Let's talk about how the State brought the hammer down on bad local governments, and now there's a lot of new housing in the pipeline as a result.

tl;dr: Earlier this year, the State threatened to nuke city zoning laws if cities didn't plan to build enough housing. The cities tried to play games, the State nuked the zoning, and now there's a TON of new housing in the pipeline.

So, about seven months ago, I wrote an essay explaining that every city in greater LA has to establish a rezoning plan to add their fair share of housing. Overall, greater LA needs to try to add 1.3 million more houses between 2021 and 2029. The cities of SoCal divided the quota up amongst themselves. If your plans don't meet the law, the city's zoning is automatically void and it's legal to build any housing as long as it's either (i) 20% low-income and rent-controlled, or (ii) 100% market-rate, but with rents that are affordable to the middle classes. The City has no ability to block you, unless you violate the health and safety code.

A lot of cities in greater LA didn't take this threat seriously. Loads of them produced housing plans that were bullshit. South Pasadena said they'd bulldoze City Hall for affordable housing. Beverly Hills said they'd tear down 10-story office buildings to build 5-story apartment buildings. Whittier said they'd build more homes in fire zones. Santa Monica said they'd build homes on land owned by SoCalGas and UCLA, even though nobody told UCLA or SoCalGas about these plans.

The State, and Gov. Newsom, unceremoniously rejected all of these rezoning plans. This means, the State voided the zoning, and all those cities temporarily lost the ability to block new apartment buildings.

While the zoning was void, a bunch of canny developers seized the opportunity, and requested permission to build lots of new apartments. And by "lots of new apartments," I really mean "a shit-ton of new apartments." I'll illustrate using the example of Santa Monica.

Let's put this in perspective: between 2013 and 2021, Santa Monica built only 3,098 units of all kinds. That's over the course of eight years. (Note: you're going to have to click through to the "5th cycle RHNA progress" tab, since I can't direct-link the State data.) And in the last six months, while the zoning is void, developers have gotten approval for nearly 4,000 new units, including 829 new rent-controlled units. Even better, most of these buildings are near the Expo Line.

I'm totally thrilled about this. It means that the state's housing laws are working exactly as intended to force local governments to allow more housing.

Sometimes, you fuck around, and you find out. It couldn't happen to better people.


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