Coastal Commission Compromises Ability to Deliver More Homes – Press Enterprise

There is no more pressing issue for California communities than the housing shortage, which is directly related to rapidly rising rents and home prices, housing insecurity, and ultimately homelessness. Individuals and families struggling with housing insecurity face myriad economic and social challenges that could be overcome with a secure home.

In response to the housing shortage and resulting affordability crisis, the Legislature has passed a host of bills over the past five years designed to streamline development approvals, increase funding for affordable low-income housing, and reduce regulatory obstacles to development. These bills should allow cities to license housing more quickly and speed up the delivery of new housing. However, this is challenging in a coastal region when the Coastal Commission has veto power over projects that local governments have already approved.

The sixth cycle Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) correctly allocated the critical mass of new housing to Orange and Los Angeles counties because they are home to many high-opportunity cities in close proximity to jobs and transportation public. This methodology was a departure from previous cycles in which the Inland Empire was allocated the majority of new housing.

Rest assured, new fringe housing construction will continue without RHNA’s mandate; however, coastal cities have long resisted new development, so RHNA and plans to accommodate them ensure that coastal cities do not close the door on new housing opportunities.

Getting development approvals for new homes in coastal cities is daunting. City council members face both the wrath of local NIMBYs and the heavy hand of the state. It is confusing then when Coastal Commission policy undermines the ability of coastal cities to move toward their RHNA.

The threat of sea level rise in the next 100 years has become the justification for the California Coastal Commission to adopt a major policy shift away from coastal development. New housing development in coastal communities is reduced or prohibited altogether, despite projected decades before the threat of sea level rise could present a flooding problem.

The housing shortage is urgent and pressing, not decades from now, but today. We need to embrace adaptation and thoughtful coastal development, rather than ban it. Using the “Aligned Principles for State Action” we can build a more resilient coastline that anticipates sea level rise and still make progress on housing.

The Governor and Legislature should provide the Coastal Commission with more guidance and balanced state policy on the housing crisis and coastal protection. A key factor in developing that policy must be quantifying the cost of the commission’s interference with the local government’s ability to deliver housing, including a cost analysis of the impact on inflation. It is estimated that the high cost of housing is responsible for approximately 20% of the inflationary increases. Reducing inflation over the long term means permits for new homes need to be sped up, not delayed.

Legislative efforts to speed up new housing represent real progress, but restrictive decision-making by the Coastal Commission makes it difficult for coastal communities to move toward housing goals. It is vitally important that policies on coastal protection and housing development co-exist in a way that meets current and future social, economic, and environmental objectives.

Elizabeth Hansburg leads the YIMBY movement in Orange County. She is the co-founder and executive director of People for Housing OC, a nonpartisan community housing advocacy organization in Orange County. You can reach her at [email protected]

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