As posted in the comments, a great article in City Lab reports on the initiative to “Sue the Suburbs” over lack of housing construction. Now, I think we all realize that the likelihood of this effort being successful is pretty small, but it will bring even more attention to the problem and the lack of solutions being offered by our policymakers and if it is successful, well, that would be huge.
The suburb in question here is the city of Lafayette which makes a pretty easy target given its demographics and amenities (like a Bart station). Before our city leaders get too comfortable watching another city go through public scrutiny of its lack of housing construction, it’s interesting to note that from 2007-2014, Lafayette met a higher percentage of its RHNA housing allocation than Alameda. The ABAG page is somehow broken right now, but according to the City Lab piece, Lafayette constructed 65% of its RHNA numbers. Alameda, only 6%. And yet there’s “too much housing” right Tony Daysog?
But back to the effort, highlights from the SF Business Times reporting:
The San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation, a pro-density tenants group, is moving to sue the East Bay city of Lafayette after it supported replacing a plan for 315 apartments with one for 44 single-family homes.
Activists from the group, known as SFBARF, said that the downsizing of the project, the Homes at Deer Hill by developer O’Brien Homes, is another example of suburban communities blocking housing and contributing to an imbalance in supply and demand that has exacerbated housing costs throughout the region.
Lafayette city officials strongly disagree with SFBARF’s approach. “I don’t really get it,” said Brandt Andersson, the mayor of Lafayette. “We need more housing. The way they’re going about it is wrong.
SFBARF is undaunted and said that the fact that O’Brien Homes took four years to gain approvals is a sign of how dysfunctional the planning process is in the Bay Area, with most cities failing their regional allocations for housing.
“Almost every Bay Area municipality is out of compliance. The net effect of that is Latino grandmothers get evicted in the Mission,” said Hanlon. “Lafayette is the beginning. Lafayette is not the end.”
This website has been launched to find potential plaintiffs to initiate the process. The use of the Housing Accountability Act of 1982 is an interesting route. I haven’t done much research on the actual act itself, but according to the Sue the Suburbs website it hasn’t been used very much to require cities to approve projects that are zoning compliant. But it sounds like something that our current City Council could run into problems with if a few members on our City Council decide to maintain their no growth bona fides as opposed to following the law.