By Gabriel Zucker
The California housing crisis can be summed up with one question: to build or not to build? The status quo has always favored single-family homeowners. The recent win for NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) over UC Berkeley has brought light to the biggest problem California college students are going to face for the foreseeable future: the lack of affordable housing.
California Governor Gavin Newsom passed a stack of bills focused on fixing the California housing crisis. The biggest bill was Senate Bill Number 9, which allows a four housing unit on a single-family lot. This prioritizes affordable housing for future generations and moves away from the outdated practice of single-family zoning.
NIMBYs are local homeowners against affordable housing in their neighborhoods. They argue that their home values will drop and they will lose the peacefulness of single-family-owned housing communities if affordable housing structures were built in the area.
The California Supreme Court sided with NIMBY in a court case against UC Berkeley, going against California’s push towards affordable housing. This forced the school to cut admissions by 2,500 students for the 2022 fall semester. NIMBY won because they argued that UC Berkeley was accepting more students than they could house.
College students all over California are beginning to feel the effects of the housing crisis. Demand is rising while the options are dwindling. There is a lack of options and if this does not change other colleges will soon be forced to cut their enrollment.
NIMBYs recent win highlights the division between single-family housing communities and the growing need for affordable housing. College towns are at the epicenter of this issue. College campuses will never be able to house their entire student population. Students rely on the surrounding community to find housing.
The NIMBY movement is fighting against this change, wanting to preserve a way of life that does not exist anymore. The single-family home is not possible anymore in a changing climate and ever-growing homeless population. NIMBYs are clinging to their current comfortability instead of adapting to the needs of the next generation.
Cal Poly Humboldt Students will soon feel the effects of this landmark decision. The influx of new students is a great thing for the university’s status but the campus will soon face tough decisions if they do not adapt to the changing times and work with the community to build more affordable housing in the surrounding area.
A giant problem this semester has been the lack of parking on campus. Students must park farther and farther away from their housing because of the increase of students and stagnation of parking spaces. I had to spend months trying to find an apartment off-campus this past semester. There are already tell-tale signs of the strain the student body is putting on the schools’ resources. If UC Berkeley is a sign of things to come we must adapt before it is too late.
Parking is a crisis? When I attended HSU few students had cars and if they did they walked, rode the bus, or like me- rode my bike. Get a good rain jacket, embrace being damp, and perhaps remove your dependence on a car.
Cal has ignored and disregarded their enrollment decisions as to their impact on adjacent homeowners for decades. They welcome international and out of state students but very early dump them out into residential rental properties without the capacity to house them.
HSU has the same issue on a smaller scale. They have housing for a small percentage of students and push them into a housing market in Arcata without enough housing for residents , let alone students. Student housing is on the periphery of the issues facing the CSU leadership.
All this business of converting HSU to Cal Poly Humboldt is window dressing unless the CSU leadership makes an effort at reducing the housing obstacles students face to day just as I did in 1978.
Problem with bikes is…theft and fear of theft…
Instead of the City pondering absurdly tall housing in the “Gateway” area, which is far enough away from HSU that any students who do live there will likely drive to campus, perhaps HSU and the City should start pondering locations more proximal to the campus. When I went to HSU in the 80’s, the vast majority of the student apartment building along LK Wood didn’t exist and were built shortly after. They were poorly built back then and are now 30+ years old. Perhaps time to think outside the box and consider purchasing some of those buildings, tear them down and rebuild with their desired multi-story housing complexes. They are already planning to do this at the Craftsman Mall area across the highway, but since more housing is needed, this seems like a good place to start to me and all the students that would live there in the future could easily walk to HSU and avoid the driving and parking hassles.
These are the main issues:
A) NIMBY is a real deal because of the density loads, types of lifestyles…not one’s economic standing – think spring break mentalities, or tgat renters have different standards of lifestyles than homeowner neighborhoods (NIMBYs are local homeowners against affordable housing in their neighborhoods. They argue that their home values will drop and they will lose the peacefulness of single-family-owned housing communities if affordable housing structures were built in the area.
The California Supreme Court sided with NIMBY in a court case against UC Berkeley, going against California’s push towards affordable housing. This forced the school to cut admissions by 2,500 students for the 2022 fall semester. NIMBY won because they argued that UC Berkeley was accepting more students than they could)
B) Proximity , as mentioned above… Either Arcata and CPH are seperate neighborhoods or not…housing for students should be on the campus, not in Arcata or elsewhere…traveling by way of transit may be the scam tool for off-campus density impacts, as it fits one agenda while opposing the climate change agenda…travel by way of vehicle/transit systems or already on a campus with zero walkability issues.
C) there is no such thing as affordable housing…all the building is for developer profits generated by high margin costs/profits that trickle down to student renters in the form of increased rents…the real difference is luxury living – a new unit versus a decades old, run down piece of yuck…if your either Arcata or CPH, you desire new buildings, not old…despite the area’s Victorian past…
D) what works is not combined uses within SFR zoned parcels…
What works is making a development for student renters (not affordable housing, no such thing) contained within it’s own neighborhood, just off main transitory roads, not peppered within or landlocked by SFR neighborhoods…
The best SFR neighborhoods are cul-de-sacs off main roads, or whole sections where block after block is SFR only… mother-in-law 2nd unit impacts already threaten SFR neighborhoods, no need to make it worse with higher density student renters whose lifestyles are not aligned with homeowner dwellers…
E) Humboldt County unfortunately is way behind the times with regard to student rentals… while other areas are doing it right…gotta think huge student housing development, not peppering smaller developments in a rag tag method farther away from campus…
The # of units is not relative to the monthly rent, or vice versa…the two are not even in the same universe as far as being connected… the deal is # of units to meet the needs of those folks looking for units to live in…monthly rent is it’s own demon…
newsome signed to undo the ruling. building will happen. Perhaps writer did not know?
