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City Housing Activists Test Out a Brazen New Battle Cry: Sue the Suburbs!

September 5, 2015
 By Lamar Anderson : modernluxury – excerpt
A group of pro-housing agitators is gearing up to take an entire town to court.

It’s an urbanist’s dream come true: The ability to sue a bedroom community for not building its fair share of housing. And a San Francisco renters group is threatening to make it happen. In an effort that could turn the Bay Area’s housing wars on their head, the pro-development San Francisco Bay Area Renters’ Federation (SFBARF) is launching an effort called Sue the Suburbs, setting its sights on the East Bay city of Lafayette, where a newly trimmed down residential community is shaping up to be a novel kind of battleground.

Bay Area suburbs that want to hang onto their sleepy character have gotten a bad rap for their contribution to the region’s housing shortage. San Francisco Planning director John Rahaim has gone on record to chastise towns that refuse housing amid a regional employment and population boom, calling their stance “an irresponsible position.” Between 2007 and 2014, the nine Bay Area counties issued permits for only about half the number of housing units needed to keep pace with population growth, according to an assessment by the Association of Bay Area Governments. “Housing supply is a classic tragedy of the commons or collective action problem,” says Gabriel Metcalf, director of the urban planning think tank SPUR. “Every neighborhood has an incentive to say no to higher-density development because some of the impacts are felt locally. But when you aggregate that at the level of the whole Bay Area, the net effect of each neighborhood saying no is a profound crisis of affordability.” It’s a power dynamic whose logic is inescapable: Existing residents always prevail over future ones, because they get to fight an opponent who is only theoretical

If we should bow to a theoretical reality, why not mine instead of his?

But now the housing activists at the (unfortunately acronymed) SFBARF are attempting to use the court system to reverse that dynamic. The first case could center on the Homes at Deer Hill, a development that won approval from Lafayette’s city council last month. The project will bring 44 single-family homes, along with sports fields and a playground, to a grassy slope on Deer Hill Road, just north of Highway 24. When it’s built, the development will house far fewer people than the 315-unit moderate-income apartment complex that developer O’Brien Homes initially proposed for the site back in 2011, called the Terraces of Lafayette. With Deer Hill home prices ballparked at around $1.2 million, future residents will also be wealthier than the Terraces’ inhabitants, who would have paid around $2,100 per month in rent, according to the Contra Costa Times.

In an August 6 letter to the mayor and city council urging them to reject Deer Hill, SFBARF founder Sonja Trauss threatened to sue if the project won approval. “Should the City Council decide to prioritize homeowners’ aesthetic preferences over the needs of its service workforce,” wrote Trauss, “we will not hesitate to take legal action to defend the housing policies of this state.”... (more)

Who is the WE of which Trauss speaks? She sounds like a Chinese Cultural Revolutionary, but the ideology is backwards. She uses socialist logic to make capitalist demands and throws in a smidgen of environmental bull. She comes off as being confused or ignorant. Where is the logic behind her statements?
I spent some time in Lafayette at my friend’s family home before the it was sold last year. It was a 1970’s Japanese design with wood paneling, heated concrete floor, and an indoor outdoor garden, overlooking the valley through big plate glass windows, located at the end of the road at the top of a hill next to a park, with an abundance of wild turkeys and other critters. (I don’t suppose the SFBARFers care much for wildlife, horses or tennis courts). Not a community that wants to subdivide lots to build more housing. It was a welcome change of pace to visit.
Nobody wants to spend their life bicycling or walking around in a city. It is nice change of pace to take a drive to Marin and weave around in the hills as you make your way up Tamalpais or drive up the coast.
Why is Ms. SFBARF suing Lafayette when she doesn’t live there? What does she want? To control the universe? To turn every unincorporated hillside community in California into Manhattan? To tell us how to live? SFBARF is giving urbanization a bad name, turning Democrats into independents.
3 Comments leave one →
  1. holeshothunter permalink
    September 6, 2015 10:44 am

    “”It’s a power dynamic whose logic is inescapable. But now the housing activists”
    at the very WELL named SF BARF “”are attempting to use the court system to reverse that dynamic.””
    OK…. Logic. Lets use logic. If the upper part of the screed shows INESCAPABLE LOGIC and Mr NON- american thinking RAH HEEM is “”attempting to use the court system to reverse that INESCAPABLE LOGIC,””
    THIS fool, a non american deep within his past and his up-bringing…by his thoughts, you must end up with ILLOGIC. Raheem is trying to turn California into Yemen. F**K HIM f**k everybody who looks like him and thinks like him. F**K sfBARF.
    The courts?
    Lets take the next illogical step. All of this is caused by CHILDREN. STOP REPRODUCING, idiots.


    • September 6, 2015 11:07 am

      Actually it is not Raheem who is saying this or threatetning to sue. It is Ms. SFBARF, Sonja Trauss who is threatening to sue. San Francisco Planning director John Rahaim, and most of the SF Planning Commissioners, have shown great restraint and concern over the choices they are given to make, explaining the limits they have to make the decisions they make, and often reminding the public that they do not write the laws. They are charged with upholding them. If you want to change the laws, you might want to vote for a change in leadership and a change in the plan. In the case of SF residents, voting Yes on I
      ( signals you want a change.



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