The CA Supreme Court just screwed up

Am a little late to the party on the California Supreme Court’s recent decision to allow so-called inclusionary zoning, but think it’s important to comment on what I regard as a total travesty.

First, some background: Five years ago, the City of San Jose passed a law requiring that 15% of units in new buildings of 20 units or more be designated as affordable. A developers’ industry group sued, arguing it is unreasonable to require developers to bear the burden of providing affordable housing, which is a societal responsibility.

The CA Supreme Court sided with the city, arguing that forcing developers to include affordable units is a reasonable use of the city’s power to regulate land-use.


Let’s first understand the stakes here. The San Jose law will raise the rents and or sale prices required from the market-rate units to make projects pay-off, implying some combination of fewer new projects constructed, higher rents in the ones that are, and decreased land values. So, there is real harm being done.

But maybe this harm is counter-balanced by a strong governmental interest in easing the housing affordability crisis. Here’s where things get really crazy, because the housing crisis is not some random calamity befalling San Jose (and, indeed, most CA cities)… it’s the direct result of zoning regulations, which prejudice the desires of existing single-family home owners over the needs of other residents.

Hey San Jose: You want a bunch of affordable apartments? Up-zone (part of) the god-damn city. You’ll increase the value of the affected parcels, dramatically increase housing supply and decrease cost, while creating a bunch of construction jobs and new tax revenue.