Sunday, October 9, 2016


I apologize for the long gap between posts. I have been busy with all the other Campaign related to do's.

I want to talk about my position on housing. First lets lay the ground work. SLO city has a population of just over 47,000. Our build out for the current General Plan will house 57,000 people. Which could take up to 30 years. If anyone follows Eric Meyer, county Planning Commissioner, he lays this out very well. Basically we already have 3,000 units in various stages of planning, which equates to 7,200 people based on average household population of 2.4 people. Leaving us 1,167 more units to build that are not in any stage of planning. Also remember we have a 1% residential growth cap annually. Meaning even at the fastest residential development rate possible it would take us 20 years to reach that population ceiling. Our actual average growth rate over the past decade has been 0.37%. Factor in that our population doubles every day with people commuting in to work from outside the city. That means there are anywhere between 30,000-47,000 people that work in SLO but do not live in SLO. To put things in perspective in 1975 our General Plan called for a build out of 80,000 people in SLO. It was reduced to 65,000 that year. We are now aiming for 57,000. Two things have happened since 1975. We have never stopped growing, but we have also continually adjusted how many people we know we can house based on resources. When the argument that we are going to become like some big city comes up I have to just shrug. I shrug because it is absolutely false. We will never become Santa Barbara or LA, but we need to do our part to house people. The entire world population is growing. That is a reality that we cannot hide from. We as a city have to do our part in that process. And do it in a way that gets working people in to these homes.
For the reasons above I want to make sure as many of the 4,167 units of housing built are geared toward the "missing middle" (county staff term). Of those 4,167 units 625 of those units (15%) will be for low to very low income workers (1,500) people. That has to be looked at further. My question being is that enough? In Parts of Hawaii they have 20% of their new housing stock set aside for low to very low income workers. It should always be asessed by what amount of our workforce falls in to that category. But back to the "Missing Middle." What we are most certainly missing in our Housing Stock is everything in between $300k-450k. Housing that our average workforce can afford.

Note: reason we are considered the 5th least affordable city in the Country is not because of the cost of our housing alone. It is because the cost of our housing in comparison to our income levels.

PROBLEM: Students, workforce, and retirees competing for minimal housing options. This has literally turned SLO in to an investor city. 65% of our housing stock has become rentals. A decade ago 40% of our housing stock were rentals. This results in higher rental rates, families and workforce being pushed out of the local housing market, and an influx of retirees. Talking to several real estate agents the majority of the homes they are selling are to people 55 and older from outside the area. Meaning it is not first time buyers or workforce upgrading their houses. Hence the term "missing middle." We have very few starter homes on the market today. This is a trend that has seen exponential growth over the past several decades.
My father was able to raise two children, purchase commercial and residential real estate locally, and set money aside for retirement as a Cal Poly graduate, running the same business I now run. I cannot do any of those based on the wages I earn. This, even with the business making the most money it has ever made. There is a balance that we have lost and our families are paying the price. When that happens we inevitably see the changing of the fabric of our community. In my 37 years in this city I have most definitely seen that change. We are becoming a city in which the gap between the "haves and have nots" is growing.

SOLUTIONS: Remove barriers to getting affordable/workforce housing built.
The above link is a report published by The White House. It highlights that this is a national issue not simply a SLO issue. We just happen to be on the extreme end of it. Our wages simply have not kept up with housing prices.

Based on my conversation with developers as well as looking at the data number one would appear to be an overly cumbersome permitting process.
-Development is simply taking too long to get built and have it remain affordable to the average SLO residents. We have seen residential developments take over a decade to get built. We absolutely need to streamline developments that are willing to produce workforce housing.
-Fee structures do not incentivize smaller footprint homes to be built. That needs to be adressed. With limited space to build we need to maximize efficiency.
-Secondaty dwellings are difficult and esxpensive to permit.
-Antiquated zoning regulations ***We are updating this currently!!!***


-Addressing the above problems as mentioned. Streamlining the permitting process.
-Get affordable by design projects built.
-Owner occupied deed restrictions. With 65% of our housing stock already rentals we need to get owners in to homes. Meaning first time buyers and owner occupied.
-The County has just given County Staff direction to explore 8 different policy updates to help create affordable housing. SLO city will follow such direction.
-Make it easier to build secondary dwellings. The container home movement would make it inexpensive, great industrial design, and fast to be put on to existing property.
-More housing on Cal Poly Campus ***I will write another post about this issue because there is a lot of information that needs to be understood***
-Partnerships with People's Self Help Housing
-Density bonuses (already in existence)
-Streamlining the oversight process. We have seen joint meetings with ARC and PC to address any concerns with a projects in a more timely fashion. Time is money and that is always passed on to the consumer.
-The White Houses Development Toolkit Highlights a few more solutions, some of which we have already implemented.

#1 SOLUTION: Elect a city council that is willing to give City staff the direction to get workforce housing built. It is the number one issue that separates the current City Council candidates. And that has to be understood. I personally think this is a very key issue in this race and I will highlight the differences in my next post.