In Major Vote, SCAG Favors More Housing in Coastal Areas

Southern California’s coastal cities will have to plan for more than 1 million new homes under a plan approved by the Southern California Assn. of Governments last week. The vote marks a major shift in the way SoCal cities plan for growth — a shift away from the region’s inland communities towards the coastal areas.

The coastal-growth plan has communities in Los Angeles and Orange counties preparing for more than three times as many homes as Riverside and San Bernardino and 124,000 more than they would have under the alternative plan. Culver City, for example, will have to accommodate 3,300 homes, which is twice the number proposed under the inland-growth proposal. Huntington Beach will have to accommodate 13,300 vs. 3,600 under the rejected proposal.

A draft city-by-city breakdown of the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) figures is available here (see numbers for “substitute motion”). These are subject to some change.

The dominant argument in favor of the coastal plan came down to environmental sustainability.

“Those advocating for growth along the coast on Thursday cited a desire to build more housing near transit and jobs centers, meeting the intense demand for new homes and reducing the long commutes that lead to increased carbon emissions,” writes journalist Liam Dillon. He explained the significance of SCAG’s vote in an excellent tweet thread here and in a follow-up article at the Los Angeles Times.

“This is a moment of our growing up,” said L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. “I understand the fear where people are like: ‘No, just keep [housing] out and maybe my traffic won’t get worse.’ Well, we’ve tried that for three decades and it’s failed. This is a new beginning.”

But traffic isn’t the only consideration. Coastal housing is also less affordable. Yorba Linda City Councilwoman Peggy Huang said residents would be better served if companies were encouraged to move jobs outside the major cities.

Thursday’s decision is welcome news for California’s governor and others who have been pushing for more building near transit hubs. It also places enormous pressure on coastal cities that have traditionally resisted development.

The California Department of Housing and Community Development will now review the plan. Finalization of the formula is expected sometime next year.


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