I have to admit, I’m a little bummed. Usually during meetings with anything even related to inclusionary zoning on the agenda, somebody at least says something absurd that I can make fun of. This time, I didn’t even get that. Instead, a bunch of people stood up and thanked Jane Brunner for raising the issue of affordable housing, and the discussion wasn’t so much of a discussion in the sense that anyone actually talked about anything, suggested anything concrete, or made an argument for or against anything, but more of a little rah-rah pep rally about how important it is that we do something about housing affordability, like, now. Which, duh, we already all knew and I thought the point of this extra hour of the CED meeting was that we would talk about what we were going to do. Apparently I was misinformed.
At this point, it appears that nobody is even bothering to make arguments for why IZ is needed or works or makes things “fair” anymore, but instead is just assuming that it’s going happen, which, let’s face it, it probably will. After all, it’s election year and I’m sure Ignacio De La Fuente doesn’t want to have to spend his whole campaign listening to people gripe about how he’s completely in the pocket of developers and hates poor people (which, honestly, his opponents are going to say no matter what he has done or does, now or ever – I don’t know why politicians don’t seem to get this), and Jane Brunner doesn’t want to spend her whole campaign defending the fact that she is so incredibly ineffectual that she has been hardcore pushing the same stupid policy for the last eight years and still can’t get it passed. Hell, if I was on the Council, even I might be tempted to vote yes on the damn ordinance just so I didn’t have to hear about it anymore.
It’s sort of like this guy I used to know, who would constantly demand the most absurd and unreasonable things, and at first you’d be like “No way. Put down the crack pipe, dude.” But when he wanted something he would just not give up ever, or go away ever, and if you tried to leave or hang up the phone or whatever he would just follow you or keep calling you over and over and over and just pester you about it incessantly until finally you gave him whatever the hell he wanted, no matter how insane, just so he would shut the hell up and leave you alone. No, scratch that. It’s not sort of like that. It’s exactly like that.
Anyway, when it was Jane Brunner’s turn to speak, she reminded everyone how she’s wanted IZ forever, but followed that statement with “I also understand it’s just a little tool in the affordable housing toolbox, it’s not the end.” (complete with a little hand gesture indicating “little”.)
Just a little tool? I’ll say. In April of 2003, the Concord City Council had their own debate about inclusionary zoning, and one of the attachments to the agenda item was a survey (PDF!) that staff had compiled of how inclusionary zoning ordinances were working in other Bay Area cities. The results are depressing. Below is a list of the cities included on the survey, the year their policy was adopted, and the number of affordable units (both rental and for-sale) that were generated by the program between adopted and 2003, followed by the number of units created per year (and I rounded up to be generous).
Alameda: Adopted 2002 – Units: None (0/yr)
Berkeley: Adopted 1986 – Units: 68 (4/yr)
Carslbad: Adopted 1994 – Units: 320 (36/yr)
Clayton: Adopted 1993 – Units: 86 (9/yr)
Cupertino: Adopted 2002 – Units: 140 (140/yr)
Danville: Adopted 1994 – Units: 99 (11/yr)
Dublin: Adpoted 1996 – Units: 59 (9/yr)
East Palo Alto: Adopted 1994 – Units: 115 (13/yr)
Emeryville: Adopted 1990 – Units: 954 (74/yr)
Fremont: Adopted 2002 – Units: None (0/yr)
Livermore: Adopted 1986 – Units: 1,000 (59/yr)
Menlo Park: Adopted 2001 – Units: 28 (14/yr)
Mountain View: Adopted 1999 – Units: None (0/yr)
Napa: Adopted 1999 – Units: 100 (25/yr)
Novato: Adopted 2000 – Units: 1,073 (356/yr)
Palo Alto: Adopted 1973 – Units: 270 (9/yr)
Petaluma: Adopted 1984 – Units: 1,422 (79/yr)
Pinole: Adopted 1972 – Units: 389 (13/yr)
Pleasant Hill: Adopted 1996 – Units: 13 (2/yr)
Pleasanton: Adopted 1975 – Units: 810 (30/yr)
Richmond: Adopted 2001 – Units: None (voluntary program) (0/yr)
San Mateo: Adopted 1992 – Units: 161 (15/yr)
San Ramon: Adopted 2002 – Units: None (0/yr)
San Rafael: Adopted 1990 – Units: 148 (12/yr)
Santa Rosa: Adopted 1992 – Units: 4 (0/yr – sorry, this is too sad to round up)
Sunnyvale: Adopted 1980 – Units 812 (35/yr)
Union City: Adopted 2001 – Units: None (0/yr)
So…good for Novato. And Cupertino, I guess. Other than that, even the best of these programs are looking pretty sorry. It just blows my mind that anyone could consider these numbers rationally and come to the conclusion that they’re worth gambling our best current source of affordable housing funding on.