Concern: Housing must be a human right. And not just any housing, but housing that connects to the lives being lived. If children attending our schools are sleeping in cars or if waitstaff delivering meals are commuting from fifty miles away, those are not acceptable.
Why a Solution Isn’t Easy: Building new housing is expensive and Petaluma lacks the needed housing stock from decades past.
Steps toward a Solution
The new housing required under the upcoming Regional Housing Needs Assessment is reasonable but lays a heavy burden on Petaluma. NIMBYism and an uneasy relationship with the development community makes the challenge more difficult.
The City must better understand the roots of the problem, including the factors behind the cost of new housing, the ability of the various demographics to pay for housing, and the resulting gaps.
The City must find an effective way to present the problem such that the public, rather than embracing NIMBY-ism, becomes a partner in finding solutions.
The City must identify the elements of the solution that are beyond the City’s power such as higher federal and state minimum wages, more federal and state dollars going to affordable housing, and changes in the environmental process. Even if the goals are aspirational, the City must identify them and begin speaking of them to lay the groundwork for future solutions.
The City must assess the elements of the solution that are within our power. The Council must look hard at our zoning maps, our zoning codes, our entitlement steps, and how public outreach is facilitated. Even if these won’t solve the entire problem, the City must do its part.
For too long, the City has had ineffective relationships with developers, settling for insufficient solutions rather than laying out the City’s needs and vision. The City must talk with developers, not to ask what concessions they need but to ask how to work together to get the developments Petaluma needs, defining projects that fit within our vision and for which developers can secure financing. The City must develop strong, positive relationships with the right developers to ensure inclusive communities are built that fit Petaluma and fit Petalumans.
The City can think big by thinking smaller. In the U.S., we build larger homes than the rest of the world. Petaluma has already done well with Accessory Dwelling Units. Now the City must look further to zoning changes, co-op housing, and the planning of neighborhood amenities which make smaller homes more workable.
I’ve spent my professional life working with small, local developers, helping them create meaningful projects that enhance communities. As your Councilmember, I know how developers think, I know how to listen to you, and I will work hard to get the right housing for Petaluma.