The bay area needs fewer development restrictions, not more

October 14, 2013 | By JONATHAN WOOD

As regular readers know, PLF is challenging a recently adopted plan that will restrict most future development in the bay area to 5% of the regions land area. Our lawsuit, filed on behalf of Bay Area Citizens—a non-profit organized by local residents—challenges the process by which the plan was adopted. Regional bureaucrats sold the plan to the public by claiming it is required by state law—it isn’t. And these bureaucrats ignored citizen comments that explained why the restrictive land use plan is unnecessary, unwanted, and bad policy.

A recent report highlights what’s at stake. According to The Atlantic’s Cities blog, the San Francisco metro area is the least affordable place to live in the country—not only for the poor but even the relatively well-to-do middle class. 86% of the homes available for sale in San Francisco are too expensive for the median income earner in the city, up from a staggering, but still significantly less, 76% last year. This means that the half of San Francisco households earning less than $78,840 a year are chasing just 14% of the housing supply, and this number is shrinking quickly. San Francisco is even less affordable than New York, which only prices out the median earner from 75% of available homes.

What’s the culprit? Housing development is far too heavily regulated in both cities, through zoning and other measures. According to a report from the Manhattan Institute, homes in New York are twice as expensive as they otherwise would be because the city’s zoning laws heavily restrict development and prevent conversion of underused warehousing districts to residences.

Plan Bay Area takes the least affordable area in the country the wrong direction. The solution to this problem is to reduce restrictions on housing development, not limit future development to a tiny fraction of the region’s surface area.