California SB 1146 modified to remove harassment of religious colleges, universities

The practices SB 1146 sought to penalize are not illegal: it is not against the law for a faith-based college in California to ask students to model their lives according to a religion’s values of compassion, service, and chastity and to hire faculty based on faith.

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SB 1146, a bill in the California legislature that would have severely penalized religious higher education in the state, is being dramatically rewritten by its sponsor, in response to a growing outpouring of concern to protect minority beliefs. It will now require disclosure but not directly penalize institutions that are out of step with contemporary sexual morality in the state by holding these minority views.

St Mary's CollegeThe bill, championed as supposedly essential to provide anti-discrimination protections to LGBT students attending religious colleges and universities in California, had already been modified numerous times. It had two major features: a disclosure requirement and drastic shrinkage of the exemption in California law that had protected the minority beliefs and practices of religiously and morally conservative higher education institutions.

The disclosure requirement would require California religious colleges and universities to disclose in multiple ways if they hold an exemption to the federal Title IX ban on sex discrimination, which the federal government now interprets as also banning discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity. Disclosure is already common, because the institutions want prospective students, faculty, and staff to understand their respective policies and convictions. The federal Department of Education now maintains a webpage to highlight institutions that have the exemption; SB 1146 would create a counterpart state website, seen by some proponents of the law as a way to ‘shame’ these institutions. But disclosure itself is not a problem.

Pacific Union College has been named one of the best Christian Colleges in the U.S.
The damaging feature, now removed, was the shrinkage of the exemption. State law has a requirement that any institution that receives state support (either directly or via enrolling students who hold state scholarships) may not discriminate based on, among other characteristics, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion. Religious liberal arts colleges have been exempt from this requirement, allowing them to maintain their religious and sexual standards. The now-abandoned requirement of SB 1146 would have severely narrowed the exemption to only seminaries and programs dedicated to training religious workers. Precisely what would be forbidden and permitted was not entirely clear, but the major effect was inescapable: religious colleges and universities could maintain strong religious and moral standards—and be excluded from state funding and become off-limits to students holding state scholarships; or they could remain eligible for state support and affordable for lower-income students, but only by abandoning long-standing religious and moral principles.

Chapman College with numerous campus sites including Walnut Creek California
The day before Sen. Ricardo Lara announced his major change to the bill, a letter was released to the public protesting against it and the damage it would cause. The letter, organized by the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee, pointed out that the bill, if it becomes law, “would severely restrict the ability of religious education institutions to set expectations of belief and conduct that align with the institution’s religious tenets.” While the signers do not necessarily agree on religion nor morality, they joined in opposition to legislation that “puts into principle that majoritarian beliefs are more deserving of legal protection, and that minority viewpoints are deserving of government harassment.” “Some of us disagree with the sexual ethics of orthodox Jews, Christians, and Muslims giving rise to this legislation,” the letter said, “but we are unified in our resistance to the government setting up its own system of orthodoxy.”

Pepperdine-University is one of the leading colleges on the West Coast
SB 1146 was not of concern only to religious higher education in California. If it became law as it had been, it would likely serve as a precedent for California legislators who find it objectionable that other kinds of faith-based organizations, too, often adhere to practices not considered mainstream in the state. And it could well serve as a precedent in other states or at the federal level.

Note that the practices SB 1146 sought to penalize are not illegal: it is not against the law for a faith-based college in California to ask students to model their lives according to a religion’s values of compassion, service, and chastity and to hire faculty based on faith. SB 1146 was a government penalty bill, threatening institutions that follow those legal practices with loss of state support, loss of students with state scholarships, and exposure to lawsuits.

Azuza Pacific University is one of only 311 institutions of higher learning to be awarded the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification for its outstanding commitment to community service and service learning
This is not the way for our society’s deep differences concerning religion and human sexuality to be dealt with. Students and faculty with minority moral values are citizens no less than those with other moral values, and no one requires students and faculty with other moral values to choose a college or university that is based on faith. Civil society—institutions such as independent colleges and K-12 schools, day care centers and adoption services, residential addiction programs and faith-based after-school programs—is the place where diversity can be the rule and should be the rule. Government should respect and support the diverse convictions of its citizens and the organizations they create to reflect their convictions in services offered to the community.

The Affordable Housing Czar answers all questions

My mission in life is to explain with total impartiality what is going on with the rental market locally and throughout the entire State.

