Tag Archive for: densification

The Premises of California’s Dysfunction

Anyone unfamiliar with what is really going on in California would have listened to Governor Newsom’s State of the State address on February 12 and gotten the impression that things have never been better. Newsom’s opening set the tone for the rest of his 4,400 word monologue:

“By every traditional measure, the state of our state is strong. We have a record-breaking surplus. We’ve added 3 million jobs since the depths of the recession. Wages are rising. We have more scientists, researchers, and engineers, more Nobel laureates, and the finest system of higher education anywhere in the world.”

Newsom, to his credit, immediately qualified his sunny opening with a disclaimer that might be the understatement of the century, saying “But along with that prosperity and progress, there are problems that have been deferred for too long and that threaten to put the California dream out of reach for too many. We face hard decisions that are coming due.”

Ain’t that the truth. And Gavin Newsom, the political party he represents, and the ideology they’ve embraced, cannot possibly solve these “problems that have been deferred for too long.” First, because Newsom and his gang created the problems, and second, because the ideology they adhere to is based on premises that are both economically unsustainable and destined to eventually deliver not solutions, but tyranny.

Here are the three core premises of California’s dysfunction:

The Climate Emergency

Every policy in California must be ran through the filter of its “climate change” impact. At some point over the past 10-20 years the required “environmental impact” reports morphed into “climate change” impact reports. It is impossible to overstate the degree to which this has stunted economic opportunities and raised the cost of living in California, and there is no end in sight.

“Climate change” impact is the pretext for countless laws and regulations, along with endless litigation, and its reach expands every year. There is no aspect of life in California, almost no category of activity, that can escape monitoring. If what you do moves electrons or involves combustion, convection, emission, discharge, motion, extraction, construction, anything – than there is justification for “carbon accounting,” and into the breech ride the carbon accountants, the consulting experts, the bureaucrats, the attorneys, the regulators and the legislators. “Climate change” is the pretext for an entire parasitic industry, and there is no theoretical limit to the scope of its authority.

The problem with this premise, beyond the fact it justifies an ongoing and inexorable creep towards micromanaged tyranny, is that it can’t be challenged. To suggest there might be other political priorities, unintended consequences, or even to just ask for a cost/benefit analysis, is to be branded a “denier,” as if someone who doesn’t think the world is about to end via “climate change,” or just thinks the proposed solutions are ludicrous in addition to being tyrannical, is the moral equivalent of a holocaust denier.

The “climate emergency” is an explicitly fascist political ideology, according to at least two conventional definitions of fascism. It requires an economic model where corporate oligopolies act in junior partnership to an authoritarian government. At the same time, it justifies itself according to a moral framework that does not tolerate dissent and relies on fomenting panic and fear to secure popular support. There is nothing that escapes the authoritarian reach of “climate change” policies.

The entire premise, that “climate change” is an emergency and that no sacrifice is too great in order to stop it, is based on exaggerations and lies, spread by people motivated by power and profit. It is not enough to oppose the myriad policies justified by the “climate emergency.” This fundamental premise, that it is an emergency eclipsing all other political priorities, must be utterly broken.

Eliminating Privilege and Oppression

This mantra, repeated across the U.S. by the American Left, is especially entrenched in California. And the laws attendant to it, like those attendant to the “climate emergency,” continue to multiply with no end in sight.

Whether it’s women, transgenders, gays and lesbians, “people of color,” or any other identifiable group where some statistical disparity in their aggregate achievements can be identified, new laws are being passed to join well established laws, all designed to enforce equal outcomes.

All of this relies on a premise that has supposedly passed almost beyond debate, that “cisgender heteronormative white males” have engaged in systemic racism since the dawn of time against everyone who is not a “cisgender heteronormative white male,” and this explains every statistical disparity between their achievement and that of everyone else.

There is so much wrong and evil about this premise it is hard to pick where to begin. First of all, it probably makes sense to remind the purveyors of this nonsense that life on earth has never been fair, but when it comes to “inclusion and equity,” no culture on earth comes anywhere close to America.

Perhaps more people should say to anyone tempted to declare themselves a victim of systemic oppression, “too bad, and grow up, because the cure you are proposing is far worse than the disease.” Perhaps anyone who thinks they’ve got it so bad in the United States, much less California, is invited to return to their nations of origin, and see if they find themselves feeling more welcome, with more access to opportunity.

