Photo by Matt Mesin/SCNG. Above: construction workers work on a new housing development in Irvine.
And the reason I did was not only because of fears that, if passed—thankfully it didn’t: nearly 70% of the city shot down the anti-housing measure—it would result in a similar ballot measure passed by Long Beach’s very robust enclave of NIMBYs, many of whom hide behind faceless social media profiles. I was genuinely worried about that first and foremost.
But there is also a very important reality: what our neighbors do affects us—and that is why we must pay attention to their policies, projects, and politics. First thing that comes to mind is Orange County’s widening of the 405 Freeway up until it hits Long Beach, a bottleneck area that already suffers from the last 405 expansion and will no doubt affect local traffic around 7th Street, CSULB, and East Long Beach.
The lack of adequate, affordable housing is constantly brought up by OC employers at public meetings, with cries of how employees overpay on rent, over-commute to access their jobs from cheaper northern OC homes to more southern work centers like Irvine and Newport Beach, while creating overcrowded spaces since many people live in units built for lesser people.
So when Irvine residents Karen Jaffe and Arthur Strauss recently submitted to the city “an initiative to give the people of Irvine control of their future”—submitted on behalf of the deceivingly dubbed Irvine for Responsible Growth group—my eyebrows raised. (Bee-tee-dub: Measure S was originally called the “Neighborhood Integrity Initiative” so you can imagine the inspiration that was used for Irvine’s “Responsible Growth” group.)
Their “responsible growth” initiative? Well, it’s no growth at all: if enacted, developers would have to get voter approval for any project that adds “significant traffic,” 40 or more housing units or 10,000 square feet of non-residential use, or “requires general plan or zoning changes.”
That’s pretty much any development. Practically any development will face months, possibly years, of back-and-forth, increased costs (and therefore increased prices for housing), and the possibility of not coming to fruition at all.
And this matters, especially for Long Beach and LA.
Let’s talk OC numbers.
In May of this year, the median cost of a home in Orange County was $665,000; that is one of the highest in the entire nation. Come the following month, OC broke a record: in June of this year, the median home cost was a staggering $795,000, ousting the previous record in June of 2007 when the median cost was $775,000.
Median. Home. Cost.
The county often brags of its 150,000 new homes to be built by 2040—but that’s a far, far cry from but the 250,000 units that are needed to keep up with a projected 13% population increase and 24% jobs increase.
Then, let’s not even get into OC’s homelessness crisis, one in which it has blamed Los Angeles County for rather than facing the fact that its own policies, including its lack of affordable housing, has created consequential crises.
And those crises aren’t relegated solely to homelessness.
The lack of adequate, affordable housing—even amongst middle-class families—is constantly brought up by OC employers at public meetings, with cries of how employees overpay on rent, over-commute to access their jobs from cheaper northern OC homes to more southern work centers like Irvine and Newport Beach, while creating overcrowded spaces since many people live in units built for lesser people.
So when you have a business center like Irvine, which is home to a significant portion of jobs in OC, and that city pushes its lack of adequate housing to even further measures, you are writing a recipe for disaster.
In fact, this initiative is so extreme the even Irvine Councilmember Melissa Fox—the very woman who ran on a “slow growth” campaign in 2014 that won the heart of every Here’s an Array of Beiges to Choose From NIMBY in the city—has dissented against it.
Their “responsible growth” initiative? Well, it’s no growth at all: if enacted, practically every development will face months, possibly years, of back-and-forth, increased costs (and therefore increased prices for housing), and the possibility of not coming to fruition at all.
“It goes so far, I won’t support it,” she told the Orange County Register earlier this month.
But that doesn’t mean it will meet the same fate Measure S did—because OC is, well, OC and it has already passed one of the most disastrous anti-growth measures in the nation when Costa Mesa overwhelming voted in favor of Measure Y, or what was called the Citizen’s Smart Growth Initiative. (See the way they fuck with words?)
In fact, Measure Y was the inverse of Measure S when it came to voters: nearly 70% of Costa Mesa voters voted in favor of the measure, one in which “any commercial development that requires a zoning change or General Plan Amendment and is over 10,000 square feet, or produces 200 additional car trips per day, will require approval via special elections by voters.”
Basically every single major project in Costa Mesa will be put to choice by the voters in a process that will ultimately fuel misinformation, xenophobia, NIMBYism, and—the worst part—kill any form of new housing while shoving housing costs to exorbitant heights.