Letters to the Editor: California's new zoning laws guarantee zero affordable housing

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LOS ANGELES, CA, WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3, 2015 - Aerial views of the greater Los Angeles area, above Valencia. A vertical city may tempt people from the suburbs who no longer have the dream of a single family home. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
A neighborhood of single-family homes in Santa Clarita in 2015. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: After 45 years of teaching national, state and local politics, as well as 16 years as a locally elected city councilman and school board member in Hermosa Beach, I'd like to comment on George Skelton's column saying the end of single-family zoning in California was a "win for grandkids."

While I have no qualms about his analysis of the current housing crisis, I have opposed from the outset the passage of Senate Bills 9 and 10 as significantly diminishing the powers of local government and the value of local control.

Furthermore, nowhere in either of these bills (now laws) is there assurance that any of the new housing that may be constructed will be affordable, just that it can now be built.

So, my question for Skelton this: Are SB 9 and 10 wins for his grandkids, or are they wins primarily for developers and those of us with large single-family lots?

Lance Widman, Hermosa Beach

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To the editor: An important aspect is missing from the discussion about SB 9 and 10, and that is the historical context of single-family zoning laws.

Single-family zoning originated in Berkeley, Calif., in 1916 as a means of keeping minorities out of white neighborhoods. After the Supreme Court banned race-based zoning in Buchanan vs. Warley in 1917, single-family zoning laws proliferated across the country.

Today in California, nearly two-thirds of zoned land is designated for single-family use, and evidence suggests that areas that have higher rates of single-family zoning continue to be more racially segregated.

While certainly important, ending single-family zoning is not just about increasing affordable housing. It is about ending an enduringly racist practice.

Cailey Simmons, Berkeley

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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