Research examines the role of local development regulations in the Bay Area housing shortage

Silicon Valley Community Foundation invites you to join us at Regional Meeting 2018 on Nov. 14 for a discussion on the Bay Area housing shortage. This free community event at the Santa Clara Marriott will feature a lively discussion about the true causes of the Bay Area housing shortage, its broad impact and what can be done to solve it. 

Moira O'NeillMoira O’Neill, who holds research appointments at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and Berkeley Law's Center for Law, Energy, and the Environment, will participate in a panel conversation with Chair of the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee Assembly member David Chiu, Deputy Director of SV@Home Pilar Lorenzana and Melissa Stevenson Diaz, City Manager of Redwood City.

O'Neill will share findings from an ongoing study that examines the local land use entitlement process in California. Land entitlement is the process of obtaining legal approvals for development plans (such as building new housing), and this research study is a joint effort led by Moira O’Neill, Eric Biber, and Giulia Gualco-Nelson and involves a team of students at both Berkeley and Columbia. O'Neill’s interdisciplinary research focuses on urban planning and local governance, combining legal research and qualitative social science methods. 

The study gathered entitlement data in five Bay Area cities from 2014 – 2016, beginning with the Bay Area because the California Legislative Analyst’s Office declared it to be the most expensive region in California. The team analyzed the planning code within each city and extracted project level data for residential developments with five units or more entitled during the three year period for each city. Additionally, they conducted interviews with a range of stakeholders, including affordable housing developers, market rate developers, community based organizations, housing advocates and city staff, to draw out nuances that project level data could not provide alone. 

“This study is the first in two decades to offer a set of comprehensive case studies of actual entitled projects in high cost cities,” said O’Neill. “This allows us to answer a range of questions, including how long entitlement takes, and to compare and contrast processes and timelines across cities and regions for similar kinds of projects.”

As to the findings so far, O’Neill shared, “We have found so much variation both in local law and local planning practice within a single region that this suggests that any proposed state law reform would need to be responsive to this variation, or it may not achieve the intended policy goals around housing development,” said O’Neill.

Currently, the study has been expanded into Los Angeles jurisdictions and will eventually encompass enough cities across the state to form a statewide study. 

During the panel conversation discussion, O’Neill will be conversing with Chair of the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee Assembly member David Chiu, Deputy Director of SV@Home Pilar Lorenzana and Melissa Stevenson Diaz the City Manager of Redwood City.

Possible topics from O’Neill's research that may be discussed by the panel include:

  1. Analysis on what appears to drive the timeline for housing approvals in selected cities; 
  2. The interrelationship between environmental review and local approvals processes within these cities; 
  3. How entitlement is operating within specific cities and offer a comparative analysis of the Bay Area and Los Angeles area. 
  4. The implications of these findings and how they relate to state and local policy making.

We hope you will join us at Regional Meeting on Wednesday, November 14 to learn more about the Bay Area housing shortage and possible solutions! Please RSVP via Eventbrite.