The problems facing California’s residents who are not “cisgender heteronormative white males” are made far more challenging by a Leftist establishment telling them their prospects are diminished by “systemic oppression” as by any actual oppression.

Join the military and get free college tuition when you’re discharged. Learn the plumbing trade and make $175,000 per year because there’s a shortage of plumbers. Quit pretending a degree in “ethnic (or whatever) studies” is marketable in the real world, and instead train to become a nurse and make $175,000 per year because there’s a shortage of nurses. Whoever you are: you’re not a victim, despite what you’re hearing from some blowhard who’s made a career of saying so.

Claiming “privilege and oppression” are “systemic” and that laws are necessary to stop it will literally destroy America. It will fracture our culture and further paralyze our economy. It is a lie based on biased, self serving facts and studies, and just as in the case with the “climate emergency,” it is used to justify a parasitic industry. It cannot be stopped by fighting the myriad and derivative battles over budgets and legislation. The root premise must be relentlessly rejected, and everyone, regardless of their possible “protected status,” must be recruited to join in this attack.

Capitalism is Evil, Long Live Capitalism

Into this broad category can be found most of the remaining flawed but fundamental premises of California’s ruling elite. In no particular order, here are the delusions and lies that derive from this impossible, contradictory, blatantly hypocritical premise:

It is possible to make it impossible for the free market to build anything affordable in California, thanks to crippling regulations and punitive fees, yet it is possible to spend even more per unit, using taxpayer money, to build government funded “affordable housing.”

It is possible to award pension benefits to state and local government employees that average literally three times (if not more) what private sector workers may receive from Social Security, and then, while attacking capitalist profiteers at every turn, and demanding more regulations and taxes to control them and make them pay their “fair share,” simultaneously claim that pension benefits are sustained by returns on smartly invested asset portfolios, returns that are only possible via profits.

It is necessary to curb the excesses of capitalism through expansive legislation and regulations, because capitalism is inherently oppressive to “marginalized communities” and “working families,” yet the ultimate victims of these laws and regulations are always the small family owned businesses and emerging innovative potential competitors to large companies, because they lack the financial resiliency to comply. Meanwhile, the large monopolistic corporations consolidate their positions in the market.

It is economically sustainable to curb development of land, energy, water and roads, in order to protect the environment, because the resulting scarcity creates an explosion in asset values. This in turn enables a financialization of California’s economy as people borrow on the artificially inflated collateral of their home equity. The increased consumer activity, debt fueled, bolsters corporate profits and investment portfolio returns. The bubble never pops.

The Consequences of Lies

Nearly everything California’s ruling elite does wrong derives from these three premises. The first two are never challenged, and the third is a paradox, barely understood but best summarized by this: Democrats, not Republicans, are the party supported by the financial sector and the super wealthy, and they are systematically exterminating the middle class, and making things harder, not easier, for low income communities.

One of the policies central to California’s oppressive dysfunction is so-called “densification” or urban containment. Rarely discussed holistically, it is foundational to what ails California, and it is a consequence of all three premises.

The policy of densification means that new cities and towns cannot be built outside of existing urban areas. New housing subdivisions cannot extend beyond the existing urban periphery. This is justified based on protecting the environment, as if 95 percent of California’s more than 160,000 square miles of land weren’t still rural. It is justified based on stopping “climate change,” as if vehicles weren’t becoming cleaner and greener every year, and as if jobs wouldn’t follow residents into new cities.

Densification is also justified based on combating “racism,” because if jobs follow residents to new communities outside the existing urban core, then somehow this means no jobs will remain for people still living there – who may be disproportionately represented by members of “disadvantaged communities.”

The economic premise behind densification, besides the rabid and cynical certainty that artificial scarcity causes asset bubbles which reward speculative investors and predatory home equity loan sharks, is that suburbs require roads which require “subsidies.” When making this argument, California’s ruling elites find useful and very idiotic support from libertarian dogmatists, who have made a lifestyle of living with paradoxical, self contradictory beliefs. “Let’s not subsidize the car,” is what these libertarians will smugly assert, hoping for a pat on the back from the progressives with whom they’ve found common ground. No, of course not. Let’s just subsidize light rail, trolleys, buses, and every other imaginable conveyance instead.

