Op-Ed: Oakland Needs Better Housing Policy to Lead Relief of the Bay Area's Housing Crunch

Robert Selna, a land use and real estate attorney, pens a letter to the editor arguing for Oakland to develop specific and aggressive housing development policies.
June 30, 2014, 2pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Selna's premise: that "Oakland offers the best opportunity in the Bay Area for building much needed housing and for building it right - so that it is affordable to middle- and low-income residents."

But while there's some good news about Oakland's current efforts, there are also some reasons to ask for more from policy makers. "The good news is that the City of Oakland is starting to implement smart-housing policies as development economics are reaching a point where it makes sense for investors, lenders and developers to choose Oakland over other options. Meanwhile, several affordable housing projects developed by nonprofits are under way."

On the other hand, "so far, only one candidate for mayor in the coming November election - Mayor Jean Quan - has listed housing construction as a top priority. Even so, her plan is so vague as to be meaningless."

As for recent policy changes, and what's left to be done, according to Selna: "The city's newly created area-specific plans (see box) are a great start. They give developers details: where and how high they can build housing, the allowed commercial uses, and architectural design guidelines."

The article then goes on to list a few suggested modifications of the planning code and permitting process to further encourage development.

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Published on Friday, June 27, 2014 in SFGate
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