To the Editor:
The fact that the housing element of the city’s general plan was rejected by the state comes as little surprise considering the allegations, which the city hasn't denied, that the housing element that grew from three years of public participation and was adopted by the City Council last December was not the same housing element that was submitted to the state for review in May. It's doubtful that any lawsuits could spring from deficiencies in the city's report. Projects that strictly conform to the city's zoning ordinance are allowed by right and aren't subject to additional citizen review or comment or to council approval.
The uproar and protests surrounding recent housing projects stem from the frustration of neighbors who have been ignored through months of planning and fund raising for projects that don't conform to either the spirit or the letter of the general plan or zoning ordinance. Those who dare to point out the violations are labeled NIMBYs and “classist” while tenants of large scale low income housing developments are further isolated from the general public. Single building addresses are redlined by insurance agents and credit bureaus, adding to the stigma of being poor. The city donates millions to purchase lots, develop plans, and complete projects and also provides project-based Section 8 to a couple of pet nonprofit corporations. With no regulation or oversight, repairs can be neglected while tenants face the loss of their housing subsidy if they complain. This is how tenements are born.
The city needs to stop paying the full cost of projects that don't comply with the zoning ordinance, and they need to stop the finger-pointing and name-calling aimed at anyone who protests. The city needs to come up with a fair and equitable housing program that doesn't warehouse low income tenants but allows them to become part of the greater public where no one knows that they’re poor just because of where they live. The city needs to respect the actions of the council and not make changes to adopted plans after the vote; but most of all, the city needs to acknowledge the rights and responsibilities of the public to read, understand and comment on any actions that might affect them.