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Let me introduce myself. Experts in the business call me “Mr. Affordable”, the Housing Czar. I am totally non partisan not being a Democrat, Republican, socialist, green, red, blue, libertarian or any derivation thereof. My mission in life is to explain with total impartiality what is going on with the rental market locally and throughout the entire State.

Who, what, where, and how is California going to solve their affordable housing crisis?
Who, what, why, where, and how is California going to solve their affordable housing crisis?

To answer your queries:

What is affordable housing?

This is a good question. In reality “affordable” is what people have ability to pay without draining their economic resources to support their families. “Affordable”, can also be defined in part by where people are living. In Danville where the average family income is well over $150,000 per year contrasts with Concord where about $68,000 supports the medium household. A better criterion is that rent or a house payment should be 30% or less than the gross disposable income of those living in a residence to be affordable

This is why families are struggling in the Monument Corridor of Concord where few can meet this 30% threshold. As a result two or even three families are forced to live in a 2 bedroom apartment. In addition to having crowded conditions, combining families leads to kids to spending more time on the streets. Historically, such a predicament has resulted in increased gang activities and problems for law enforcement.

The word affordable also comes up with Section 8 Housing where governmental agencies subsidize rents for those who are unable to put a roof over their heads. It is supplying this type of dwelling which most cities dread because of the problems associated with those who reside in these places.

Does rent control make housing more affordable in communities where it is being practiced?

Rent Control does make housing less expensive for those individuals who have been residing in housing covered by it for a long period of time. Good examples of this are apartments discussed in last week’s article in San Francisco which ranged from $ 1400.00 to $3600 per month for the same unit. For those who move into rent controlled apartments in tight urban markets, they end up in most cases paying a higher amount as landlords try to compensate for lost revenues.

Rent control also ends up tying up fluidity in the marketplace as those who live in apartments covered by it lack incentive to move. Constricting housing inventory tends to reduce competition putting those with large incomes in the driver’s seat when space opens up at the expense of those with less buying power.

Does rent control even with the intervention of Government Boards to hear grievances improve the quality of the apartments under their jurisdiction?

affordable housing that more resembles barracks than place people would want to live are projects cities want to avoid
Affordable housing that more resembles barracks than places people might  want to live are projects cities want to avoid

In most cases just the opposite occurs.  If a long term tenant is paying significantly less rent than the market commands, landlords have little incentive to make capital improvements such as heating, bathrooms, kitchens, etc…  As a result rent control units seldom see a facelift which entails anything more than an occasional coat of paint or a new faucet if the old one can’t be repaired.

Other than helping to protect people from unsafe conditions, rent control boards do not have the power to make property owners make any improvements beyond minimum code standards. As proof of this reality when a previously rent controlled unit is vacated, it is only then that property owners are inclined to make major improvements. They call this phenomena “capitalism” When government intervention messes with the laws of supply and demand, good things seldom happen.

Why has there not been more housing built to meet the demands of moderate income families that rent control is designed to protect?

This is a complicated question whose answer  sounds like the old advertisement for Anacin which touted a “combination of ingredients” to lesson headaches. To start with when Jerry Brown began his third term, the first thing he did to deal with the State’s budget woes was to put an end to Redevelopment Program that encouraged cities to rid themselves or blight and replace it in most cases with affordable housing. Combined with the effects of the recession, little new construction has been done since Brown took office.

But wait there’s more! Another leading factor to the absence of affordable housing being constructed in the Bay Area and throughout California are all the laws, taxes and permit costs which make every apartment constructed expensive before the first shovel is turned. Environmental impact reports, seismic studies, water hook-ups, road improvements, money for public transportation, electricity, sewers, schools; you name it, they must get their cut.

Along with these factors which often include government regulation from more than one jurisdiction is the high price of land in the Golden State. Reducing the amount of buildable property by imposing urban limits of where construction can occur along with creation of more open space, has taken its toll without much consideration of what the consequences of these policies might have in the marketplace.

What is Jerry Brown been doing to rectify the affordable housing shortage since he has been in office 6 years ago?

To make up for past mistakes Gov. Brown want to bypass local planning processes to meet demands for more affordable housing to be built
To make up for past mistakes Gov. Brown want to bypass local planning processes to meet demands for more affordable housing to be built

Trying to fix what is wrong Brown wants to jump start the construction of affordable housing in the state to make up for past mistakes. Already the effects been visible not only in the lives of low income folks, but also has lead to an exodus of high paying jobs from California to places where housing is more affordable for families.

