Like I've written at length here, ground zero for the housing crisis isn't the homeless tent cities of Downtown Los Angeles, or immigrants crammed six-to-a-room in East Oakland. No, it's actually in the leafy, picture-perfect neighborhoods of Beverly Hills and Palo Alto. None of these places has built a goddamn thing in fifty years - so the corporate lawyers of the world go and gentrify the hell out of poor, minority neighborhoods. And if you get forced out of, say, Echo Park, Los Angeles by someone like me, your options are to go to San Bernardino, Las Vegas, or if you're unlucky, the streets.
One of the new laws to address this shitty imbalance is that the state created housing quotas for each municipality. Every city has to zone for enough housing to meet its new housing quota, and build it. If you don't zone for enough housing, the attorney general's office will sue you into into oblivion. If you don't build enough housing, that city loses its ability to block new development until they're back on track.
This is going to hit the wealthy suburbs much harder than the big cities.
Let me illustrate by comparing the city of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. (I don't have NorCal examples, as the Bay Area's quotas won't be finalized until 2023.)
Big cities like Los Angeles have truly massive housing quotas. LA City's quota for 2021-29 is 450,000 new homes - 200,000 market-rate and 250,000 subsidized affordable. This is a level of development not seen since the 1950s. The city of Los Angeles wants to treat these huge new quotas as an opportunity to continue with business as usual. Their plan is, in short, "lol whatever we'll just put all the new apartments in neighborhoods full of poor people and minorities like we always have." This means even more new towers in Hollywood, the Eastside, DTLA and South LA, while the wealthy, white neighborhoods like the Westside and San Fernando Valley stay the same.
The city of LA is so enormous that they might get away with it, even if it's shitty and racist. The city of Los Angeles is twice as big as NYC, has half the population, and there's no shortage of crappy old bungalows from 1925 and ranch houses from 1955 to replace with condos - if the zoning allowed it.
But Beverly Hills can't do this, because there's no poor people or minorities that they can screw over. And they're freaking out over this, with their planning department even putting out an apologetic explainer for the nosy neighbors of the world. Even worse, because it's the City Council which has to change its zoning law to accommodate new homes, the city councilmen take the political heat for it rather than the state legislators in Sacramento.
For reference, Beverly Hills's quota is 3100 new apartments - 800 market-rate, and 2300 affordable. This is more new housing than Beverly Hills has built in the last 50 years. Combined.
And if Beverly Hills doesn't meet its quota, developers really can show up with a pile of money and put up a ton of new condos. This process is already happening in the Bay Area, in tony Los Altos, where the average family income is $215,339. Now it's coming to Beverly Hills, too.
This fills me with malicious glee, because it's Beverly Hills, and cities like it, which are at the core of the housing crisis in the first place.
This isn't going to be a silver bullet, or even that it gets you most of the way there. California really does need to move heaven and earth to build as many homes as possible. But it's a really good start.