By: Assemblyman Tyler Diep on January 29, 2019
In one of his first official acts as Governor, Gavin Newsom has declared hostility against one of the cities that I have the honor of representing in the Legislature: Huntington Beach. Governor Newsom announced the lawsuit this past Friday, along with Attorney General Xavier Becerra, to litigate high density housing into our neighborhoods.
Like many other immigrants, I still believe that owning a home is part of living the American Dream. However, for the Governor to exclusively file suit against Huntington Beach is not only unfair but he also fails to recognize the true impediment to more affordable housing – the California Environmental Quality Act, known as CEQA.
According to Joel Kotkin and Marshall Toplansky’s California Feudalism, the Squeeze on the Middle Class, “Barely 5 percent of the state is developed, including all the suburbs and exurbs, and California has the highest urban densities in the nation, even higher than New York.”
The push by the Governor and Sacramento to force cities to accept higher densities is a plan for failure. Even in the Governor’s backyard, “the 2040 regional plan for the Bay Area calls for 75 percent of new housing development to take place on barely 5 percent of the land mass, all but guaranteeing high prices.”
According to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Governor’s home city of San Francisco, where he served as mayor and launched his political career, will meet its 2040 housing goals by 2063. There are many large, urban cities such as Oakland and San Jose that are falling behind in its housing goals, yet Governor Newsom only singled out Huntington Beach.
I recognize that there is a housing shortage and that the lack of affordable housing particularly affects my generation, young professionals, and the homeless throughout the state.
Prior to my election to the State Assembly, I served as vice mayor of Westminster. The city council approved a 24-unit affordable housing project to help alleviate the housing needs of our community. This development meets all of the state’s requirements and city zoning standards. Unfortunately, five months later, construction for this project still cannot move ahead because of a lawsuit filed under the guise of CEQA.
Former Governor Jerry Brown, in one of his exit interviews with National Public Radio, conceded that “There’s a lot of resistance to changes, to density in neighborhoods that don’t want density. In many ways, I don’t blame them.”
Brown also admitted to serious issues with CEQA, “So in the CEQA arena, you have two very powerful forces: building trades and environmentalists. And those two forces are going to block any particular change.”
The Governor should acknowledge his predecessor’s admission and redirect his energy and priorities in completely overhauling CEQA. It’s long overdue.
Mr. Newsom has an opportunity of a lifetime as he and his party dominate both houses of the State Legislature. Instead of bullying one city, he should work with Democrats, Republicans, and labor organizations to fix the real cause of this housing shortage.
Assemblyman Tyler Diep was elected in 2018 and represents the 72nd Assembly District, which includes Huntington Beach.