What Brown has proposed is the State taking over the planning process from local communities to short circuit getting the all the prerequisites  needed to construct housing. His ideas are geared to streamline the approvals process for multi-family housing developments that are built in urbanized areas and include affordable units. If passed, this proposal would mean that eligible housing proposals across the state would be given the “green light“ by right,” meaning they would not be subject to case-by-case local approvals or review under the California Environmental Quality Act.

To put it another way the Governor wants the State to determine what is to be constructed in local communities including density discounts, no matter how their consequences effect traffic and congestion. In taking this “Big Brother” approach which would negate local control of urban planning, it did not occur to Brown to repeal the laws and regulations that have constricted new developments in California in the first place.

This could never happen as admitting past mistakes have never been even a minor part of the Progressive agenda.

What are the chances Brown’s plans if enacted will work?

Let’s play the point spread. When was the last time any project undertaken under the supervision of State Government every come in on or under budget? As an example look at the cost overruns on the construction of the new span for the Bay Bridge or the work that has been going on forever on Hwy 4. The defense rests.

With regards to constructing new projects respected developer Merle Hall stated, “The best way to create affordable housing is to allow the forces of an unrestricted free market to work. Government involvement does just the opposite. It creates undesirable cheap ghetto housing because from the economic standpoint, taxpayer subsidies are not going to build the Taj Mahal.”  (Or should have Hall referred to then as the Section 8 Estates?)

Will the new development at the Concord Naval Weapons Station include enough affordable housing inventories to make a difference?

Despite their pledge to spend $ 40,000,000 to build affordable housing in the first phase of construction, Urban Lennar whom the Concord City council choose to develop the CNWS property, has a dismal record recently of creating this product.

Outside of costing the States retirement fund almost 1 billion dollars with the bankruptcy of LandSource in 2009, they have yet to build one unit of low income housing at Mare Island. Lennar’s performance is almost as dismal in San Francisco’s Hunter’s Point development where thus far they have delivered fewer than 10% of what they promised to construct by 2015

This is not entirely Lennar’s fault. There have been some hazmat problems in both places. In addition constructing low income housing is less profitable than building market place units. As a result this needed product is often the last thing constructed in large developments. As an indication at the CNWS, Lennar first plans to build over 200 market place units when the final  approvals are in place. Affordable  can come later.

When will construction be started and completed in the Concord project?

Perhaps the better answer might be in whose lifetime? While the advocates of low and moderate income housing were in ecstasy when the new plans for the base were unveiled, very few will be breathing when the first phase is completed. Realistically, it will be 10 years at the earliest when anything of substance will be built.  Double that for any affordable units of large numbers.

Why is “Mr. Affordable the Housing Czar” so cynical and cranky about government trying to spur development of badly needed new housing inventory?

History! Just review what has transpired during the last quarter century to determine if respect can still be found in the morning.

Darleen Gee will seek full four-year term on Orinda City Council

Darlene Gee, who was appointed to the Orinda City Council on July 15, 2015, is seeking election to a full, four-year term in November 2016.

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Darlene Gee, who was appointed to the Orinda City Council on July 15, 2015, is seeking election to a full, four-year term in November 2016.

Darlene Gee replaces former Orinda City Councilmember Steve Glazer, who was elected to the California State Senate.
Darlene Gee replaces former Orinda City Councilmember Steve Glazer, who was elected to the California State Senate.
Gee, a civil engineer and Orinda resident for 26 years, filed papers on August 5, 2016, with the Orinda City Clerk’s office.

Gee has provided services for many Bay Area transit organizations, including Caltrans, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, BART, AC Transit, and San Francisco International Airport.

Gee is a vice president of the HNTB corporation, which has done work on Levi’s Stadium (home of the San Francisco 49ers), a BART extension, and the control tower at San Francisco International Airport.

In recent years, Gee has supported increases in Orinda’s property taxes. In 2015, she supported Measure J, a $20 road-repair bond. The measure passed.

In 2016, she supported Measure L, a $25 million road-repair bond for Orinda. The measure passed in June 2016. Measure L asks property owners to pay between $117 and $210 per $100,000 of assessed home value.

