Category Archives: Benicia Mayor Steve Young

Good explanation of requirements for coming expansion of housing stock in Benicia

The following article from SFWEEKLY gives an excellent background on recent steps toward dealing with the Bay Area housing shortage, but it doesn’t give any info about Benicia or Solano County.  I asked Benicia Mayor Steve Young for a brief statement on how this affects us.  I’ll start with the Mayor’s clarifying response.  [Note that this issue will come up at tomorrow’s Benicia City Council meeting, Agenda Item 14.C, TWO-STEP REQUEST TO CONSIDER CHANGES TO INCLUSIONARY HOUSING ORDINANCE.]

Mayor Young: What this means for Benicia

Benicia Mayor Steve Young
The State of California has determined that many cities, like Benicia, have lagged significantly in the approval and development of housing, particularly affordable housing.
While the City is not being required to develop the housing ourselves, we must (under new State Law) provide enough properly zoned land to allow for it.  We currently do not have enough such zoned land to meet the new increased expectations.
While our previous goals were in the low hundreds, we actually produced very few affordable units (less than a dozen), and the new RHNA expectations are now in the 7-800 unit range.  Failure to allow for the production of such housing could lead to financial penalties, including State transportation monies we use for street maintenance and repair.

Bay Area Takes Step Toward Major Housing Growth

A bureaucratic meeting of the Association of Bay Area Governments paves the way for S.F., Silicon Valley, and many exclusive suburbs to plan for…

More cranes where that came from. (Photo: Mark Schwettman/ Shutterstock)

It’s simple, really.  As part of the sixth RHNA cycle, the HCD gave a housing allocation to the MTC, which worked with the HMC to create a growth blueprint for ABAG — and the newly-strengthened HAA means said housing could actually get built.

Sorry… Did we lose you there?

For all the non-housing wonks in the audience, here’s a translation: the cities and counties of the Bay Area must change their zoning laws to allow for the construction of 441,000 new homes between 2023 and 2031. A Thursday night vote by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) made that result all but certain, although there will be some continued debate about where in the Bay Area all of those homes should go.

The Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), a recurring, bone-dry planning process, has quietly become the front line of the Bay Area’s housing wars. Its hyper-bureaucratic nature and its long time horizons, make it more difficult to understand than high-profile housing production efforts like Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 50, or the more modest housing production package that failed in the legislature last year. But over time, the RHNA process could be just as transformative as SB 50, thanks to a law Wiener shepherded through the legislature in 2018 with little fanfare. Far from being the “Sisyphus of housing legislation,” as he was recently described in CityLab, Wiener and his allies in the YIMBY movement are starting to look more like Zeus, raining policy lightning bolts on expensive coastal cities from their perch in the state capitol.

RHNA Grows Teeth

RHNA (pronounced ree-na), also known as the Housing Element, is the main lever the state government has to push cities to build enough housing to keep up with job and population growth. In eight-year cycles, the department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) allocates a certain number of homes to each major metropolitan area in California, organized into four affordability levels: very low income, low income, moderate income, and above moderate income.

Each metropolitan area has their own planning organization — in the nine-county Bay Area, it’s the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) working with planners from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) — that distributes the state’s housing allocation among the cities and counties in the region.

But this cycle was different, thanks to SB 828, the 2018 law Senator Wiener masterminded. The law beefs up the methodology used to determine each region’s housing allocation, accounting for previous under-production of housing, as well as areas where home prices are rising faster than wages, among other considerations. The result is that the upcoming cycle’s RHNA allocations are multiple times greater than the current cycle, which spans 2014-2022. The Southern California Association of Governments’ (SCAG) housing allocation more than tripled from about 400 thousand to about 1.3 million. ABAG’s allocation merely doubled, from 187,990 homes to 441,176.

Of the Bay Area’s allocation, 26 percent of new homes must be for very low income households, 15 percent for low income, 17 percent for moderate income, and 42 percent for above moderate income.

Plan Adopted

Since that allocation came down from the state in June, planners at the MTC have been working on distributing those planned new homes among cities and counties. In October, planners added an “equity adjustment” to the methodology intended to combat racial and economic segregation, combined with their existing mandate to plan for housing near jobs and transit.

On Thursday, that plan was “adopted” by the ABAG board, which is led by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, and includes elected officials from around the region, including San Francisco Supervisors Rafael Mandelman and Gordon Mar, by a vote of 29 to 1, with 3 abstentions. Before it is officially certified, the plan will be reviewed by the state, and individual cities will be allowed to appeal their allocations.

So here’s what the latest, not quite final, RHNA maps look like:

Increase in households by city over the 2023-2031 RHNA cycle. (Photo: MTC)  [Note symbol for Benicia Bnc]
Number of new units by city over the 2023-2031 RHNA cycle. (Photo: MTC)  [Note symbol for Benicia Bnc]

San Francisco needs to plan for a 22 percent increase in households, or 82 thousand more units, between 2023 and 2031. That’s up from an allocation of about 29 thousand homes during the 2014-22 cycle.

