Ben Boyce


Accountability on housing

Posted on September 1, 2023 by Ben Boyce

The Board of Supervisors approved a new housing plan cycle that dramatically increased the number of state-mandated housing units in the county from 515 in the prior eight-year planning cycle to 3824 in this cycle.

This is a great victory for housing advocates. Credit to Governor Newsom for his courage in taking on one of the most intractable issues in California politics. 

Rather than duck away from this politically fraught subject, the Governor used his political capital to take on the toolkit of obstruction that CEQA has degraded into. Now we can move forward confidently, knowing that our progress as a state will not be impeded by an excessive number of local veto points.

The fact that the only city who accepted funding for meeting the RHNA numbers was Cloverdale might explain why the Sonoma Developmental Center developers may have bet that the county is under stress to meet almost all the required units in county areas. 

The nine identified development zones, including the Eldridge property, will be under the pressure of the state mandate to fully utilize the development zones.

Reportedly, the Board’s vote came well after a Jan. 31 deadline. “We really don’t have a lot of discretion in our discussion today,” said Supervisor Susan Gorin. “We have to meet our RHNA numbers and move this along to the state.’” (RHNA stands for the Regional Housing Need Allocation, or assigned housing units, given to local jurisdictions.)

State law requires cities and counties to update their housing elements every eight years. The plans have become a key pressure point for the Newsom’s administration as it seeks to hold local jurisdictions more accountable for housing production.

This cycle, the Association of Bay Area Governments allotted nearly 4,000 housing units for Sonoma County to place outside of cities, more than seven times the previous cycle. This is a mandate for building workforce housing.

The Office of Gov. Newsom released a celebratory statement. “One year ago, Governor Gavin Newsom launched the Housing Accountability Unit at the California Department of Housing and Community Development with the goal of increasing stringent enforcement and oversight at the local level to create more housing faster in California. In just one year, it has moved with a fierce intensity to break the status quo and remove bureaucratic roadblocks.”

In addition to meeting state housing targets, the Governor’s Office made an investment of $13.6 billion over the past two years for remediating homelessness.

Under Governor Newsom, for the first time I can remember in this state, local governments are actually being held accountable to meet their housing targets. Use your power or lose it? Gavin is using it.

The primary challenge to progressive politics in the US is restoring popular confidence in the ability of democratic governance to make a material difference in the lives of its citizens. 

The Newsom Administration’s laser focus on getting results is paying off. I can see the progress in my own neighborhood, where a three story apartment block for low-income seniors is ready to open. Maxwell Park just installed a beautiful tournament-class baseball field. 

These are signs of a functional state. That’s our tax dollars at work. Seeing public works projects come to fruition makes me happy.


Sonoma Sun | Sonoma, CA