Gee was appointed — not elected — to the city council. On July 15, 2015, six candidates applied to fill one vacant seat on the council. About 20 audience members spoke in favor of the candidacy of Owen Murphy. One audience member called for Robert Thompson’s appointment. The city council selected Gee even though no audience member expressed support for her at the July 2015 meeting.

On controversial issues affect Orinda, Gee has been reluctant to take positions. In November 2015, after four years of severe drought, Gee was asked if she favored a moratorium on real-estate development in Orinda. Gee said that a moratorium should be decided by Orinda’s water supplier, the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD).

In a July 2015 interview with the Contra Costa Bee (formerly Halfway to Concord), Gee was asked if she favors predictable zoning for Orinda. She replied, “No I don’t.” Predictable zoning can prevent a city from stationing such structures as a firehouse or a car wash anywhere the city wants.

In that interview, Gee was asked about Plan Bay Area, a scheme to require Bay Area communities to construct high-rise, high density housing. Gee said that Plan Bay Area is “is good, solid regional planning policy.”

Examining the mock trial of Hillary Clinton

Remember that it was self-centered leaders like Donald Trump who divided India into India and Pakistan. We are the same brothers and sisters who lived and fought the invaders together.

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I was watching Governor Chris Christie’s speech at the Republican Convention (RNC) in Cleveland two weeks or so ago. The RNC metaphorically (or literally) burn Hillary at the stake as mentioned by some. We heard chants of “Lock her up!” and “Guilty!” They called her “a piece of garbage,” and she should be “in stripes,” and that she should exchange her pantsuits for jumpsuits. Ben Carson accused Hillary of being connected to Lucifer, Satan himself. And one of Trump’s advisors called for Hillary to be “put in the firing line and shot for treason.” Democrats have been saying, “This is not a normal contest, and no one is playing by the normal rules. Trump, his surrogates, and his campaign have abandoned the norms of civilized democratic competition and gone completely, gleefully rogue. If we don’t keep Trump out of the White House, everything we care about — diversity, inclusion, and acceptance — will go up in smoke”.

NORWALK, IA - APRIL 15:  Democratic presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a roundtable discussion with members of the small business community at Capital City Fruit on April 15, 2015 in Norwalk, Iowa. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NORWALK, IA – APRIL 15: Democratic presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a roundtable discussion with members of the small business community at Capital City Fruit on April 15, 2015 in Norwalk, Iowa. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
All this trash talk led me to introspect on my native roots and conditions of women in India. While reflecting on this issue, on the one hand I am happy that we had a woman president and prime minister in India within few years after India became Independent from British. It took 240 years for a woman to become the first woman nominee for president in America. We need to ponder into remote history of ancient Bharat (India).

I leant that Bha-ra-t was created based on Bha (emotion), ra (ragas or rhythms based on nature) and Taal (beat) i.e. a balanced living in the nature without fear or suffering or living in harmony. This meaning was based on the universal principles of wisdom enshrined in our Ancient Vedas. I learned from some of my colleagues, professors and great scholars whom I owe what I am today. Based on my cumulative learning, readings and teachings by others that Vedas were written to codify those human behaviors which lead to happiness, good health, and functional social system without value judgements. People were divided based on their deeds not based on gender or category into four types (Brahmin, Kshatriyas, Vaishya and Shudras). It was described that based on one’s deeds one can be move vertically between these four categories. A Brahmin could become Shudras and Shudra could become Brahmin based on one’s deeds. Women became rulers and goddesses based on those principles as the focus was on merits, deeds and not on the gender or origin of the family.

However, later on some rulers who wanted to keep their grip on the power without having the real capacities or leadership traits for governance against the advice of those real Brahmins or Pundits who would not allow the coronation of those incompetent rulers. Those selfish rulers created their own intellectual class by giving them with gifts of lands, or other materialistic possessions like diamonds, gold and in some cases real beautiful women to those intellectuals.

Those loyal intellectuals hired by those rulers tried to distort the real meaning of those codes and principles from the Ancient Vedas i.e. they rewrote those principles in a way those rulers wanted and not the way it was written by those wise and enlightened souls. In modern world we see that it happened in America during President Bush’s times when the definition of “torture” was changed by psychiatrists and psychologists employed by CIAs during Iraq war. It led to the creation of caste system based on one’s birth rather than based on one’s worth (deeds). Over the centuries these distortions became so ingrained into the psych of those South Asians that they became a way of life.

