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April 30, 2021

Affordable Housing Theater

Analysis of City Council approval of the California Theatre project

On Tuesday, April 27, the City Council UNANIMOUSLY approved a massive downtown redevelopment project on the site of the former California Theatre that includes 336 condominiums, 190 hotel rooms, 3,686 square feet of retail and commercial space and 194 underground parking spaces.

The number of affordable housing units? 7 (That comes out to 2% of the 343 total housing units.)

THIS IS A PROJECT THAT IS RIGHT NEXT TO A TROLLEY STOP. It is also an area with a high concentration of jobs, including hotel and other service jobs, that are supposed to be the target of transit-oriented affordable housing.

The blame is being put on SOHO for advocating for the preservation of the building's historic façade, but the reality is that affordable housing is something that the city waives away whenever developers ask them to. This project is the norm not the exception.

The second part of this game is that the City Council turns around and tells homeowners (with "honesty and transparency") that there is still a housing "crisis", and that the only way that they can solve the problem is to open up neighborhoods to predatory development.

We need to push back against this deception. The goal of environmentally conscious urban planning is to create opportunities for people to live without cars by locating housing, shopping, and work in efficient proximity of walking, biking, and public transportation. This is a goal that we can all agree on, but not the result that we are going to achieve with the City’s overaccommodation of developers.

The issue here is not the owner-occupied granny flats that are already common to our neighborhoods, but rather the allowance and encouragement of the construction of investor-owned backyard multi-story apartment buildings that are built without property setbacks, architectural review, or environmental or infrastructure considerations. And because the City pretends that the new residents will take public transportation to their currently non-existent jobs on someday-to-be-improved transit corridors, we're going to add to the long lines of cars traveling back-and-forth to work every day.

We need solutions not scapegoats.

Details about the Council's approval of the California Theatre project can be found here:

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