Tag Archive for: inclusive zoning

More Suburbs Are the Key to Making Housing Affordable

An article just published in City Journal, “Is Texas’s Affordable Housing Endangered,” describes how housing prices in Texas are becoming unaffordable. The article notes how the average house price in the Austin metropolitan area has doubled in just ten years, and how in the Dallas suburbs ten years ago over 50 percent of the homes sold for under $200,000 compared to only 4 percent today.

One of the reasons people move to Texas is because homes are affordable, and the author evokes California as a cautionary example. Because Texas relies on high property taxes instead of having a state income tax, if property values surge, there is a risk Texas voters will follow the example of set by the 1978 tax revolt in California. That revolt, which prevents annual reassessments of home value, could lead to Texas needing to raise income taxes, which would penalize productive activity.

There’s a lot of dominoes in that theory, however, which may or may not make it predictive. For example, if housing prices rise, the Texas legislature could simply lower the property tax rate, since higher assessments and lower rates can offset, resulting in a revenue neutral impact. But the author, Connor Harris, really goes off the rails in his discussion of policies to mitigate rising home prices.

Claiming “the main culprit for the rising prices is legal restrictions on housing,” Harris blames single family, residential zoning for the housing shortage. His solution is for the state legislature to pass a law “capping minimum lot sizes in undeveloped areas,” and requiring all cities to allow small “auxiliary dwelling units” in single-family residential areas.

It’s troubling to see what Harris is advocating published by the conservative City Journal, because it is further evidence of a libertarian/progressive consensus forming on housing issues that rests on flawed premises and hidden agendas. The biggest flawed premise is the idea that low density suburbs are somehow causing climate change. The libertarian response is “stop building suburbs that subsidize the car.” The progressive response is “densify cities.” But low density suburbs are not bad for the planet.

The greenhouse gas theory – that longer commutes result in more automotive emissions – should have been put to rest by the pandemic. Americans realized, if they hadn’t already, that a huge percentage of the workforce can work from home. But even before the pandemic hit, cars were getting greener, and jobs follow people into the suburbs. And in the future, driverless cars will form up in high-speed convoys in smart lanes, moving far higher numbers of people on the same stretches of road. Eventually, passenger drones will take additional pressure off roads. Getting from far flung suburbs into urban cores is going to get easier in the future, not harder.

The other premise surfaces further on in Harris’s essay, where he writes “when central areas of cities become unaffordable, jobs move to the richest suburbs—typically less accessible for working-class residents.” There’s a lot buried in that sentence that will escape the uninitiated. Basically it is a innocent sounding echo of a progressive litany, which is to mandate “inclusive” zoning in order to atone for the “exclusionary” zoning of single family residential suburbs.

There’s nothing wrong with converting, organically and in accordance with local sentiment, residential neighborhoods in urban centers from single family use to higher density. But when state mandated high density affordable housing is imposed, wherever it may be, the result is the destruction of neighborhoods where people have worked their entire lives to earn the right to live with a certain quality of life.

To better understand the danger posed by this growing movement to stigmatize, and then destroy, intact suburbs, consider the layers of abuse that accompany these mandates. It is bad enough that people who struggle to make a mortgage payment in order to have a home in a spacious suburban neighborhood suddenly have to deal with the random demolition of homes up and down their street to build apartments, or find the backyard behind their own backyard suddenly has a second home and driveway coming nearly up to the property line. And it isn’t unfair to mention that, especially in Texas where property taxes are reassessed for everyone, every year, people who pay mortgages on four bedroom homes are going to have divergent lifestyles and expectations compared to people who rent one bedroom apartments. And to be clear: This is not an issue of race. It is an economic fact that should be respected. Plopping low income housing into middle income neighborhoods is not fair to the people, of all races, who have worked hard to move up and out of low income neighborhoods.

