California NIMBY Cities must pursue Enclave Status or embrace the inevitable YIMBY Future
Regional Housing Needs Allocations are California state mandates that require cities to fulfill a quota for new and affordable housing. These RHNA mandates were “ mostly voluntary” until a couple of years ago but due to a massive shortage in new housing to meet these demands, these mandates have become practically mandatory.
Throughout California many cities are appealing these mandates and the list of Bay Area cities opposing these RHNA mandates includes Alameda, Belvedere, Clayton, Dublin, Lafayette, Larkspur, Los Altos, Mill Valley, Monte Sereno, Palo Alto, Pleasant Hill, Pleasanton, San Ramon, Saratoga, Sausalito, Corte Madera, Danville, Fairfax, Los Altos Hills, Ross, San Anselmo, Tiburon, and Windsor.” Of these opposing RHNA mandates all are affluent accept the more middle income Dublin and all are very White accept Dublin, Saratoga, San Ramon, and Pleasanton which have substantial Asian populations.
There is clearly a shift in the Bay Area towards being inclusive of new housing but of the 10 most segregated Bay Area cities, six opposed RHNA—all of them majority-white, affluent cities in Marin county: Ross, Belvedere, Sausalito, San Anselmo, Fairfax, and Mill Valley. Some of the most segregated cities in the bay area, however—Woodside, Portola Valley, Cupertino, and East Palo Alto—did not appeal the RHNA mandates. Of these cities Cupertino is heavily Asian, East Palo Alto is lower income and heavily Latino, and the big surprise was that the very wealthy white Portola Valley and Woodside accepted the RHNA mandates, all-be-them very low mandates in contrast with job rich neighboring Palo Alto which opposed RHNA. Another surprise was Los Gatos, a wealthy Silicon Valley town that is doubling its housing supply, “almost twice as many units as it needs by 2040.”
Despite the exceptions, there is definitely a trend of White and affluent cities rejecting these mandates with practically all of Marin and Central Contra Costa County rejecting RHNA. This also solidifies my observations in my article California’s Future of Pan-Enclavism that Marin and Central Contra Contra County function as the de facto European American enclaves for the Bay Area. I have a degree of sympathy for NIMBY communities if their concerns are family oriented in nature, rather than a mere desire for solitude among geriatric communities, many of them “limousine liberal” in orientation. My impression is that the former concerns are more operative within Contra Costa County, whereas the latter is more operative in Marin County, and the sections of San Mateo County that rejected RHNA
It is correct that allowing new housing construction increases diversity, while limiting new housing preserves the existing demographics by keeping out new residents. The LA Times has a diversity index for Los Angeles neighborhoods and the Bay Area’s segregation map, show this trend as well.
Right-wingers online will often joke about forcing section 8 housing on wealthy liberal communities but the issue isn’t so much the “limousine liberal” hypocrisy of keeping their own communities exclusive while imposing change on others, but rather that the current population/housing arrangement is unsustainable. Due to housing scarcity, inequality and costs will get so bad, that if communities don’t take action on a local level they will be forced by a centralized state to become inclusive. NIMBYs will lose influence as they are dependent upon the activism of aging generations, and the leftward political trends in California have seen YIMBYism fuse with the ascendent woke ideology.
There is a degree that this limousine liberal hypocrisy has contributed to California’s inequality but as housing mandates are becoming stricter, these communities will be forced to choose. Pan-Enclavism is the growing trend among many minority and immigrant communities and these well-off White communities will have to decide if they want to pursue enclavism for themselves and as a birthright for their descendants—with local based urbanist solutions geared towards that model—or open their communities to all regardless of economic, social, or ethnic background. As the many YIMBY twitter handles say: “this area for all”, a universalist mentality of ending exclusivity in housing. The model represented by those who espouse housing exclusivity on economic grounds while virtue-signaling as being inclusive on all other social matters—as embodied by the iconic “we believe” signs one see’s in well-off single family home areas across California—is not consistent or sustainable in the long run. There is no middle ground: change is inevitable one way or another.