Friday, April 7, 2023

Green Checkmate.

Today Fred Allebach, a member of the Sonoma Valley Collaborative and a friend, shared his thoughts on affordable housing and the challenges faced in Sonoma Valley and beyond with me via email. He provides a historical context of the 2020 Sonoma Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) issue, and how it continues to impact affordable housing projects. Allebach identifies the "Green Checkmate," a dynamic that hinders progress in the development of affordable housing by preserving low-density zoning and maintaining property value advantages for existing homeowners.

Fred also discusses the tension between environmental justice and social justice, pointing out that environmentalists (and those aligned with) tend to use green arguments to justify preserving a low-density, high-property-value status quo. He explains how affordable housing development is caught in a series of impossible arguments, resulting in the de facto segregated status quo.

Allebach advocates for a more inclusive approach to housing development that balances sustainability and social equity. He suggests supporting lower-income housing projects in unincorporated urban service areas and strategic affordable housing projects in non-urban service areas, especially where there are substantial job opportunities nearby. He also recommends considering the establishment of a City of Sonoma Valley to better address the collective housing needs of the region's population.

I have long appreciated Fred's work and his keen attention to and expertise regarding housing. Over time, Fred, and a group of like-minded, pragmatic reformers, with their continued focus on this difficult problem, are building the necessary muscles in the community to allow change to occur in the face of what can only be described as obstructive hostility. Fred's work shows how, rather than inspiration or enlightenment, it is grit that is the essential element in pursuit of justice.