But this is just the first layer. “Inclusive” zoning is rarely market based. In California, where it has become impossible to build affordable housing of any kind without subsidies, developers take advantage of tax credits and direct subsidies to pad their already inflated costs. The result is the average “affordable housing” complex in California costs over $500,000 per unit. At this price, the supply will never equal demand, rents are always subsidized, and admittance is by some form of a lottery.

The solution to housing affordability is indeed to increase the supply of housing, but state mandated densification is not the answer. If Texans are not careful, the next restriction, already well established policy in California, will be to cordon off every urban area, making new construction of any kind extremely difficult outside the “urban service boundary.” The moral premise: Save the planet. The hidden agenda: Artificially elevating home values, which creates collateral for homeowners to borrow against so they’ll consume more, higher property tax revenue to government, and an ongoing goose to real estate investment portfolios.

Instead of using state mandates to cram the burgeoning population of Texas into the footprint of existing cities, allow cities and town councils to decide at the local level how and where they want to increase density. At the same time, and this is absolutely critical, continue to take pressure off of urban housing stock by new construction of suburbs and entire new cities on open land. Focus on building enabling infrastructure – energy, water, roads – and minimize regulatory obstacles to new suburbs: excessive building code mandates, punitive fees and permitting delays.

Protecting America’s middle class requires not only nurturing a strong economy to create good paying jobs. It requires deregulation designed to lower the cost of living, and nothing impacts the average American’s ability to pay their bills so much as the price of housing.

The vision of progressives, abetted by libertarians, is to open the borders and admit at least another 20 million people into the United States within the next twenty years. Depending on border enforcement, that number could be much higher. Obviously there is a robust debate over the economic and demographic impact of this policy, but regardless of where one may stand on the issue of immigration, one thing is clear: If we’re going to expand our population, we need to build new towns, cities, and suburbs. And when the price is right, “market demand” is for detached single family homes. We’ve done it before. We can do it again. There’s plenty of room.

Ultimately the policies surrounding housing come down to a basic question: Are we going to nurture an economy of competitive abundance, or one of scarcity and rationing imposed by monopolistic business interests that hide behind environmentalist and anti-racist rhetoric? Even if the choice is to nurture abundance, there is no clear ideological polestar from which to design policies. Libertarians are right to want deregulation. They’re wrong to oppose local zoning laws. Progressives are right to care about the planet and about the disadvantaged, they’re just wrong in almost every possible way they’ve come up with to address those challenges.

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

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The Battle for Cities is Over, the Battle for Suburbs Begins

“Sauron’s wrath will be terrible, his retribution swift. The battle for Helm’s Deep is over, the battle for Middle Earth has begun.”
– Gandalf the White, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 2002

When applied to American politics and public policy, this quote from the Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s classic novel “Lord of the Rings” succeeds as a metaphor in two related contexts. First it might describe the 2016 election, where the good guys won, just as they did in the Battle of Helm’s Deep. Now the relentless assaults by the deep state and its formidable lineup of violent activists and their allies in the press and both political parties (Sauron’s minions) against the Trump administration and its supporters are the War for Middle Earth.

But there’s another more specific way to view this metaphor. The Battle for Helm’s deep represents the battle for voters in America’s cities, and the Battle for Middle Earth represents the battle for voters in America’s suburbs. Only in this case, the good guys lost the first battle. America’s cities are lost to the forces from Mordor. The following image graphically depicts just how thoroughly the Uruk Hai dominate America’s cities, controlling elections at the same time as they destroy the schools and allow the overall quality of life to deteriorate.

Where there is still hope, but where hope is fading fast, is in what could be the ultimate battle, the battle for America’s suburbs. If Sauron’s army – Orcs, along with Saruman’s victorious Uruk Hai, joined by the Men of Harad, the Variags of Khand, Easterlings from Rhun, the Coarsairs of Umbar, and Trolls, Half-trolls, Wargs, Mumakil, Black Uruks and Nazgûl – is not stopped, suburban life will become unrecognizable.

