How Can We Help During the Housing Crisis?

The housing boom continues to go full steam in the Bay Area. It’s crazy to see all the buildings coming down, cranes popping up, and new high-density housing being built in its place. Even with all this activity, housing is not being approved fast enough for some state leaders. This is evident in a new state legislative proposal that would require cities to provide expedited review for affordable housing developers.

Many communities are struggling with the amount of development and the changes it brings. I witnessed this struggle first hand at a recent Planning Commission meeting. Neighbors came out in large numbers to object to a proposed 10-unit four story condominium project along El Camino Real on the site of two single family detached homes. Concerns for increased traffic, privacy, and densification were vehemently voiced while a smaller group supported smart growth and voiced concerns for the regions’ lack of affordable housing.

Then I received this letter from SPUR, a group that promotes good planning and government within the San Francisco Bay Area, in my email;

Dear Brian,

The story of the Brisbane Baylands project — where a small town is in the position of making a land use decision that affects the whole region — has caught the imagination of people across California, especially now that a state legislative proposal to streamline multifamily housing is under consideration. This month, the Brisbane City Council is scheduled to make a decision on whether to approve a plan for 4,400 housing units and 7 million square feet of commercial space at the Brisbane Baylands, within walking distance of a Caltrain station. So far, the Brisbane Planning Commission has favored a low-density plan with no housing. A growing chorus of voices from around the region, including regional leaders, major technology companies and housing advocates, is calling for Brisbane to approve a mixed-use plan that includes housing. A recent report also concluded that a mixed-use plan with 1.5 to 2 times the amount of housing proposed would in fact be the most sustainable use for this site. But the residents of Brisbane (population 4,700) continue to resist outside pressures, citing environmental issues, fiscal concerns and the desire to preserve small-town character.

After a planned vote on August 7 was postponed, the next council meeting comes at the end of the month. While the city of Brisbane did not create the housing shortage on its own, it still has a chance to do the right thing and participate in the solution.

Kristy Wang
Community Planning Policy Director

The housing crisis is a struggle that is not going to end soon and change is difficult as “small” communities evolve to handle growth. I understand that we cannot keep adding thousands and thousands of jobs (see recent expansion plans of Facebook, Apple, Google, and Adobe) without adding more homes. It is just not sustainable. I would ask everyone within Callander Associates to be cognizant that the communities we serve, and their residents, are really stressed about this right now. They are bringing those stresses and raw emotion to our workshops and public hearings. Not just on housing projects but on park and trail projects as well. As leaders, we must be aware of these stresses, understand that emotions will run high, listen intently, build trust through responsive designs, and work collaboratively on developing the “right” solutions for the communities we serve. This speaks right to our vision statement “Great people building community through exceptional service and indelible design.”

– Brian Fletcher, President

September 4, 2017 at 5:11 pm