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Pleasanton puts housing squeeze on workers

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POSTED March 19, 2010 2:30 a.m.
Pleasanton is a shining city in the Tri-Valley.

Its general fund revenues are over twice that of Manteca’s while they have just 900 more residents. The average household income is also significantly higher in Pleasanton.

Pleasanton accomplishes the financial feat that allows it to escape the current economic meltdown relatively unscathed by intentionally thumbing its nose at state mandates to provide affordable housing for all income levels as well as strive for housing-to-jobs balance.

The city is already home to numerous employment centers.  The plan is to add 45,000 more jobs by 2025 but less than 2,000 more homes will be built as voters capped the ultimate number of homes Pleasanton can have at 29,000. It is safe to say that developers with a scarce commodity - just fewer than 2,000 more homes to build in Pleasanton - will be aiming at maxing out their investment which means homes closer to $1 million instead of anything that might remotely pass as affordable.

It is a plan that essentially requires other communities to provide work force housing for Pleasanton while that city reaps the benefits of having its general fund pumped up with the steroid-like juice that property tax on office towers and such give a municipality.

A judge in Alameda County earlier this month ruled that Pleasanton can no longer cherry pick its housing types or export its affordable housing needs. Alameda County Judge Frank Roesch ruled that Pleasanton is violating the state law that mandates cities make land available to handle their proportion of regional housing needs.

Not that many cities - including Manteca - meet the state standard. However, very few are openly mocking it in the same wholesale fashion as Pleasanton.

Pleasanton-based critics of the ruling are already howling about the judge trying to force subsidized Section 8 housing with all the problems that are often associated with it on their fair city.

That simply isn’t the case. The law requires cities to provide affordable housing for their workforce whether it’s the folks pulling down $165,000-plus a year in high-tech or laboring at $10 an hour somewhere within that city’s boundaries.

There must be planning in place that encourages adequate housing to accommodate people who work in the city if they so chose to live there. Cities are also required to have an affordable housing plan as part of their state-mandated housing element. That, of course, means affordable housing. It doesn’t necessarily mean subsidized housing or owner occupied.

Pleasanton has no problem snaring the jobs and the employers that provide them along with paying higher property taxes and business taxes. They just don’t want to allow the lower paid workers that help them mine the Mother Lode to live in town.

Manteca - as well as Lathrop, Tracy, and Stockton and to a degree Ripon - is the de facto affordable housing solution to high-priced East Bay cities. By being the affordable housing answer for cities west of the Altamont Pass it squeezes out Manteca workers from being able to afford to live or even rent here. That, in turn, puts them on the road to Modesto, Stockton or other lower priced communities when it comes to housing costs.

It also adds to intercity and inter-region transit needs plus worsens air quality issues.

No one has a magical bullet but the expectation is that cities will work toward affordable housing goals.

Compared to Pleasanton, Manteca is doing a bang up job. It still is falling way short of the realistic needs.

Manteca has come a long way from the 1970s and 1980s when they openly employed exclusionary zoning to discourage apartment complexes. The community has more than its share of people who incorrectly equate affordable with subsidized housing.

Manteca - just like Pleasanton - has to provide a wide variety of housing types aimed at all income levels of those who work within the city limits. You may think it isn’t a fair law but it is the state law - simple as that.

It can be condos, townhouses, “granny flats”, cluster housing, smaller single family homes on smaller lots or even living units above retail in the central district.

This is not an issue where “market forces” can rule the day. It makes more sense for Manteca to get out ahead of the curve instead of running the risk of being caught up in court rulings that could ultimately take away the ability for Manteca to call its own shots.
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