To dispense with metaphors, consider the fell alliance of forces pouring out of America’s cities and threatening America’s suburbs in their actual incarnations: Democrats, politically connected developers, opportunistic and predatory investors, tech billionaires, the environmentalist lobby, plaintiff attorneys, the entirety of academia and the leftist think tank network, nearly all of the online and offline media, a significant cadre of useful idiot libertarians, public sector unions, private sector unions, backed by armies of bamboozled or bought off activists claiming to fight in the interests of everything from the disadvantaged victims of systemic racism to the urgent need to save the earth from capitalism-induced catastrophic climate change.

No wonder Osgiliath was not held. Man the battlements of Minas Tirith. Pray for deliverance.

America’s Suburbs Are the New Front in the Battle for America’s Future

What is going to happen to America’s suburbs is not pretty to contemplate. As usual, California is ground zero for the progressive assault on suburbia. The plan, in California and elsewhere, is to cordon off all developed land, restricting population growth to within the footprint of existing cities and suburbs. According to this plan, the single family home is considered an abomination.

Stigmatizing homes with yards as abominable relies on two premises, density ideology and inclusive zoning. Both of these premises are riddled with counterproductive flaws and fatal contradictions, but nonetheless pack a potent emotional punch. These two premises constitute a perfect marriage, a political power couple. Density ideology allegedly combats climate change. Inclusive zoning is allegedly anti-racist.

The theory goes something like this. Suburbs were built for privileged, economically advantaged whites to abandon the cities to minorities, taking away the tax base from the inner city, and this explains the failing schools and shattered communities. At the same time, these sprawling suburbs became an unsustainable assault on the planet, consuming precious and finite open space and causing monstrous quantities of commuter induced greenhouse gas emissions.

There is barely a shred of truth to any of this. The idea that higher urban densities are necessary to protect open space is a preposterous delusion, insofar as less than 5 percent of the United States is urbanized. And even if you believe automotive greenhouse gas emissions are an environmental threat, cars are becoming emissions free, jobs tend to migrate to where people live, and telecommuting – as the pandemic has proven – is becoming increasingly feasible.

Inclusive zoning ideology relies on equally preposterous assumptions. It is based on the premise that if disadvantaged people, low-income people—even those struggling with mental illness or substance addictions—are brought into an affluent neighborhood, the habits and attitudes of the affluent residents will be absorbed by these less fortunate individuals, and “foster greater social and economic mobility and integration.” This is, of course, an absolute crock, but the underlying motivations, scarcely understood by most of the proponents, are deeply sinister.

The ideology underlying inclusive zoning is explicitly Communist. It demands that everyone has a right to live anywhere they want, and that private property rights are a manifestation of privilege and oppression as much as of hard work. It is only a great irony that this seductive siren call is a useful tool in the hands of political cronies and profiteers if you ignore the shared goal: centralization of power and control.

For example, inclusive zoning, stripped of the high-minded leftist rhetoric, includes the practice of redistributing poverty to make certain neighborhoods blighted and low income, so that developers, working closely with the city bureaucrats, can use major federal financing incentives and eminent domain to completely demolish previously intact neighborhoods where residents invested their lives and fortunes to call home.

But in all cases, inclusive zoning is a destructive force masquerading as necessary for social justice, but instead only empowering opportunistic investors. Laws being written across America by progressives are rezoning neighborhoods to make single family dwellings worth more if they are demolished to construct rent subsidized fourplexes than if they are left standing. One must ask, why are progressives enablers of institutional investors?

Often these investors are global hedge funds that swoop into neighborhoods as soon as there’s any downturn in the real estate market. Unlike individual small landlords, these investment firms don’t care if renters pay using Section 8 vouchers – in fact it is a plus. It is a guaranteed revenue stream and once a critical mass of subsidized renters occupies the neighborhood, the property values crash, which allows them to expand their holdings.