Dear college student that want’s to invest your life savings in a house after you have already graduated from school and are now settling down in a place you want to call home for the next 40 or so years. You have your dream job and you have bought a nice place in a nice area, guess what. The local college kids decide that they are going to build high rises around your back yard , think about it from all sides before you speak.
Their life savings after college? Try $30k in debt. What year do you think it is? Arcata has one of the highest spreads between local incomes and housing costs in the country. 60% of Arcata’s housing stock is rental properties. Forgive me if I’m not putting rich peoples feelings first.
Your 2 points:
1) spread… what is that in $ terms? How are you applying the argument, very confusing and vague point.
2) 60% rentals…suggests the impacts of college students has made Arcata MORE undesireable for families… suggests the college is assimilating Arcata into it’s campus jurisdiction… suggests that student housing needs to be on campus, not spreading out like locusts to gobble up others…
You appear to have a low bar for the term “rich people”, especially when those whom you think are rich people are not… think about those who work now, worked since HS, or even those who refrained from going into student debt because they were more responsible, worked during schooling, etc… not everyone partied away what they had, not everyone wasted their energy on college life…
Quit manipulating the comment…Newsome will mess it up worse along with locals…
How about affordable housing for people who already live in Arcata? Or should we rename to CalPolyTown?
An important editorial. There needs to be solutions that balance out all the interests as Arcata moves into the future. We absolutely need more affordable rentals for students and others in our community, and more temporary/transitional housing for those living on the streets. A concern I have with potential development going forward is who will own these new housing projects? There is a disturbing trend of large private corporations and investment firms gobbling up existing rentals and properties to develop more rentals. Oddly enough the independent property owner is slowly disappearing and if we don’t watch it we may all end up renting our dwellings from corporations. In my view if Cal Poly wants to go big, then Cal Poly should build and manage the housing. I’d much rather have it run by a public university than by a private group – and yes the city and the citizens who live in the city should have say in how the development goes forward.
“In my view if Cal Poly wants to go big, then Cal Poly should build and manage the housing. I’d much rather have it run by a public university than by a private group – and yes the city and the citizens who live in the city should have say in how the development goes forward.”
Rayburn, Thank You… and local policies, State policies for years have had the time and opportunities to ensure corporations would also be “the actual homeowners”, and not be able to become “rental owners” by and of pilfering the SFR housing stock…
Wow, full of half truths.
The court decisicion, did not make UCB REDUCE enrolements, it stopped them from INCREASING entolements. Shoving the burden of housing students off on the community RESULTS in the NIMBY sentiment, not the otherway around. If HSU needs / wants to increase enrollment they should increase ON Campus housing by 110% of that increase, and yes that needs to include a parking component. On campus parking is ALREADY woefully underserved, which impacts students, staff and the community at large.
NIMBYs are simply people fighting to save what they cherish about their home and community. It has nothing to do with affordable housing per se. Sometimes there is a classist element, but the concerns are also about quality of life — it has roots in local environmental struggles against landfills, toxic waste sites, waste incinerators, saving forests and riparian areas from development — think Forest Park in Portland. All in all it is the most basic form of local democracy — for a British perspective, check out Paul Kingsnorth “In Praise of the NIMBY.”. Are those who are emotionally, financially, and socially invested in place always ‘right’ — perhaps not. But most certainly their voices should be held equal to the Wall Street interests that are increasingly eyeing neighborhoods as a way to fragment and repackage to sell to investors looking for ever higher ROI.
When I attended Calpoly Humboldt 76-79’ the student population was 7,400. It is 5,500 now and projected to go up to 11,000 by 2026. What is the big deal ? Only a 3600 enrollment increase over a 50 year period! There are many more apartments and housing units in Arcata now than there were in 1977. Plus the university is working on adding substantial new student housing units and they don’t all have to be in Arcata.
History also shows sparsity, less density then compared to now…creeping has its way of becoming discovered eventually…welp, it is discovered… student lifestyles are not the same as SFR, there needs to be separations…
SB9 also allows a lot split, so those four units can become eight. No affordability is required, so each unit can be rented at a premium. Parking is not mandated. Improvement of city utilities is not required. When there is nowhere left to park, will there be better bus service? No. SB9 does not require transit improvements, either. The minimum lot size, is, BTW, 1200sf. Not size of the building, the LOT itself. It allows the buildings to be 4′ from the lot line, also.
No mortgage company will allow an average homeowner to split their lot, so a homeowner who wants this kind of infill on their property will have to pay off their mortgage and get a construction loan. Not many homes around here are owned outright, but developers can afford to create this sort of dense infill. The ability for developers to pay cash in excess of asking price will inflate the cost of single family homes when they come up for sale.
I wonder if the author had a backyard to play in when they were growing up. Apparently they don’t want to provide one for their future children, since single family zoning is “outdated.”
Thumbs up, Thank You…infill has its problems as you explain…
Infill- the conversion over time of more SFR rural style, type neighborhoods that increases population density, creates a political environment for higher demands of social services, and the next thing ya know, the area is suburbish heading toward DOWNTOWN city-like… creeping over time.