My hunch is that Ramayana which was written by Rishi Valmik Ji based on his observational and cognitive abilities to provide guidance to future generations about duties, rights, devotion, creation of trust, respect for elders, depiction and meaning of pure and impure relationships, mechanisms of creating distrust and division by flattery and gossip and role of true life partner in happiness, sickness and bad times. However, later the selfish rulers hired Tulsi Dass, who created the new Ramayana with lot of distortions and codifying in the new Ramayana that “Drums. women, shudras and pigs” always needed to be rebuked or scolded and should not be respected or trusted.

We see those things still shown in today’s Bollywood movies or in the songs, e.g. Madhuri Dixit’s picturization of the song, Nach Ley, Nach ley Merey Yaar Tu nach ley, where the song-writer has mentioned Bole Mochi vi Khud ko Sonar Hai, meaning in a taunting way that even the cobbler thinks that he is a goldsmith. It was through the psychological campaign and demonizing of other side, the original Ramayana by Rishi Valmiki was portrayed in a disrespectful ways even the Rishi Valmiki was called dacoit, untouchable, or Shudra. It was marketed by those selfish rulers that his Ramayana was not “pure or real”. Therefore, Tulsi Dass’s Ramayana was written by a “real Brahmin” and was promoted to be superior work than Rishi Valmiki and should be respected more. It took thousands of years to create those demons of hatred.

Many invaders who came to India including Britishers used those tools of principles of divisions and hatred to divide the masses to take advantage to rob them of their legitimate resources. During the Bhakti (Saints) Movement especially in the 1300 and 1400 AD, some strong voices were heard against the discrimination.

But it was mainly Sikh Gurus starting with Guru Nanak Dev Ji while gathering those voices of Saints (including, Baba Sheik Farid, Guru Ravidass and Kabir Ji) from different parts of the India were enshrined in the Holy Guru Granth Sahib and the practice of Langar (eating food while seating together without consideration to one’s lower or higher social status or caste) was started especially codified by Guru Gobind Singh Ji in 1699 at the inception of the Khalsa. It was approximately the same time when torch of American Independence was lighted in 1776 with the same slogan of liberty and justice for all and mass campaign to treat everybody equal with dignity and respect. It was Sikh Gurus or enlightened souls who wrote and recodify those loving, and caring principles in “Guru Granth Sahib” where no one was supposed to be treated with disrespect even if they are working in the lowest of the low jobs as we respect everyone in this country without regard to their job or social status or family origin.

The same thing is happening now. We have pharmaceutical companies, political parties and other corporations which have the financial resources to higher best brains for their own agendas as is the case with Donald Trump.

Donald Trump promised something to Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie or he is expecting to be the next Attorney General in Mr. Trump’s administration, which lead to an emotional hijacking of the crowd at the Republican Party Convention indicting the first woman nominee (Hillary Clinton) for the president of the greatest nation. The slogans shouting by crowd, “Lock her up, lock her up” became the reality of the day even though there was no truth to the drama in real sense. It was the same psychological process i.e. mob shouting on cameras and TV screens that led to indicting of Sadam Hussain.

Based on my observations, there is some truth and parallel to those principles enshrined in the Ancient Vedas and American Constitution. Those unbiased principles created by the founding fathers of this country, delineate that love for America is not your religion, race, caste, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, etc. rather it is your deeds, respect for others, ability to
sacrifice personal comforts for others and even to give your life to protect others so that they can live without fear, in this “Home of the Brave and Land of the Free”.

We do need to remember that it was self-centered leaders like Donald Trump who divided India into India and Pakistan. We are the same brothers and sisters who lived and fought the invaders together. Let’s bring that unity and work on creating a movement “Stronger Together” for our “Karam Bhoomi, meaning a land of good deeds”, America, where are children are born, where we were able to spread and expand our wings due to infinite opportunities and possibilities to enjoy the riches of this land and high spirits of the founding fathers of this country, this is where I think once upon a time, the concepts of (Ram Rajaya” in India, “Jannat” meaning Paradise in Persia and “Begumpura, meaning a land where no one suffers), in Punjab were originated.

Let’s celebrate the resiliency of human spirit and freedom by lighting lamps for others so that they can come out of the darkness of exploitation, greed, and can enjoy the dignity and respect without discrimination of race, caste, religion, gender, national origin, disability and sexual orientation and make the first woman president of this great nation even though she is not perfect like most of us!

Is rent control the answer to Bay Area rental housing shortage?