Inclusive zoning will not solve the challenges facing residents of the inner city. The only way to do that is to break up the teachers union monopoly on K-12 education, reassert law and order, and nurture a cultural renaissance that values two parent families, reveres education, and respects hard work. Absent those transformations, inclusive zoning will not save the residents of the inner city, it will just export the inner city into every suddenly crowded suburb in America. Thankfully, many conservatives are at last recognizing the centrality of these issues.

New Voices Speaking Out to Save America’s Suburbs

In late June, writing for the National Review, author Stanley Kurtz warned readers that “Biden and Dems Are Set to Abolish the Suburbs.” As he puts it, “Biden and his party have embraced yet another dream of the radical Left: a federal takeover, transformation, and de facto urbanization of America’s suburbs.”

Kurtz makes the point that suburbs are the swing constituency in U.S. national elections. He points out, perhaps optimistically, that if suburban voters understood what’s coming, they’d vote Republican. On July 15 he elaborates, in another National Review article entitled “Will Biden’s War on the Suburbs Become a Campaign Issue?” We may hope. Or maybe the powerful rhetoric of density ideology and inclusive zoning will create a powerful enough smokescreen to prevent voter enlightenment until it’s too late.

In early July, writing for PJ Media, author Stacy Lennox also sounded the alarm with her article entitled “Hey Suburban Voters, Joe Biden’s Housing Policies Will Ruin Your Communities.” You can say that again. Referencing Kurtz’s article, Lennox explains:

“The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulation, AFFH for short, is like Affirmative Action for community planning, with three elements:

1 – Use a kind of quota system to force “economic integration” on the suburbs, pushing urban residents outside of the city.

2 – Close down suburban growth by regulating development, restricting automobile use, and limiting highway growth and repair, thus forcing would-be suburbanites back to the city.

3 – Use state and federal laws to force suburbs to redistribute tax revenue to poorer cities in their greater metropolitan region.”

Putting federal teeth into laws that are already being enacted by progressive states and cities would spell the end of suburban life in America. The consequences will neither be beneficial to the disadvantaged, nor to the planet. What Americans need from their policymakers are laws that will facilitate suburban expansion and deregulation of housing and infrastructure development. This will lower the cost of housing as well as the overall cost-of-living.

There is an alternative, and along with exposing the war on suburbs, that alternative must be clearly communicated and fought for. Here are some highlights of what might constitute that alternative political agenda.

How to Make Housing Affordable for Everyone and Rescue America’s Inner Cities

  • Abandon “inclusive zoning” aimed at integrating subsidized low income residents into middle class neighborhoods via massive taxpayer expenditures.
  • Restrict mandated higher density zoning to the core urban areas and along major traffic arteries. 
  • Repeal or significantly reform environmentalist restrictions on land development.
  • Repeal energy neutral mandates and assorted other unwarranted environmentalist inspired building code regulations that add costs to home construction.
  • Set a maximum period of time within which building permits can be granted, and set a maximum building fee at $10,000 per home/unit (or less).
  • Streamline the building permit process to make it easier, not harder, for developers to acquire permits. Look to Texas for guidance.
  • Ban project labor agreements and require open bidding processes for public works projects.
  • Restore public funding to streets and connector roads instead of charging developer fees which are then reflected in much higher home prices.
  • Repeal laws designed to prevent reasonable expansion of the urban footprint. Allow housing developments again on open land.

At the same time as these reforms would create new, affordable suburban frontiers for hard working families to aspire to live in, cultural shifts as previously described – embracing the values of family, hard work, education, and law and order – offer the only honest hope for struggling inner city communities.

Also necessary is a broader cultural shift across America. One that reasserts some of the following principles:

  • Competitive abundance is preferable to politically contrived scarcity.
  • Equality of opportunity is preferable to equality of outcome.
  • Practical environmentalism is preferable to environmentalist extremism.

