Photo courtesy of Studio E Architects

A memo must’ve gone out far and wide across NIMBYland, laying out a playbook for pushing back against legislation aimed at creating more housing, and shutting down specific housing projects.

See if you can spot the theme.

A PR team sent out a recap of a demonstration outside Sen. Toni Atkins’ office on Friday by advocates who oppose SB 10, a bill written by Sen. Scott Weiner that would allow local governments to greenlight more dense zoning in neighborhoods near transit.

“Despite the bill being publicized as a housing bill, it does nothing to provide affordable housing or housing for homeless people,” the PR team wrote. They drove home the argument with quotes from individual stakeholders, like this one: “The bill does not direct any funding toward affordable housing, nor does it require cities and counties to construct any affordable housing.”

When Courthouse News covered an earlier hearing on the bill, a reporter noted this objection: “Bill Brand, mayor of Redondo Beach, argued SB 10 would not create more affordable housing, but would instead lead to a proliferation of luxury housing due to the incentives to developers.”

That a bill intended to spur more housing development is inappropriate because it doesn’t specifically require affordable housing is also an argument being wielded against SB 9, a bill written by Atkins that would allow duplexes and four-plexes on single-family lots.

Last month, Pleasanton Vice Mayor argued against SB 9 because it “does not require or provide for any affordable housing and allows for single-family lots to be split in two and four-plus homes to replace one existing home.”

That sounded an awful lot like the case Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner made to me against SB 9, when she said the fact that it “does not have an affordability requirement” was one of the reasons she opposed the measure.

The idea that we should reject housing proposals because they don’t mandate affordable housing construction also extends to individual projects.

When my colleague Kayla Jimenez asked the candidates for Oceanside mayor about the controversial North River Farms plan, at least two said they opposed it specifically because it didn’t include enough affordable housing.

“I think that’s been our problem is that we’re focused on non-affordable housing right now. Builders will make a lot of money off projects that a person living here and trying to work here really cannot afford,” one candidate told her.

It was a similar story for some opponents of the Newland Sierra development near Escondido, who parsed whether the developer’s promises to include affordable units were really enforceable. Yet it was clear those same opponents didn’t want anything built there – let alone affordable housing.

Arguing that bills to spur development or individual projects should be rejected because they don’t come with affordable housing mandates is a lot like saying a plan to buy every household a Peloton wouldn’t improve people’s health because it doesn’t come with a mandate to eat broccoli. Both rely on the false premise that there’s only one particular way to solve the problem at hand.

But creating more housing stock – even housing that is not subsidized and set aside for low-income households – is widely seen as a crucial step to relieving the housing crisis.

“Market-rate housing constructed now will therefore add to a community’s stock of lower-cost housing in the future as these new homes age and become more affordable,” an analysis by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office noted.

Andrew Keatts laid out in great detail how San Diego’s lack of home-building has contributed to its affordability crisis.

There are plenty of reasons to reject individual housing bills or development proposals, just like it’s possible to have legitimate concerns about whether a project includes enough affordable housing.

And yet it’s also true that plenty of straight-up NIMBYs have learned to cloak their objections in more socially acceptable concerns to engineer the outcome they want: no new housing anywhere near them.

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Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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