Had Shakespeare’s tragic hero Hamlet still been awake after attending Concord’s marathon Affordable Housing workshop on July 26th  that concluded at 1:30 a.m., he would have said “to be or not to be” concerning the need to enact rent control for the largest city in Contra Costa County.

Tenants Together legal Counsel Leah Simon-Weinberg says rent control is the answer to housing shortage
Tenants Together legal Counsel Leah Simon-Weisberg told the gathering at Concord’s Senior Center that rent control is a viable solution to spur affordable housing growth

After a panel discussion that pitted property owners against renters advocacy representatives, public comment ensued which tended to back up the position of both sides.  At the end of the day or night as it were, all that was learned is:

A severe shortage of rental housing exists both locally and in the Bay Area as a whole. As demand is much greater than supply, landlords have an opportunity to raise rents to reflect market conditions. Long term residents of lower priced housing inventory such as the Monument Corridor of Concord, have been adversely affected by rent increases that are willing to be paid by others who currently reside outside the immediate area.

  1. Local government finds itself under conflicted pressures to assist its existing residents, promote the construction of new housing inventory, and help maintain the rights of property owners who have been drawn into the conflict because of market conditions.

On the side of renters rights has been the organization Tenants Together, who have been actively working in Concord for over a year.  The legal counsel of the  San Francisco based organization, Leah Simon-Wiesberg made no bones about the need for rent control in Concord and other cities in the region. In her view fixing the price residents pay to live in multiple unit dwellings along with a government run ‘just cause“ eviction program are the keys to create stability for community members.”

Using such logic Tenants Together believes taking care of the needs of renters of low income housing leads to families having more money to spend on their children, being able to attend the same neighborhood schools, and being able to ask for repairs without fear of reprisals from landlords.

They believe Concord is in need of government intervention largely because of the actions of several large property management companies in the Monument who  Tenants Together claim raised rents several times in the last year. This they say almost doubling the cost of housing for some residents.  The group has also mentioned the adverse effects of rent increases especially with seniors and those on fixed incomes.

Tenant’s Together presentation was countered by Joshua Howard from the California Apartment Association (CAA) who presented a much different view than that of the pro rent control group.  He questioned why the lack of housing inventory should be solved on the backs of apartment owners. Howard pointed out “rent control does not build one unit where anyone might live.”

On the subject of gouging the poor by frequent rent increases he claimed that the CAA ,who  represents over one million units, has a distinct policy of not doing this  type of thing.   Howard contended that the stories of landlord abuse were greatly exaggerated although he had no suggestions on how to deal with the “few bad apples” that were poisoning the reputation of the vast majority of property owners.

His organization centers its arguments against government intervention with what the non-partisan California legislative analysis who concluded “rent control policies reduce the income received by owners of rental housing.  In response property owners may attempt to cut back on their operating costs.  Over time this can result in a decline in the overall quality of a communities housing stock.”

Joshoa Howard from the California Apartment Association argued that apartment owners should not be punished for the shortage of inventory of rental properties
Joshoa Howard from the California Apartment Association argued that landlords  should not be punished for the shortage of inventory of rental properties

A good case for this can be made in San Francisco.  PJ has been living in a studio across from the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park for 28 years.  With rent control she currently pays about $1000.00 a month for her unit which includes a highly coveted parking space. Without it she believes economics would force her to move out of San Francisco.

During the time PJ has lived there, virtually no improvements have been made by several management companies on her apartment.  Only minimal repairs she said are ever taken care of.

The only time that the owners of PJ’s building every made any improvements is on the rare occasion a tenant has moved out. Despite this PJ does not complain as she is paying less than half of what new residents of her building would be putting out for a similar dwelling.

Across the park on the first block of Oak Street Steve S. has owned a quaint 12 unit Edwardian building which features an elegant courtyard for 37 years. Because of rent control he has not been able to afford to make improvements he would like to do  on the property. Steve S. has  done much of maintenance on the building himself to keep expenses down.

Because of the age of the building constructed in 1924 he has needed to save up a large rainy day fund to take care of major expenditures such as foundation work, roof repairs, and taking care of plumbing problems.  Much like the property owners across the street, Steve S. only makes capital improvements on individual units in  the rare instance when one of his tenants moves out.