And the moral argument for these principles:

  • There is a moral value to providing opportunity by making housing and other essentials affordable through private sector competition.
  • There is a moral value to instilling pride by abandoning race and gender preferences.
  • There is a moral value to embracing policies of abundance – by turning the private sector loose to increase the supply of housing, energy, water, transportation.

It is not too late to save America’s suburbs, and by extension, America itself.

To return to the Tolkien allegory, perhaps these words from Lord Aragorn describe this time we’re living in quite well. Let them inspire us all:

“I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. 

A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends, and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day.

An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we fight!!

By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!!!”

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

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The “Seattle Autonomous Zone” is Coming to America

Over the past week, protesters have established the “Capital Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ) in an area encompassing roughly 10 square blocks and 500 local residents. Less than one mile northeast of the downtown core, the enclave includes an 8 acre park, easily big enough to encamp hundreds of activists.

The fate of CHAZ is uncertain, but with a sympathetic mayor, a sympathetic governor, and funds pouring in from enthralled leftist supporters all over America, it is possible this experiment will linger for a long time, relatively undisturbed by reality. If you happen to live in CHAZ, a place that was up until June 8, merely a hardcore liberal precinct of a hardcore liberal city, buckle up.

If the consequences of leftist activism were confined to isolated enclaves sprinkled across a handful of Blue cities in Blue states, apart from the existential disruption these “autonomous zones” would impart to those residents who were unsympathetic to the invasion and occupation of their neighborhoods, America would survive. But “CHAZ” is just the tip of the leftist spear. It is part of something much bigger, and far more dangerous.

Seattle’s Capital Hill Autonomous Zone is an extreme caricature of what the mainstream Left is slowly institutionalizing across America. The project is most advanced on the Blue West Coast, but is rapidly proceeding through Blue cities and states everywhere. Moreover, because Republicans barely recognize the phenomenon, or what is at stake, much less have alternatives, the project is stealthily creeping into Red cities and states as well.

Here, in stark terms, is what Americans face: Subsidized investors will buy up distressed single family homes and demolish them to build subsidized apartments to house low income residents, homeless people, and foreign refugees. If you oppose any of this happening on the lot next to you, then you are a racist and a climate denier, and you are unwilling to check your privilege.

Never mind that you have skipped vacations, worked multiple jobs, and barely managed to support your family while paying down a monstrous mortgage and confiscatory property taxes. Now the fruits of your labor will also pay for the utter destruction of the neighborhood where you invested the best years of your life to call home.

While single family homes will become worth more to investors when they are demolished than left standing, in cases where the homes aren’t demolished, expect backyards to be filled with “accessory dwelling units,” i.e., new homes on the same property. And expect these homes to yield better returns to investors when they qualify for subsidies both in their construction and their rent, if they house low income residents, homeless people, and foreign refugees.

If you don’t think this can happen where you live, then you’d better move to a gated community, filled with residents wealthy enough to litigate. Because the threat of endless litigation is the only way that investors and developers will be driven away. This is why the wealthy donors to leftist movements ranging from CHAD to the Democratic National Committee don’t care what happens to America’s suburbs. They are exempt.

The Principles Underlying the Destruction of America’s Cities and Suburbs

The degree to which this dismal scenario actually transpires depends on to what extent the following principles become part of the conventional political wisdom in America. Note that many of these principles are supposedly already beyond serious debate, and that they are subscribed to as much by the Romneyesque Republicans as by the Jay Inslee type Democrats.

1 – Cities cannot be expanded, because suburban “sprawl” increases greenhouse gas emissions, and “open space” must be preserved. All population growth must occur within the footprint of existing cities. This is a preposterous lie. The entire urban footprint of cities in America’s lower 48 states consumes less than 5 percent of the land. And permitting suburbs to continue to expand onto open land does not increase “greenhouse gas” emissions, even if you actually believe greenhouse gas emissions harm the planet. Jobs follow housing, people work remotely, and emissions free vehicles for routine commutes are within a few decades of becoming cheap and ubiquitous.

