis would end.

That’s the logic behind both SB 35 and SB 827, San Francisco’s Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener’s draconian legislation which would effectively end local land use control.

Wiener’s proposed laws will mandate eight-story housing along most California streets served by buses.

Supposedly, suburban Bay Area is a selfish bastion compared with the rest of enlightened America and the developed world where a build-baby-build approach prevented the crisis.

Research shows Marin is hardly an outlier.”


“Building out of that dilemma is expensive, in both real dollars and long-term social community costs.

It’s the “American Way” to say “we’ve got to do something” when a dilemma appears. The result is often well-intentioned, ill-advised reactions like Wiener’s Senate bills 35 and 827. Neither will solve the underlying problem — because it’s unsolvable — and inevitably will result in unintended consequences.

Building more affordable housing to create diverse communities is a good move, but it’s folly to believe even pack-and-stack developments are going to lower the cost of owning a home or reducing rents unless the units are subsidized by taxpayers.

Such is the frustration of living in a boomtown.”

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