His rents range for the same 2 bedroom 1 bath units from $1400 to $3600 per month for newly occupied apartments.  Those paying the lowest rents he feels are being subsidized by new comers. While Steve S. complains “rent control is a form of socialist intervention which restricts the availability of housing inventory, it is part of the cost of doing business in San Francisco”, he concluded

Despite what has transpired in San Francisco, when one leaves metropolitan hubs such San Jose, Oakland,  and Berkeley, to smaller communities in  the Bay Area, rent control is a touchy issue.  Concord is no exception.

Although a great deal of pressure is coming from special interest groups,  Mayor Laura Hoffmeister and the other four members of the city council have a lot considerations to mull over prior to changing any existing city policies or laws.  While they are sympathetic to the plight of seniors and low income people in large housing complexes, they must deal with many other factors which include:

  1. If they promote low income and possibly Section 8 housing, what effect will this have on the community? Will doing this lead to higher crime and gang activity as what has occurred in Antioch in the past 20 years?
  2. Is it fair to discourage higher income people from moving to Concord just because they have the economic resources to pay higher rents?
  3. Even if renters and apartment owners are willing to pay for funding a large proportion of a rent control program, is this how the city wants to allocate their limited economic resources?
  4. Do the residents of Concord who reside in single family homes (and make the largest voting bloc) want to institute a rent control and system of arbitrating disputes between land lords and tenants?
  5. Does Concord want to emulate the model of Berkeley, San Francisco, Oakland, and other large metropolitan areas in addressing the way they handle housing issues?
  6. Even with the increasing rents in the Monument area, Concord is still one of the most affordable places to rent in the Bay Area.

    Not all property owners are not as enlightened as Merle Hall who has turned Palm Terrace from blight condition to become a model of urban renewal
    Not all landlords are not as enlightened as Merle Hall who has turned Palm Terrace from blight condition to become a model of urban renewal

These are important considerations but are but a tip of the iceberg when it comes to formulating housing policies that are fair to all residents and property owners as well.

On one side of the equation we have several large real estate investment/management companies who put short term interests of gaining increasing revenues at any cost.  This is countered by a long term investment strategy personified by Merle Hall who has turned the 204 units of Palm Terrace from ghetto quality to a gated community on Monument Blvd which is the envy of the neighborhood.

Hall, who previously served as Mayor of Walnut Creek, over a period of years made improvements in plumbing, air conditioning, kitchens, bath, and laundry in every unit. In addition he redid landscaping and made Palm Terrace attractive to those of higher income levels without pricing existing residents out of the market.

It is these contrasting styles of management Concord and other cities in the Bay Area must contend with in the near future.  There are no easy answers or solutions as Hamlet could attest were he looking to find a place to live right now.

Next week- Meet “Mr. Affordable”, the Housing Czar who will answer questions and offer solutions to help solve the current rental crisis.

No easy answers for Affordable Housing crunch

Affordable housing in Concord is an issue that City Council must address

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According to the urban dictionary the updated version of the adage “two wrongs don’t make a right” can be defined as: “It is not acceptable to do something bad to someone just because they did something bad to you first.” When it comes to affordable housing, apparently the State of California doesn’t get the message.

jerry brown ignores unfunded liabilities
Jerry Brown talks out of both sides of his mouth on the subject of constructing more affordable housing

After spending 40 years creating road blocks for local communities to develop affordable housing, they have done a complete u-turn. Jerry Brown is pushing to have the state take over the jurisdiction of local communities and build large developments to meet demand. The Governor hopes to usurp power from communities of local building codes, environmental reviews, permit processes, and infrastructure improvement requirements to spur construction of so called affordable units.

Brown has a short memory because right after being elected in 2008, he shuttered the Redevelopment Program that was used as a mechanism for cities to build affordable housing. Now he wants to replace this with a bill before the legislature giving the State unprecedented power over local communities to speed up the construction of residences for lower income families.

In doing so, Brown has shown no inclination to reduce bureaucratic procedures and laws that have made California the most expensive place to own property in the continental United States. As an indication in 2014 the median value of owner occupied housing in California was  $371,400.00. The second highest in the continental USA was Massachusetts at about $330,000 followed by New York $283,700 (including New York City) In contrast, Texas was at $131,400. California’s neighbors Arizona and Nevada, home owner’s property was valued at well less than half of the Golden State.

In trying to fast track affordable housing Brown he in effect is admitting that the complicated-expensive dog and pony show system that the State has imposed on developers on all levels has been a failure.  Theresa Karr, Executive Director of the California Apartment Association Contra Costa Napa Solano Division complains “all of the over-regulation the state has been doing is being remedied by more regulations.”

