Regional News: Column: Suburban sprawl wins again in the battle against California’s housing crisis

An aerial view of homes in California Sen. Bob Hertzberg’s 18th District in Granada Hills, Calif., in May./Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

By George Skeltom | LA Times

It’s fitting that major legislation to fight urban sprawl by forcing denser housing was killed by lawmakers from Los Angeles County, the nation’s sprawl capital.

Particularly fitting is that a leader of the L.A. death squad represents the San Fernando Valley, the epitome of sprawl.

He’s Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), a native Angeleno who helped whack a bill pushed by a lawmaker from San Francisco, arguably the state’s most densely populated city.

OK, perhaps Senate Bill 50 was a bit heavy-handed, utopian and unrealistic, asking too much of Californians who love their ranch-house culture. There were credible arguments against the bill: loss of local control to the state and the prospect of cramming apartment buildings into single-family neighborhoods.

Local lawmakers — such as Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), who is running for county supervisor — also complained the bill didn’t do enough for affordable housing.

But the status quo is unsustainable. We should be building at least 250,000 housing units a year and we’re producing fewer than 100,000. When demand exceeds supply, prices soar. Urban housing is increasingly unaffordable for middle-class families, let alone the working poor.


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February 2020