Cat and Mouse in Frogtown

11 thoughts on “Cat and Mouse in Frogtown”

  1. Great, well researched article.

    I think there is such a cruel logjam in the entire state of California which lives under a self-imposed diet of housing regulations. Los Angeles in particular is so short of housing, so in need of tall residential buildings that it is ironic that the population would rather suffer than allow development so badly needed.

    In Frogtown they’ve already limited the heights of buildings so that what will occur in the future will be extremely expensive crappy old houses, unaffordable because there will be such demand for them and so few of them.

    In Van Nuys, where I live, one developer is planning a five-story apartment, which one resident called “a looming enormous building shadowing the street!” The same people who complain about homeless encampments also want to restrict development in every way possible. The favorite label for developers is “greedy”.

    But who is greedy when they own a house that has gone up in value 300%? If you inherited your parents’ $100,000 Hollywood Hills home purchased in 1982 and it is now worth $2.5 million I’d say you are greedy. But then again you are not. You are simply the owner of what the market has created fair or not.

    So why control rents? Why control heights of buildings? Why restrict things so that the city’s social fabric is torn up? Why not free up the construction of everything so the city becomes more vibrant, more affordable and more livable?

    1. Exactly. In my L.A. suburb, everyone who has the house they want on the street they want is 100% opposed to growth. So they lead the fight against these apartment buildings or three-story (ugh!) townhomes, which the city touts as answers to the affordability crisis. What no one talks about is that these denser developments cost more to build than SF homes, so they will not be cheaper at all! In fact, in our town they are more expensive. http://archives.sfweekly.com/thesnitch/2016/01/11/why-dense-development-might-make-the-housing-crisis-worse

  2. If you want an example of cat and mouse, consider that every community in CA is given a housing quota by their regional association of governments. They also must have land parcels identified in their general plan zoned with services (sewer, water, phone, etc) available to meet the quota. Go out and look at those parcels sometimes. Likely most can’t be built upon or there is already something there that must be first torn down, but by gum, if they tear it down they might let you build. The general mentality of the planning community in CA is that all that should be built has been built.

    1. General plans are meaningless. Every town is required to have one in order to receive state and federal funds. They’re lists of all the wonderful theoretical things a community should have like plenty of affordable housing, efficient transit, ecological features such as storm water management infrastructure and open space for nature, blah, blah, blah. But implementing most of these features is never going to happen since land use zoning, the building code, minimum parking requirements, the fire marshal’s dictates, community resistance, a lack of financing mechanisms, and a million other realities all stop them cold.

      1. But it’s understood by the planning departments and local supervisors or councils that they’ll be stopped cold. That’s the agenda.

  3. Thank you for this. This is exactly what I always pictured for the ultimate result of heavy handed zoning in popular areas nowadays. People just cannot understand that the zoning regulations that help (sort of) them fight against the huge projects that they hate are the same regulations that disallow the corner store that they love.

    It also comes from refusing to view housing through the lense of supply & demand. When zoning quietly prevents doubles, triples, quads and respectable apartment buildings from being added to a desirable part of town it creates the out of control demand wave that large politically connected developers ride out to get their projects passed.

    Now I am sure there are tons of NIMBYS who would oppose the reasonable stuff as well but if it can be explained rationally and shown to work I think it could have a real effect in hot neighborhoods in places around the Midwest.

    1. For me – personally – it’s easier to get ahead of the curve and buy affordable properties in not-yet-politically-ossified neighborhoods rather than engage the political process. But that’s just me.

  4. The stroad to hell is paved with good intentions… My city certainly has its heart in the right place (http://zoning.ssf.net/) but the high cost of land, neighborhood opposition, regulatory environment, etc. means that only institutional developers can front the table stakes. Or smaller investors who might plop a few luxury homes on a sliver of a plot to make the math work out.

    In-law units, loosen regulations/zoning, etc. We know the answers. But by the time all that happens for real, problem solved. And the answer is… Texas?

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