2 – America is a racist nation with a history of oppression; capitalism is inherently racist and oppressive. For these reasons, disadvantaged people must be the beneficiaries of “inclusive zoning,” whereby they will live in subsidized housing located wherever concentrations of white privilege exist. Proponents of inclusive zoning also believe that when the disadvantaged are put into immediate proximity to privileged people, this somehow fosters “greater social and economic mobility.”

3 – Housing is an issue of public health; free housing can be medically prescribed. Anyone who doesn’t think a medical emergency cannot disrupt property rights, or any other constitutionally protected right, must have been asleep for the last four months. Expect forced densification of suburban neighborhoods with “inclusive” and subsidized housing because the United States must develop a “culture of health.”

4 – Americans caused climate change, which is causing crop failures and political destabilization throughout the global south. As a result, Americans will need to admit hundreds of millions of “climate refugees” and pay for their shelter and other basic needs. Similarly, Americans must atone for their legacy of slavery and colonialism by paying “reparations” to people of color. These reparations will include inclusive zoning, subsidized housing, and destruction of “racist” suburbia. The single family dwelling is an abomination; it is racist and ecologically unsustainable.

Readers may be forgiven for thinking these principles are absurd. Think again. With an eye towards understanding the general mentality of leftists with respect to housing policies, peruse social media and Google search results on these terms: inclusionary zoning, “snob” zoning, reparations, climate justice and suburbs, climate refugees, smart growth, “infill,” and dozens of others. Watch videos of the CHAZ activists. Or just recall the campaign pronouncements of Jay Inslee when he was running for president. With a gleam in his eyes that calls to mind the judges in 17th century Salem, Inslee used his limited presidential primary debate time to declare a “climate emergency.” Inslee is not alone. There’s a lot of money to be made and power to be grabbed the minute a “climate emergency” goes into effect. So kiss your suburbs goodbye.

The Alternatives to Destroying America’s Cities and Suburbs

The counter-narrative to these ideas which relentlessly encroach on what constitutes permissible debate are already considered controversial, despite being entirely reasonable.

For starters, the “climate catastrophes” occurring in the world, while often tragic, are either completely normal occurrences of weather or they have nothing to do with climate at all, and more to do with hideous levels of government corruption and incompetence. And in any case, the billions of people abroad who are still victims of these tragedies are never going to fit into the United States. Admitting a small fraction of them would merely destroy our own nation, when for a fraction of the resources that millions of destitute immigrants would consume, we could help billions of people to restore stability and achieve prosperity in their own nations.

Here in America, the reason housing is so expensive is because of government policies. California is, as usual, a cautionary example. There are countless laws restricting what land is eligible for housing development, and even in those limited locations, environmentalist litigators exploit state and federal laws to delay projects for years. There are extreme building codes, mostly relating to the environment but also to overwrought safety standards and other factors, that add tens of thousands of dollars (or more) to the cost of a home. Then there are building fees, often exceeding $100,000 per home, which are to pay for infrastructure that municipalities used to pay for out of operating budgets. And of course there are affordable housing set asides, assessed against the sale price of every market priced home.

The result of these laws is that Californians cannot afford homes, and developers cannot afford to make a profit building them, unless they are either subsidized or very high end. This is a perfect storm, politically concocted, and instead of relaxing the regulations, granting safe harbor from litigation, and reforming the pensions that consume public budgets preventing infrastructure funding, California’s politicians mandate “affordable housing.” These taxpayer funded boondoggles further enrich subsidized developers and do nothing to solve the problem of homelessness and unaffordable housing.

