Jake's blog

Let's talk about why LA's zoning law gets in the way of new housing.

In this excellent post from a few years back, /u/clipstep on Reddit discussed the building and financial reasons why LA only seems to build luxury condos. I'm going to talk about the legal reasons why this is so. As always, this is not legal advice. Please hire an attorney if you have individual zoning questions.   Bottom-line, up front: LA land use laws are so restrictive and bureaucratic that it's not financially possible to build small, no-frills apartment buildings anymore like we did before the late 1960s. I'll start by talking about how our zoning laws work, and then go...

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Let's talk about environmental review.

This is going to be a primer on the California Environmental Quality Act for non-experts and why it makes it so hard to build new housing. Though I am a lawyer, please don't treat this as legal advice - consult your own attorney if you have CEQA questions. I'm also going to talk about an empty porn theater. The two are related. Trust me. A lot of people have the wrong impression that if you want to build a new building somewhere, it's straightforward. Just submit the plans to City Hall, and if the plans match the building code and...

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Let's talk about the role of churches in alleviating the housing shortage.

Churches in the early 21st century have problems staying afloat.   Mainline Protestant and most Jewish congregations have been shrinking for decades; the Catholic Church is closing parishes even in growing cities; and now even evangelical Protestants are starting to enter into same kind of decline.  You can debate the causes, but religion just isn't playing the same role in community life in 2020 as it did in my parents' generation. For lots of congregations, coronavirus has accelerated the financial reckoning that they've been facing down for decades.  There's no parishioners in the pews, but the church still has to keep...

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Let's talk about strip malls, and why they make for resilient suburbs.

I talk a lot of shit about how the suburbs we build today aren't particularly resilient. But there's one suburban institution that I think is enormously resilient and versatile: the strip mall. I'm not joking. Don't laugh. Unlike its cousin, the dying indoor mall, the strip mall is enormously adaptable, ubiquitous, and absolutely does have a future. Let me illustrate using the Country West Shopping Center, on West Capitol Avenue, West Sacramento, California. Despite some gentrification, and a few subdivisions built in the 2000s, West Sac is industrial and poor. When I was in high school, if you want to...

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Let's talk about garages full of crap.

Next in my series on "why the hell is housing so god-damned expensive," I'm going to talk about quick and cheap fixes to our current housing crisis, by using excess yard space, and garages full of crap. Bear with me here. I'm deadly serious. All the issues we face today stem from the same root cause: the refusal to build more housing in nice neighborhoods, both in city centers like the Upper West Side and in expensive suburbs like Beverly Hills. The city housing problem is somewhat easier to fix, because cities exist in the spotlight. For the Wall Street...

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