Stephen Golub submits many interesting and important writings in the BenIndy, the local newspaper, blogs and so forth. His insights are helpful.
But I am disappointed about his statement about “stagnant population growth” as one of the reasons for the city’s budget woes.
It is true that we need to provide for housing, and I like the idea of tasteful additions of duplexes, ADUs and multifamily units as infill development. But, of course, it is the developers who build – not the cities – and developers have shown their true intentions when they have the chance to build expensive housing instead of affordable or middle-cost housing. They go for the higher profit. We are told they have to do this because of the fees, time to process and so forth.
But a recent incident in San Jose demonstrates that this is false. In this case, the developers were approved with entitlements for high-density residential and mixed-use. Perfect. But when they learned that San Jose may have been late in approving its housing element, what did the developers do? They resubmitted their plans under the “builders’ remedy” for high-end single family units and condos.
Anyone read The Ox-Bow Incident? You should. It would teach you about what the “market can bear” the intentions of the commercial class – in this case, the railroads. And yes, we are being railroaded into building anything, anywhere, no matter what.
So, back to Stephen’s piece. The population growth issue is being used by the city in support of sprawl development out by Lake Herman Road. Now back up a second and think about population growth and the need to develop outside of the city’s urban footprint. If it were true that we must have population growth to thrive, when does it stop? We just keep having population growth to the end of time? Of course not. This is a failed concept and people should stop saying that we must approve development inconsistent with the city’s General Plan due to stagnant population growth (General Plans regard the constitution of land use development and fealty to them is the law, not a choice).
To be clear, Stephen does not say he supports sprawl development. He doesn’t. In fact, he supports the East Fifth Gateway mixed-use plan. It’s a good plan and needs city initiatives to encourage development. But he does use the “stagnant population” theme, which is troubling.
I suggest that we dig deeper into this concept of population growth and connect the dots of congested roads, long lines at National Parks, food shortages and pollution. There is a connection. It is not likely that we will solve problems like these by having more people.
And lastly, population growth is projected to begin to decline near the end of the century. This is certainly true in the US and California. We could wind up with lots of empty residential development just like we are seeing with the over-built, retail commercial development that we were warned about years ago.
What then, is the answer?
Consider economic development with the increasing need for manufacturing that is green, more local shopping at smaller, more community-based stores, not to mention the arts and entertainment. Our aging population will need services and housing accommodations over the next 25 years.
Thoughtful development with these needs in mind will create a place that people want to visit, shop in and work in. This is not a pie-in-the-sky idea, but it does take hard work and we, the people, need to do our part and help with city revenues for our infrastructure. And maybe with less stress the city council and staff can focus on the future so clearly described in the General Plan.