KPCC Radio Discussion On SB 827: The Homeowner Backlash

As I blogged yesterday, the proposed SB 827 is the first truly revolutionary approach to boosting housing in the most environmentally and economically friendly places in California.

And this morning on Southern California’s KPCC radio program Airtalk, I discussed the bill with host Larry Mantle, Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz (5th District), and Mark Ryavec, president of the Venice Stakeholders Association.

The 30-minute discussion surfaced most of the predictable yet flawed objections to the bill, typically raised by homeowners and their allies:

  1. These new residents in housing near transit won’t really ride the transit, they’ll just add to the local congestion. Mostly false: proximity to transit is a major determinant of how likely people are to ride it. However, it is true that lower-income residents are more likely to ride. But even locating middle-income residents near transit is still better than locating them far out of the city, where they’d have long drives leading to more overall traffic and pollution, or encouraging them to gentrify existing neighborhoods due to the lack of new housing supply. And as we’ve seen in urban areas like the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington DC, professionals will ride transit if it’s convenient to their work.
  2. New housing near transit will only add to parking and traffic congestion in my neighborhood. Yes, possibly in the immediate areas. But if the new developments don’t oversupply and under-price parking (and SB 827 relaxes minimum parking requirements) and instead offer better transit, walking and biking access, people will be more likely to choose to avoid the traffic. And overall traffic across the region will decrease with more in-town housing, which means less pollution and regional congestion for everyone. Otherwise, the alternative is more sprawl housing.
  3. Transit isn’t functional in L.A. right now, so there’s no need to build more housing near it. This is to some extent a circular argument. If there’s not sufficient housing (or other development) near transit, then as a result it won’t serve many of the places people want to go. Only by encouraging that development near rail and other high-quality transit — as opposed to waiting decades for rail to go to the right places — can the system be successful. We see this all around the world with well-functioning transit lines.

The discussion and listener comments are worth hearing, because they track the typical objections to the bill’s proposals. As I wrote yesterday, SB 827 will be a huge political effort. But at the same time, it presents an opportunity to discuss the facts with the persuadable part of the electorate.

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