Sports Stadiums as a Battleground for Affordable Housing

Thanks to new enforcement powers, California's Department of Housing and Community Development can now cite cities for failing to meet affordable housing requirements in stadium redevelopment projects.

Read Time: 2 minutes

September 13, 2021, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Banc of California Stadium

Los Angeles Football Club / Banc of California Stadium

In a move that could signal a sea change in affordable housing policy, reports Erika Paz, "Anaheim and San Diego have been cited by California’s Department of Housing and Community Development for failing to comply with an affordable housing law as part of their multimillion-dollar stadium and arena plans. A third investigation into the Oakland Coliseum redevelopment project, which was triggered by a lawsuit, could result in a $25.5 million penalty against the taxpayers of Alameda County." 

The citations fall under the state's Surplus Land Act, which dictates "how local agencies are to dispose of surplus land—public properties that the agency wants to sell or lease." But "[i]t wasn’t until San Francisco Democratic Assemblymember Phil Ting penned a bill in 2019 that the state won enforcement powers. For the first time, the Department of Housing and Community Development could track all public land deals and levy fines of as much as 30% of the real estate deal."

Now, the agency is using its new power to cite several major cities "for cutting backroom development deals with developers that shortchanged the public on affordable units." According to San Diego City Councilmember Sean Elo-Rivera, "[t]here’s no way out of the housing crisis that simply involves the private market handling the situation for us." 

Housing advocates "are waiting to see how these cases play out—and if the state will need to issue heavy fines."

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