In Silicon Valley, the Jobs Keep Coming

California’s job figures for June were released today, and Silicon Valley again was half the story.

The Silicon Valley half was a total of nearly 14,000 new jobs across just four counties:  San Benito, Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco.  Our region is a large part of the reason that the state’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.9 percent — the lowest rate since 2000.  It continues a trend that saw jobs in Silicon Valley increase 24.5 percent between 2010 and 2015.

Yet, despite Silicon Valley’s job growth, California had a net job loss in June, and therein lies the other half of a familiar story:   Much of the state continues to struggle economically.  This is the “Two Californias” dynamic that the California Business Roundtable honed in on some years ago:  a divide that runs east-west rather than north-south, with a wealthy coast and depressed inland regions.   The great challenge for our state legislators:  How are we to think about economic development policies in a state that has both some of the richest and some of the poorest counties in the country?

Why Do We Have a Housing Crisis? This is Why….

SV@Home highlights exactly exactly the dynamic that drives Silicon Valley’s ongoing housing crisis:  A town that has met just 15 percent of its new housing allocation denies a properly permitted and reviewed project that conformed with all city planning documents.   A court has now forced the Town Council to reconsider, but the folks who are desperately scouring the Valley for a place to live won’t have a vote when they meet on the issue.

Democracy means having a voice in matters that affect your community.  A city or town is clearly a meaningful political community in matters of land use, but it is not the only relevant political community.  The impacts of housing do not end at the town’s edge.   In this particular case, the Los Gatos Town Council’s decision will be making a decision that impacts impacts Campbell, San Jose, and a much broader region.  We need to find the right way to see that the region has a greater voice on projects with regional impact.

Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 35 aims to address situations just like this one.  Here’s hoping it makes it to the Governor’s desk, and leaves with a signature.

Mid-Year Progress Report 2017 – Part III

With the last of our three mid-year progress report blogs, we’re looking ahead to California’s legislative home stretch.  The state legislature closes its 2017 year on September 15th, and we’ve got our eye on a number of bills that are making their way through the process.   The issues?  Housing, housing, and housing.   That’s no surprise, given that Silicon Valley produced only about one new housing unit for each 10 jobs created between 2010 and 2015.

If you think we need bold and thoughtful proposals to meet the housing challenges facing Silicon Valley and California, we hope you’ll call your state legislators and voice your support for these bills:

Senate Bill 35 (@Scott_Weiner):   This legislation by Senator Weiner is as bold as they come – so bold that a similar measure proposal by the Governor died last year in the face of considerable opposition.  Senator Weiner has worked hard to construct a broader coalition to back this new version, which would streamline the process of approving new housing.

At its core, SB 35 addresses the collective action problem that characterizes California housing policy:  New housing stock is critical for a region, but it is easier for individual cities to wait for their neighbors to do the hard work of building new housing and providing the accompanying services.   It is a system that stymies even the most forward-thinking local leaders in the Valley who understand the need for new housing.  To address this problem, SB 35 would shift some decision-making authority away from local governments who have failed to meet their regional housing allocation requirements.

SB 2 (@SenToniAtkins):  While builders, regions and local communities will drive creation of most of the new housing we need in California, state funds for affordable housing are critical.  Bonds have provided important funding in recent years – and proposals like SB 3 below still have a role to play – but the permanent, stable source of affordable housing funds that would be provided by Senator Atkins’ SB 2 will allow for long-term planning at lower cost.  That’s just good policy.

SB 3 (@Jimbealljr):  State funding for affordable housing is an important tool for addressing California’s housing needs.  This legislation – from Silicon Valley’s own Senator Jim Beall – would place a $3B housing bond on the California’s 2018 General Election ballot, as funding from previous bonds in 2002 and 2006 dwindles.

AB 1505 (@AsmRichardBloom):  A healthy community includes housing for residents at a broad range of income levels.   Assm. Bloom’s AB 1505 helps the cause, by allowing (but not requiring) local jurisdictions to put in place inclusionary renters housing ordinances, which in 2009 had been disallowed by the courts in Palmer vs. City of Los Angeles.

There is no silver bullet to the housing crisis, but these bills would move us in the right direction.  If you’d like to learn more about the housing challenge in California, check out the California Legislative Analyst’s report on the topic here.