As the head of the East Bay chapter of the League of Cities, Ron Leone has made affordable housing a top priority of his group
As the head of the East Bay chapter of the League of Cities, Ron Leone has made building increasing housing inventory a top priority of his group

Outside of giving their citizens the chance to rent affordably and  have the resources to purchase homes and condos, the high price of housing has resulted in well paying jobs fleeing to other States such as Nevada, Arizona, Texas, and parts of the Midwest where it is easier for families to have the resources to make a down-payment. As a result in California, most of the job growth in the past decade has been in service industry positions where minimum wages prevail.

Meanwhile,  local communities who have lost redevelopment funds from the State seven years ago  are increasingly asked to provide more services the legislature previously funded.  This is especially in the fields of housing and transportation.  Concord City Councilman Ron Leone, President of the East Bay chapter of the League of Cities stated, The League of Cities is pushing the State to pay for affordable housing to make up for redevelopment being eliminated. “We don’t want them mandating what we build. Our organization insists on local control.Don’t give us so many restrictions. We don’t want big government gelling us how and what to build”

While these battles are going on between the State and their minions, local communities are trying to deal in their own way with an increasing housing shortage. This development has resulted in raising rents and displacement of long term residents who can no longer afford to live where they have resided for many years. Especially impacted has been the predominantly Hispanic Monument Corridor of Concord where rents in some cases have almost doubled the last couple years as the demand for affordable housing has increased in the Bay Area.

Trying to contend with short and long term regional conditions that have led to the current housing crunch is a difficult task for local government. For Concord Mayor Laura Hoffmeister, who has served on the Concord City Council almost 20 years, the current crisis is not her first rodeo. She said “Almost every city in the Bay Area including ours is struggling with this issue which is one of supply and demand.  We could anticipate the shortage of affordable housing when the State ended redevelopment giving us no control of what was to follow.”

For Concord Mayor Laura Hoffmeister, handling cerimonial functions is much easier than dealing with keeping the cost of rent down for her constituents in the Monument
For Concord Mayor Laura Hoffmeister, handling ceremonial functions is much easier than dealing with keeping the cost of rent down for her constituents in the Monument

Hoffmeister went on to say there are some things the city is doing including a multi-family rental inspection and bed bug program in place for several years.  She said after attending some recent community meetings, it became known to her that many renters were not aware that these programs were even in existence. Hoffmeister said she has reached out to Tenants Together and others to spread the word on what the city is doing to assist those who live in low income units.

Concord’s mayor concluded “There are no overnight solutions but we are trying to do our part with Eden Housing, HCD Management, development in the new Concord Naval Weapons Station Project, and other planned construction of residences, to meet demand.” She does not believe present conditions merit trying to impose rent control programs such as what has been done in Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco.

Ron Leone agrees is saying “The problem with rent control is that it suppresses cost of housing in one area, discourages people from moving, and takes away incentives of property owners to make improvements. You are in effect helping one set of people at the expense of others because when apartments become available, those who move in will have to pay more.”

Concord City Council member Edi Birsan has been the most outspoken individual among elected officials who is willing taking strong actions to deal with rising rents  leading to displacement of long term residents.  Birsan had to bring up the affordable housing crisis up four times at City Council meetings before it was finally sent to the Housing Committee headed by Tim Grayson and Dan Helix for discussion.  He believes dialogue should take place in several areas including

  1. Lack of affordable housing not only in the Monument corridor, but in the rest of the city as well
  2. A possible price cap on rent increases
  3. 1 year leases be offered to new residents
  4. Eviction “just cause” regulations be looked at.
  5. Cracking down on slum lords.
  6. Promotion of funds for affordable housing be pushed by the City Council
  7. The program the city is undertaking to reduce permitting costs to build mother-in-law units in existing homes
  8. Increasing density bonus’s for affordable housing especially around BART and transportation hubs.

The talking points Birsan and the other officials in Government along with special interests on all sides of the affordable housing equation are all well taken.  There are so many aspects to be considered that fixing what is wrong is a daunting task.

It is apparent that there is no “one size fits all” approach that is suitable for every city and community.  Are actions that might be taken constructive or putting more kerosene on the affordable housing crunch? The question all are asking is where to start?

Next week- Is rent control the answer?