Everything everyone — and by that I mean the wrong one, the NIMBYs — says about housing in Southern California is always wrong.
A favorite figure of speech, beloved by letter-to-editor writers, who just make things up—sorry, letter writers, whose jewel-like prose I edit and publish every day—is that there are more and more multi-family homes coming our megalopolis is crazy because we’re in a drought. and all those new people will use even more water.
Fact: Take your average Southland single-family home, tear it down and replace it with an eight-unit condo, and you’d be… saving water.
That’s because, even in our xeriscape days, unless you’ve worked your entire yard with astroturf, your landscape uses a lot more water than your sinks, shower, and dishwasher.
We humans are modest guzzlers in the water game compared to our friends the plants. Mere gargles compared to those luscious.
When drought takes the end of the game seriously with our state, it’s agriculture that’s not going to make it. Big Ag accounts for 80% of our state’s water consumption. It needs to become more efficient or move to a rainy place. (As a gardener, I understand it’s more complicated than that. Jungles aren’t a great place to grow a lot.) The people will stay, because: California.
But it’s clear that our town halls are also terribly wrong about housing. They too are just inventing something. Staff writer Jeff Collins’ fascinating story last Sunday about the lies our cities are telling about where they plan to build more homes nailed that fact hard.
To be fair, the cities are snoring because they are under pressure from Sacramento to do so. As our editorials on these pages forever point out, we need hundreds of thousands more homes and apartments in California, which is why the legislature is sending quotas. Tiny South Pasadena, pop. For example, 26,000 were told by the state that it should help realize 2,067 homes.
Have you ever taken a ride around South Pas? Empty lots: 0. Neighborhoods with multi-family houses? Very, very little. They are wall to wall charming expensive bungalows.
As Collins’s story told, resident Josh Albrektson went through his town last year to look at the places City Hall had designated to pretend housing would be built to make the state happy.
One place: City Hall itself, on bustling Mission Street. No one is going to demolish the beautiful town hall.
The Pavilions Market on Fair Oaks Avenue is currently undergoing a massive, expensive renovation. By 2030, the city was lying to the state, it would be the site of 133 new homes. Would never happen.
After Albrektson appealed to them, South Pas city planners took off the list last month some of the many absurd sites that supposedly had a “reasonable” chance of being converted into new homes.
It was indeed a ‘paper exercise’. Essentially, every city in the state participates in the manufacture. It’s nice to talk to them about it. But that doesn’t make the problem go away.
“We are in the midst of a housing shortage, (with) estimates that we need more than 3 million additional homes in the state,” Rafa Sonnenfeld, director of legal advocacy at YIMBY Law, of Yes In My Backyard, told Collins. “Cities that aren’t willing to plan for those homes are part of the problem.”
Cities are governed by elected officials. The people who voted for it can also vote them out. SCAG can say that we will need 1.34 new homes by the end of the decade. Not in my backyard, we don’t, voters say. Instead, they madly want a “housing moratorium” amid the frenzy of real estate prices and tragic homelessness. This is not the fault of the town hall. It’s us.
Larry Wilson serves on the editorial board of Southern California News Group. email@example.com.