The only way to avoid destroying America’s suburbs, which is where millions of Americans – especially families with children – prefer to live, is to build more of them. To do this, stand up to the climate change lobby, expose their hidden agenda which is to amass power and consolidate wealth, and stand up to the “inclusion” lobby and their obsession with alleged racism. Mandated inclusion and giveaways will not enable upward mobility for the disadvantaged, it will just make them more dependent on government. Lowering the cost-of-living by building new suburbs at affordable prices, on the other hand, is the pathway to a new era of prosperity for all Americans.

Whether considering CHAZ in Seattle, or the movement to erase suburbia across the entire nation, they share much in common with each other. Both are parasitic, both are built on lies and deceptions, both depend on professionally curated emotions – the privileged feel guilty, the disadvantaged feel resentment. The differences? CHAZ is concentrated geographically and revels in extreme rhetoric, whereas the assault on suburbia is disbursed and relies on rhetoric that has been sanitized for broader consumption. But behind the theatrics, CHAZ exposes the end game. Their message is deadly serious, and they aren’t kidding. We are going to destroy you.

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

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Gathered for the Feast at the Hotel California

Welcome to the Hotel California, such a lovely place… Plenty of room at the Hotel California, any time of year, you can find it here…
– “Hotel California,” by the Eagles, 1977

For decades California’s aristocracy has engaged in unsustainable feasting, as they consume the leviathan carcasses of what were for a time the world’s the finest water project, freeway system, and the public universities. Living off a capital endowment that once provided abundance, the aristocrats of California have neglected all of these achievements, instead imposing scarcity on a quiescent populace.

California’s aristocrats get wealthier as they ration supplies of every necessity, from housing to water and energy, and the money they should have invested in maintaining affordable abundance goes instead into pay and pensions for their armies of usefully co-opted, unionized public servants, and entitlements for a growing underclass that votes reliably Democrat.

By now California’s so-called “up down coalition” of Democrat voters has enabled its ruling class to acquire absolute power. Meanwhile, California’s beleaguered middle class either flees to other states or continues to vote against their own interests because they think it will demonstrate their commitment to the twin Gods of “diversity” and fighting climate change. And as the old adage goes: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

California’s political economy today is set up to reward the wealthiest political insiders, destroy the hardest working middle income citizens, while expanding the ranks of the lowest income residents and pandering to them by pretending to care about wealth inequality, social “equity,” and “environmental justice.” This explains the status of California as a sanctuary state. It also explains California’s burgeoning, unaccountable homeless population.

These deplorable social conditions as well as the neglected infrastructure in California could easily be managed, but then there would be no reason to expand the unionized state, no reason to drive down private sector wages while elevating public sector wages and benefits, and fewer opportunities for the wealthiest Californians to profit from asset bubbles. This is textbook political corruption. California is a one-party banana republic, ran by a plutocracy that is looting the people’s inheritance to further enrich themselves.

The Hotel California Is Now Open on Venice Beach

In February 2020 the Venice Beach homeless “bridge housing” complex was opened for occupancy. It is a prime example of how crony capitalist corruption hides behind the mask of social justice and “inclusion.” This shelter is situated two blocks from the beach, on a three acre parcel where land is valued at $30 million per acre. This city owned land could be sold, and the proceeds could be used for shelter housing in far less expensive parts of Los Angeles County.

Instead, 154 homeless individuals are now occupying a “temporary” shelter that cost $8 million to construct, and will cost another $8 million per year to operate. Eventually, supposedly within three years, “permanent supportive housing” will be constructed on-site for these homeless – or as they are now referred to, the “unhoused” – so they can continue to live two blocks from the beaches of the Pacific on one of the most expensive pieces of real estate on earth.

This is an example of “inclusive zoning” at its most extreme. It is based on the premise that if disadvantaged people, low income people – even those struggling with mental illness or substance addictions – are brought into an affluent neighborhood, the habits and attitudes of the affluent residents will be absorbed by these less fortunate individuals, and “foster greater social and economic mobility and integration.”

