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.



  1. Here's a proposal: Move Cal Poly students out of the housing market that would otherwise be occupied by workers.

    Otherwise I don't think you will have much luck convincing investors to build low-cost housing unless you are willing to increase density.

    1. That is certainly part of the plan, but only part. Our median house price in SLO is $660k. Meaning even when we move students on campus and free up those homes, they still will not be accessible to the average worker in SLO. We also need developers to build homes in the $300k-$450k. and restrict them to owner occupation through deed restrictions. These are models that are being used in other areas. And there are local developers willing to this. Time will tell as these projects come to ARC and Planning Commission. I am confident that we can find solutions to this issue. We just need to be willing to have some vision. Thank you for your comments Keith

    2. yes yes yes to both you and keith. (and students need to be moved to campus for so very many reasons.) housing is just one of them. the single professional can rarely live in slo; living 4-6 per unit is unacceptable. we are not students. we have real lives and careers. your ideas are fabulous and have great foresight.

  2. Cal Poly students make up more than a third of the population of SLO and thats not including the faculty and staff that work at and for Cal Poly. This also doesn't include Cuesta College. Housing should be affordable to ALL members of the community.

    1. (the students) and yet they completely dominate the housing market as well as the economy. "living wages" are a joke here. they drive wages down because they do not actually need to make a living wage. it's pocket money supplemented by parents for most of them. what about the carbon monoxide footprint of all the workers and professionals commuting. how eco friendly is slo reallllyy... and yes, housing needs to be affordable for all members of the community. again, move students back to the campus, but also limit the number that can live in one dwelling somehow. then there are the slum lords. they need not fix anything because the students will pay the same price anyway. so now the young professionals are not only competing for the housing but asked to live in sub-conditions. i've been out there. my friends are dealing with the same issues- either still looking for affordable non-slummy housing (after a yr of searching) or living with too many roommates for their sanity because there is no other option at current. ranting a bit but only because you seem to have not only have a grasp on the situation from a broader spectrum but the willingness to work for something better. more sustainable. not just for the wealthy...

  3. I've worked for the County decades making a pretty good income in a management position and will never qualify to buy a home in SLO. My career and income advancements lag behind the housing inflation.

    I've been able to obtain reasonable rentals by the luck of the draw, but my son and I had to move quite a few times.

    Today when I do a blind search for rentals today in case I ever had to move out of mine, I just start crying.

    I would have to leave the town I have spent 25 years in working so hard as a civil servant and that's tragic.

    My son is a junior in high school now. I just wake up every day and say "Make it one more year", so that he can stay stable til he graduates and finds his own path to college.

    It's an incredible stress.