The wicked first cousin of Densification is “Inclusive Zoning,” is a policy that as well relies on all three of California’s dysfunctional premises. This policy, which like most leftist inspired policies, sounds so virtuous – “inclusive” – that only a heartless monster would oppose it.

Inclusive zoning takes the form of long-standing mandates to include subsidized “affordable housing” in virtually every housing development, and new mandates requiring cities and counties to approve “accessory dwelling units” inside any residential backyard bigger than a postage stamp. It is based on the fatally flawed premise that “disadvantaged communities” will suddenly be uplifted if they are able to live in subsidized units of housing in affluent neighborhoods.

Inclusive zoning is by its very nature consistent with the environmentally motivated policy of densification, since these mandated “affordable” units are smaller then the housing that surrounds them, consuming backyard lawns instead of “open space.” They are, as noted, also consistent with combating “oppression,” since lower income individuals will occupy these units.

California is Waging War on Working Californians

The most pernicious way in which inclusionary zoning follows from California’s dysfunctional premises, however, is in the economic realm.

What inclusionary zoning mandates allow is an invasion of predatory real estate speculators to pour into every tranquil, shady neighborhood in California, where they will encounter homes that are worth more demolished than left standing. They will raze, randomly, homes throughout these to-date intact neighborhoods, and then, relying tax incentives to fund the construction, they will replace these homes with fourplexes that will house low income residents living on taxpayer supported rent subsidies.

Densification and inclusionary zoning epitomize how California’s ruling elite is waging war against its own citizens – and that ruling class very explicitly includes Gavin Newsom.

These policies reflect a contempt for the middle class bordering on hatred. No fair minded person objects to people who look different or have different lifestyles living in their neighborhoods. What they object to is having their neighborhoods destroyed through densification, then filled up with new residents whose residences and rent payments are largely paid through higher taxes.

If you object to this because you worked hard to live in a nice neighborhood, too bad. It wasn’t hard work that got you there, it was “privilege.” And if you object because you don’t like seeing homes randomly demolished and replaced with apartments, too bad, you must be a “denier.” And if you think the economics are unsustainable – after all, at what percentage of tax subsidized construction of “affordable housing” and subsidized monthly rent do government budgets implode – too bad, because all the smart libertarians joined with all the smart progressives to do this to you.

As for the tony enclaves of California’s wealthiest? They litigate and lobby for exemptions to the rules they make the rest of us live by, and laugh all the way to the bank.

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

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“Density Ideology” Will Destroy America

If you’re searching for an organizing principle that unites the Left, density ideology should be at or near the top of your list. Far from being a sideshow, density ideology is behind the leftist drive to cram America’s rising population into the footprint of existing cities. It fulfills the agenda of every big player on the Left. Environmentalists get to preserve open space. Social justice warriors get to experiment with forced ethnic and economic integration via mandatory “inclusionary zoning,” and investors—and this, above all, is critical—get to make a killing as the price of real estate skyrockets inside the areas where building is still allowed.

Every premise that the densification gang advocates is flawed. In particular, as argued in “The Density Delusion,” there is no shortage of open land available to host new suburbs, and there is no compelling argument that suburbs cause more per capita greenhouse gas emissions than crowded cities do. And the consequences, unaffordable housing through politically contrived scarcity, rolls its way across the nation as the density advocates fly under the radar, and convert city after city.

As might be expected, ground zero for density ideology is California. Hiding behind innocuous labels such as “smart growth,” “infill,” “greenbelts,” and “new urbanism,” this process of urban containment is one of the primary reasons housing in California is beyond the reach of middle-income families.

Urban geographer Joel Kotkin recently offered a chilling summary of how everything California’s legislature is doing to “solve” the state’s housing crisis is only making the problem worse. He cites new laws that will further “block development in outlying areas, where land costs are cheaper, in favor of dense development in already expensive urban areas.”

One of these laws is Senate Bill 743, which attempts to reduce “vehicle miles traveled” (VMT), is now being used to tie new housing permits to the developer’s ability to minimize or mitigate the additional VMT totals logged by the new homeowners. This will penalize developments that aren’t within the confines of existing cities. But SB 743 has a synergistic value to the greens: it makes war on single-family dwellings at the same time it makes war on the family car.

