Last week, the Valley Industry and Commerce Association released its list of 2019 Legislative Priorities, which are developed by our board of directors and then voted on by our members. Once again, housing is at the top of our members’ list of concerns. VICA’s top legislative priority for 2019 is to “support the development of housing at all economic levels to address homelessness and the workforce housing crisis in Los Angeles.”
So how can we do this? First, we need to understand that the solution to the housing crisis is to simply build more. Many seem to think that rent control policies are the magic solution and will keep prices from rising. In fact, they will make the crisis even worse by limiting the supply of housing.
California Senator Scott Wiener has brought back an ambitious bill to significantly increase the development of housing near transit areas. Senate Bill 50 would encourage new apartment construction near transit, which makes complete sense. It lays out a vision for transit-oriented communities throughout the state.
I’m the first to admit that some level of local control and environmental review is reasonable. No one wants to live in a community with a skyscraper next to single-family homes or put a dense apartment building on a tiny street that can’t handle lots of new traffic. But quite honestly, most of the projects that are being delayed are reasonable ones which simply get caught up in the tangled web of local politics. Those delays hurt us in the Valley, as costs for new homes and apartments rise and result in an ever-more expensive development process.
This web of local politics is the most frustrating when it delays or halts projects near transit stops. Every great economic center in the world has public transit that people can actually rely on instead of a car. As a community, we’ve invested billions of dollars and years of our advocacy efforts into improving public transit in the Valley. And we’ve invested that money because Los Angeles is losing time and money stuck in traffic, and we need to get people out of their cars.
Investing in transit won’t work if people live too far from the nearest transit station. It’s completely reasonable to create denser communities where people can live, work, shop and access transit that connects them with the rest of Los Angeles without a car. It’s a no-brainer, and it is right that these types of projects should be incentivized and expedited as much as possible.
The young family trying to establish a home can’t wait around for neighborhood groups to debate the exact placement of a window for six months. The homeless child living in a garage can’t wait around while NIMBYs try to second guess the fire department and argue that a development isn’t safe. The retired couple wanting to downsize and free up a home for a large family can’t wait while bureaucrats quibble over the number of parking spaces.
We need these homes now, and bills like SB 50 will help us get them. VICA will continue to push for more innovative solutions and bills that encourage housing development, and SB 50 is a great place to start.
Stuart Waldman is president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a business advocacy organization based in Van Nuys that represents employers in the San Fernando Valley at the local, state and federal levels of government.