The entire affordable housing policy agenda, enshrined in zoning regulations and tax incentives across America and especially in California, is susceptible to corruption. Why develop market housing, when you can get tax credits and tax exemptions if you build subsidized affordable housing. In California, the government implemented regulations and fees so punitive that they effectively rationed housing for all but the very wealthy, and now are soaking the taxpayers to subsidize “affordable housing” at an average cost of over $600,000 per unit. But why seed the most expensive parts of California’s cities with homeless shelters a cost of over $50,000 per bed?

Here where we could be seeing corruption disguised as compassion at its worst, because the easiest way to acquire tax subsidies and tax credits is if an area can be officially declared “blighted.” Once this label applies to any census tract, not only do the federal money coffers automatically open wide for redevelopment, but the local cities can declare eminent domain to force homeowners to sell their homes which are then demolished to make way for hotels, hospitals, shopping malls, and residential high-rises.

It doesn’t take much to tip the balance in a census tract to a “blighted” status, and even less to earn a score that qualifies the area for less draconian but still very lucrative tax credits and subsidies. It is based on three variables, average median income, rate of unemployment, and rate of poverty. Take a look at this map of the coastline of West Los Angeles. The census tracts are outlined with yellow lines; some of them are only a half-mile in area, only a few hundred acres in size.

Notice that large parts of Venice Beach are already shaded yellow, meaning they are “eligible” for tax incentives based on “blight.” Flip that shade from yellow to red, as has happened in Santa Monica to the immediate north, and even more tax incentives arrive. How many people with perfect scores for “blight” would it take to transform these areas?

Don’t Walk Your Dog After Dark in Venice Beach

The homeless in Venice Beach have been a growing menace to law abiding, hard working residents for years. The problem has became considerably worse in just the past year, but if you object to the presence of people smoking methamphetamine and defecating on the sidewalk in front of your home or business, apparently that means you’re a fascist, a social darwinist, and a sociopath. Never mind the fact that you and your spouse may both be working overtime to pay a mortgage, or that you have young children you want to keep safe.

Now that the Hotel California “bridge housing” is officially opened up, a new breed of homeless have arrived on the scene. As if the nonstop distribution of shit on Venice’s sidewalks and syringes on the local lawns wasn’t bad enough, eyewitness accounts offer lurid details of local women now being aggressively followed and harassed by gangs of young men who correctly identified this new “shelter” as a place where they can get free meals and free overnight accommodations.

Common sense would suggest that if the civic authorities had the slightest respect for the residents, this shelter would have a curfew, and would not admit intoxicated individuals. But the opposite is the case. Out of respect for the human rights and dignity of the “unhoused,” Venice Beach’s Hotel California is a “wet” shelter, meaning that any time of day or night you can stagger in as stoned or smashed as you wish, get some sleep or a free meal, then leave again.

Exactly how is something like this not expected to pull even more of the “unhoused” to make Venice Beach their free home? They have everything they need – free food, free shelter, freedom of movement, “tolerance” of their “lifestyle,” and no accountability. But in a census tract of only a few blocks, a facility of 150 people without jobs (perfect score on “unemployment rate”), without income (ditto), and clearly living in poverty, watch out. Blight, and with that, eminent domain by the City of Los Angeles, could swiftly follow.

Inclusive zoning, California style, includes the practice of redistributing poverty to make certain neighborhoods blighted and low income, so that developers, working closely with the city bureaucrats, can use major federal financing incentives and eminent domain to completely demolish previously intact neighborhoods where residents invested their lives and fortunes to call home.

The ideal underlying inclusive zoning is overtly communist. It suggests that everyone has a right to live anywhere they want, and that private property rights are a manifestation of privilege and oppression as much as hard work. What great irony that this seductive siren call is a useful tool in the hands of political cronies and profiteers.

And so California continues its descent into madness. At least, down in Venice Beach, one may get out as well as get into the Hotel California. But what incentive might prompt anyone want to do that? From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

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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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