A significant new piece of proposed legislation, favored by the oligarchs, the greens, and the bureaucrats, but bitterly opposed by literally everyone else, is Senate Bill 50. The bill would allow “neighborhood multi-family areas,” i.e., it would permit developers to buy out your neighbor or entire blocks, demolishing single-family homes and replacing them with a patchwork of apartment buildings, often with subsidized units.

Senate Bill 50 would wipe out tranquil suburbs up and down the state and is the preferred alternative to simply allowing cities to geographically expand. And while the coalition of oligarchs, greens, and bureaucrats possesses awesome political strength, they propose to exempt from this law select wealthy counties such as Marin and Santa Barbara, to ensure its passage.

Density Ideology’s Partner: Inclusive Zoning

It’s bad enough that the affected residents will have to endure the consequences, as tax-subsidized investors purchase and demolish homes at random and replace them with apartment buildings, but that’s only half the story.

As Howard Husock recently explained in City Journal, “The term ‘fair housing’ sounds straightforward, predicated on ensuring that no one who can afford to rent or buy is turned away based on race or other discriminatory criteria. The Obama administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development, however, took things much further, using fair-housing law ‘affirmatively’ to push localities not only to bar discrimination but also to change the broad socioeconomic makeups of American communities.”

While the Trump Administration now has HUD pulling back somewhat from the Obama era’s move toward socially engineering America’s suburbs, where the Feds have faltered, the density ideologues are stepping up. “Inclusive zoning” is an integral part of density ideology. In practice, it means that guaranteeing economic and ethnic diversity must be a condition of acquiring building permits and building subsidies, as well as rent subsidies after the projects are completed.

It’s important to address the most common and most effective accusation that is leveled against anyone who objects to inclusionary zoning, which is that they are motivated by racism. Like the epithet “denier,” which is used to silence anyone who objects to densification, “racist” is deployed to silence anyone who doesn’t want a subsidized fourplex dropped onto the property next to their single-family home, and filled up with rent-subsidized economic migrants who overwhelm the resources of local school systems, emergency rooms, and county welfare offices.

Most Americans aren’t racist. But they rightly have an aversion to spending their life’s savings to purchase a home in a neighborhood with a certain ambiance, only to then have their taxes increased so people who could never earn enough money to live in their neighborhood come in and live there anyway.

It is impossible to overstate the impact of inclusive zoning laws. They are a frontal assault on everything that motivates Americans to work and strive. Why should anyone work hard their entire life, creating generational wealth, if the neighborhoods where they’ve fought so hard to be able to live are suddenly filled with people who in many cases didn’t have to work at all to live there?

Economic segregation and racial segregation are entirely distinct notions that the Left, and their corporate partners, have successfully sold as inseparable. This is a lie and a big one.

Racial segregation is wrong. But economic segregation is the inevitable and desirable consequence of a meritocracy where competitive incentives are preserved. For the government to try to forcibly eliminate economic segregation invalidates all the hard work that people perform in order to provide a safe, pleasant lifestyle for their families. If so-called white neighborhoods were racially integrated, but the nonwhites in these neighborhoods were economic equals through hard work and competitive achievement, the overwhelming majority of whites would welcome them.

The Left has already strained the natural process of ethnic integration by stacking the economic deck in favor of minorities through institutionalized reverse-racism via affirmative action, race-based hiring quotas, and race-based preferences in government contract awards.

Even if one accepts, as historical redress, the necessity for affirmative action, these new inclusionary zoning laws go well beyond that. Imposing forced economic integration on any middle-class neighborhood would alarm all existing residents, regardless of their ethnicity, because everything they worked to escape would suddenly be right back in their faces. That is the cold reality to which the Left is utterly indifferent.

All of this is being done in the name of saving the climate and enforcing “climate justice”—mass immigration of the unskilled and unassimilable, rationed land, energy, and water, and forced economic and ethnic integration. It is a comprehensive formula for the expansion of government, and enrichment of a very wealthy few.

Pay attention to zoning decisions in your cities and counties. At all levels, densification and “inclusionary” zoning laws are rolling across the nation. Stopping this is a prerequisite to preserving American freedom.

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

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