Other Bay Area cities slated to see significant household growth include Emeryville, Millbrae, Colma, Brisbane, Mountain View, Santa Clara, and Milpitas. However, the most dramatic changes could come in smaller, wealthier bedroom communities on the leafy fringes of major cities, many of them in Marin and Contra Costa counties. These communities were used to getting paltry RHNA allocations. Marin’s allocation of 14,285 is 21 times higher than the previous RHNA cycle.

Not only were many wealthy, politically powerful suburbs able to get away with minuscule housing goals from the state (last cycle, Beverly Hills’ allocation was 46, this time around it’s over 3,000), cities frequently refused to provide permits for homes the state said they were required to produce. No longer.

In September, the state released a memo outlining the effect of several recent laws including Wiener’s SB 35 and East Bay’s Sen. Nancy Skinner’s SB 167, that strengthen the decades old Housing Accountability Act (HAA). These laws will make it much harder for city governments to reject housing projects that comply with zoning — zoning that must be changed to allow for the amount of housing set forth in each jurisdiction’s RHNA allocation. Legal watchdog groups like CaRLa and YIMBY Law have emerged to make sure that cities follow these laws. Governor Newsom’s most recent budget proposal includes $4.3 million for a Housing Accountability Unit to do much the same thing.

All that is to say that even though there is no guarantee that all 441,000 homes in this RHNA allocation will get built — they probably won’t — there are measures in place to ensure every city does its best to try.

Affordability 

While RHNA receives little media attention, these changes have not been without controversy among those in the know.

Many leaders and planners in suburbs that have seen virtually no new housing construction in decades are not thrilled about what lies ahead. In practice, abiding by RHNA will require cities to make zoning changes similar to those proposed by state laws like Wiener’s SB 50. Except this way, local officials, not Wiener, will be poised to take the heat from change-averse residents.

This is the case in San Francisco, too. Short of allowing a couple dozen Salesforce-tower sized apartment buildings, it’s hard to imagine how the city can meet its RHNA goals without upzoning single family areas. If the hoopla following Heather Knight’s latest Chronicle column on this exact issue is any indication, that will be a politically fraught process.

At the Thursday meeting, many voiced concern that these housing goals would be impossible to achieve in the allotted time frame. Mayor Pat Eklund of Novato, the sole ABAG board member to vote no, brought up a controversial study by the Embarcadero Institute that questions the RHNA methodology and suggests the state is asking the Bay Area to produce far more homes than it needs. Many urban planning academics dispute the Embarcadero Institute’s data.

There are also concerns about the impacts that so much housing development could have on low income communities of color, especially in the Bay Area’s big cities. During public comment, Peter Papadopoulos with the Mission Economic Development Agency said, “This proposal will flood S.F. and other urban core communities with additional market rate housing burden, on top of preexisting harms already endured… This proposal currently doesn’t go past tinkering around the edges of equity and it will have grave harmful impacts if left unchanged.” (The Supervisors have the power to determine where new housing in the city is allowed to be built, whether in gentrifying or wealthy areas.)

San Francisco has historically met its RHNA goals for above moderate income housing production, while falling short in the other categories, especially moderate income, since there are more subsidies available for building low-income housing. However, the city’s RHNA goals in all income categories for the forthcoming cycle are now much higher.

Fernando Martí of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, another group that has historically been skeptical of increased market rate development in San Francisco, struck a different tone. “It is not perfect,” Martí said of the RHNA housing allocations with the equity adjustment, but “this is a baseline to begin to support racial and social equity across the region.”


This piece has been updated to correct an inaccurate transcription of Peter Papadopoulos’ comment at the ABAG meeting, and an inaccurate description of how much greater the new RHNA allocations are compared to current allocations.

Benicia Mayor and Solano County Public Health Officer disagree whether teachers should get vaccine sooner

Benicia mayor asks Solano supervisors to move teachers to front of vaccination line

Fairfield Daily Republic, By Todd R. Hansen, February 10, 2021
Benicia Mayor Steve Young

Benicia Mayor Steve Young asked the Solano County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to move teachers to the front of the vaccination line so schools can open quickly and safely.

“And the key, as I see it, and absolutely to do that, is being able to vaccinate each teacher and member of the (schools’) staff,” Young said.

Educators are scheduled as part of the first tier of Phase 1B, the same as residents who are 65 to 74, agriculture workers, as well as child care and adult care workers.

The county is currently working through the groups in the final tier of Phase 1A.

Dr. Bela Matyas, the county public health officer, said the next group of seniors need to be the top priority since 80% of the county’s Covid-related deaths are residents who are 65 or older.

