Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Conservationists and developers frequently clash over the designation of “open space” in a metropolitan area. For the former group, more open space discourages sprawl, helps nature, and provides for breathing room (sometimes literally) for crowded metropolitans. For the later group, designation means both a loss of potentially profitable land and an assurance of upwards pressure on housing prices. Nowhere in the United States is this conflict sharper than in the San Francisco Bay area, in which environmentally minded governments have designated large amounts of open space in a metro area that is already hemmed in by water, mountains, brush, and farms.
In SFGate.com this week, home builder Joseph Perkins argues that far too much of the Bay area has been designated as off-limits to development, with the result that the region has a critical shortage of affordable housing both today and in the future.
It is easy to be cynical and assume that home builders use the affordable housing argument as a leverage to gain greater opportunities for profit. Regardless of this, the housing crunch in the bay area is undeniable. Perkins asserts that the Bay area will grow in population by 1.5 million by 2030, but that there’s no place to house these new residents, who will come through births and migration.
But is the bottom line for some conservationists this: They simply don’t want the Bay area’s population to increase? Can local governments say, through land use law, in effect, “The Bay area is now closed to any new significant migration?” To those who were lucky enough to live here already, congratulations, but for others –- well, look elsewhere? Is this a valid role for government's land use law?