One of the sad things about the SB827 debate is that while YIMBY folks tried to keep the emphasis on housing, by the end I heard more general policy people describe the bill in terms of “Local control.” That became a problem. As I pointed out in a prior post, lots of people seem to equate local control with land use, and it is an important local government power. But I tried to point out there are other things that localities can still control, from public finance to amenity and service offerings, that don’t involve zoning.
I’m not sure how well I did it, as lots of people seemed to think I was lamenting loss of local control with SB827. No. I don’t think local control should mean “the ability to exclude other people from a city.” Cities are not yours. But I do think people should have the capability to have some control over their local environments, and I also think that oppressed peoples should have civil protections, spatial ones, from socially dominant majorities who oppress them.
Anyhoodily, regular readers of the blog know that value capture is one of my hobbyhorses. I get it, Prop 13 is a big deal, I shouldn’t even talk about things that aren’t feasible (Crimony would you people go read Thucydides, Nietzsche, and Walzer on political realism and power-rationality relations before you scream about what is feasible and what’s not? I don’t have time to educate y’all on errrrthing.)
But I think the key to passing something SB827-esque is to shift the cities and their financial incentives with regard to new residents. Some of the criticism of the “growth machine” hypothesis and regime theory in development is simply that it doesn’t explain California very well. Regimes supposedly don’t form. I think they do; for one, Molotch and Logan do talk about the possibility of anti-growth homeowners becoming a political force. It’s just they didn’t consider the possibility that one of the elite players might join anti-growth coalitions, and that’s what I think Prop 13 did. It fiscalized land use in such a way that cities didn’t want new residents any more than existing residents did. Growth without people to have to serve would be ideal.
Thus cities in California have had much less reticence about things like stadia or even going after the Olympics or having big box stores that get us sales tax revenue than they have in dealing with housing proposals. We would like to tax foreigners living abroad, but colonialism is now frowned upon and thus we settle for seeking shoppers living in a neighboring jurisdiction. (So much of Black LA’s money has flowed to places like Culver City, and thus plenty of LA County cities could care less about whether any development goes south of the 10).
Mixed use is a somewhat of a compromise: there’s sales tax money getting generated on the bottom floors, and lots of people still assume that the condos or apartments or lofts will go to affluent singletons rather than families with those children who need investing in.
I have long argued that the feds and the states should tie their transit funding to specific joint development proposals that require upzoning with development approvals in place. So one possibility, even though the cities wouldn’t like it, is for the the next SB827-esque bill to require upzoning around new transit projects if they want state money for them. It’s not a huge pot of money, but most big projects have federal/state support.
This isn’t ideal. Places like Beverly Hills, which are divided with regard to transit, are just as likely to say “keep your transit money and your up zone” as they are to comply because they don’t see transit as an amenity but rather, a mechanism for rampaging poor people to come steal their TV sets.
Value capture distributed between cities, transit agencies, landowners, and renter protection programs give a straight financial benefit. I know, that’s a lot of splits. But I suspect there is quite a lot of money waiting to be split.