“So if we want to make a dent in our fatalities, we have to focus on (residents) 65 and older,” Matyas said in a phone interview after the board meeting. He was not part of the meeting agenda.

Matyas said he was aware of the pressure being applied to get teachers vaccinated more quickly, but does not agree that politicizing the issue is the best way to make health decisions.

Young’s comments came during the public comment period of the board meeting, during which Michele Guerra also called on the board to open the schools.

She said students, especially those who are deaf or hard of hearing, need to be back in the classrooms.

“Students are struggling with all this technology,” she said. “We need to get these schools open. Many of these students are falling behind.”

The board heard a similar message early in the pandemic from Superintendent of Schools Lisette Estrella-Henderson.

She told the board she was concerned with the potential effects of having schools closed on students with disabilities because of the reliance on distance learning and technology.

The schools closed to in-class instruction at the start of the pandemic in March. The vast majority remain closed, with children and teens receiving instruction online from their teachers….

Benicia Mayor Steve Young opposes recall – Don’t sign the petition!

BUSD School Board recall attempt

From Steve Young’s Facebook page

Steve Young, Benicia Mayor

On the proposed recall of two Benicia school board members: Recalls, to me, should be used in instances of bad behavior, malfeasance, or other serious offenses.

Recalling someone because you don’t like their vote on an issue does not meet that test.  That is what elections are for.  And both board members, if they choose to, can run for reelection in 2022.

And their constituents can vote them out then.

On the other hand, if enough Benicians sign the petition, there will be a special election.

California law governing recalls sets strict requirements for how they are conducted.  Given the amount of time set aside by law to gather signatures, verify signatures, set a date for a special election, give new candidates enough time to file and campaign, it is probable that the special election would take place in late 2021 or early 2022.

And with a projected cost to the School District of $300,000, this is money that doubtless could be better spent helping get the schools ready for the opening we all hope for.

With the regular election scheduled for Nov. 2022, it makes no sense to spend that kind of money on an unnecessary special election.

In addition, I know Sheri Zada and Mark Maselli to be smart, hard working people who, like all local elected officials, provide invaluable public service for no significant pay.

SF Chronicle: Benicia Mayor Steve Young calls for action after Raley’s COVID-19 violations

Christmas Eve party at Benicia supermarket sparks COVID concerns

San Francisco Chronicle, by Michael Cabanatuan, Jan. 6, 2021

Days after a Christmas Eve party at a Raley’s supermarket in Benicia, one worker who attended it tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting the city’s mayor to demand the store let its staff and the public know what steps are being taken in response.

Benicia Mayor Steve Young

Mayor Steve Young, in a video posted to YouTube Tuesday, cited social media and press reports of the Christmas Eve dinner, laid out for employees on their breaks, and demanded action from the Sacramento supermarket chain.

“At a minimum, Raley’s needs to be transparent, needs to tell employees what is happening, needs to tell the public what is happening,” the mayor said.

He also called on the Sacramento supermarket chain to send home and quarantine — with pay — all workers who are exposed to someone who tests positive and to provide them with free COVID-19 tests. Young also suggested Raley’s establish a routine testing program for its workers.

Raley’s spokeswoman Chelsea Minor acknowledged that the party took place on Christmas Eve, violated company and health department protocols, and that one person has since tested positive, is quarantining and hasn’t been in the store since the party.

Here’s what the Bay Area and California stay-at-home orders…
“We take full responsibility but by no means were we suppressing information,” she said. Raley’s has posted all positive tests on its website since March, she said, and the lone positive test that may have stemmed from the party was the sixth postive test at the Benicia store.

The supermarket, at 890 Southampton Road, held an informal Christmas Eve party for its employees in the store, providing them with food. Attendees reportedly sat close to each other and didn’t wear masks, at least while dining. Photos of the party were posted on the supermarket’s Facebook page, but have since been removed. A Facebook commenter later reposted the pictures.

A couple of days after the party, the mayor said, a Raley’s manager came down sick with flu symptoms then tested positive for the coronavirus. Word of the ill-fated party spread on social media, prompting concerns among employees, who complained on social media that they hadn’t been informed of the manager’s positive test, as well as customers.

“The manager who went out sick right after the party, there were a number of people who were photographed sitting close to him and those people are still working,” the mayor said in his statement.

Minor, who spoke to the Benicia City Council on Tuesday night, said the company has followed proper protocol, and most of the mayor’s wishes, once it learned that the employee developed symptoms. She said the employee last worked on the day of the party, stayed home after he became sick, was tested for the coronavirus and received a positive test result on Jan. 2.

She said the chain allows employees who are concerned about a positive exposure to take paid days off to quarantine and pays for testing. She said a regular testing program may be considered short-term at the Benicia store.

“We’ll do what we need to do to restore the faith of our customers,” Minor said.

Michael Cabanatuan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.