Guardino forum emphasizes denser housing, less local control

Silicon Valley Leadership Group chief Carl Guardino stands to the left side of a panel. Seated from left are moderator, Silicon Valley Business Journal Editor-in-Chief J. Jennings Moss, and panelists, Sand Hill Property Co. Chief Housing Offi cer Candice Gonzalez, Palo Alto Housing CEO Randy Tsuda, Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and Facebook Global Mobility Manager Menka Sethi. Post photo by Allison Levitsky.

Daily Post Staff Writer

With state Sen. Scott Wiener front and center, tech lobbyist Carl Guardino’s event on the Bay Area housing crisis yesterday (Jan. 25) championed dense housing near transit — leading Palo Alto Councilwoman Lydia Kou to scoff that it was “propaganda.”

On a comment card that she didn’t get a chance to pass up to the panelists, Kou wrote that the speakers had “not at all addressed the root cause of the problem, which is job growth, completely unfettered, and you are penalizing and shifting blame and burden on the taxpayers.”

The Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s Housing Solutions Forum, hosted at LinkedIn in Mountain View and sponsored by Facebook and the Committee to House the Bay Area, or CASA, featured panels on transit-oriented development, local and legislative solutions and the week-old CASA compact.

The CASA compact, approved by the Association of Bay Area Governments on Jan. 18, is a plan to start a regional agency to build housing and lobby state legislators to help with the Bay Area’s housing crisis.

The panels were moderated by San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Page Editor John Diaz, Mercury News Editorial Writer Ed Clendaniel and Silicon Valley Business Journal Editor-in-Chief J. Jennings Moss.

The event was organized by Guardino, head of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a lobbying organization for the area’s big tech companies.

Bills seek housing near transit stops

For the last year, Wiener has been pushing state bills that would require California cities to allow apartment buildings near transit stops.

His current effort, Senate Bill 50, was released last month and has raised the hackles of some mid-Peninsula leaders who want to avoid state enforcement of laws allowing tall buildings, dense housing and low parking requirements.

Wiener said yesterday that California has a deficit of 3.5 million homes, equal to the deficit of the other 49 states combined.

In 70% of San Francisco, it’s illegal to build anything but a single-family home. Rather than continuing to add suburban sprawl, the state must add those homes near jobs and public transportation, Wiener said.

“Everyone has anxiety about the cost of housing, but then when you actually propose something that can move a dial, a lot of people come up with a whole diversity of objections,” Wiener said. “You’re never going to convince everyone, but building the broadest coalition possible is important.”

Since Wiener’s previous failed attempt, Senate Bill 827, he’s garnered support from unions and some progressives, he said. Some local elected officials have told him privately that they support the bill, but don’t feel they can do so publicly.

“Local control, far more often than not, is the better path. But not always,” Wiener said. “It’s not an elimination of local control, but a better balance where the state sets clear and enforceable standards to get us where we need to go.”

Another Wiener housing development bill, Senate Bill 35, was signed into law in 2017 and requires cities to build more housing or risk losing control of permitting processes.

Candice Gonzalez, the chief housing officer of Sand Hill Property Co. and former head of the nonprofit Palo Alto Housing Corp., said that given the severity of the housing crisis, she’s “all for the state taking away local control.”

“I can actually say that we don’t always need the money. We have the money, we have the land, but we don’t have the zoning or the determination,” Gonzalez said. “SB 35 allows us to go big or go home.”

‘One size fits all” approach

Palo Alto Councilwoman Alison Cormack wasn’t critical of the one-sided nature of the panels at the event, but said she has concerns about SB 50’s “one size fits all” approach.

But several other mid-Peninsula leaders in attendance complained that the panels were one-sided.

“The problem with the local control seizure, it won’t do anything to affect housing prices, but it will tick off voters big time in Sacramento,” Palo Alto Mayor Eric Filseth told the Post. “Which is not helpful, especially at a time they’re going to be going out to the public asking for revenue increases and stuff like that.”

Los Altos Mayor Lynette Lee Eng said that despite the push for apartments, condos and townhouses, the “American dream” is still to live in a single-family home. And she wants to see companies incentivized to build new job centers by expanding outside the Bay Area.

“A lot of people love to live around university towns, right? You have, like, UC-Merced that has a lot of space,” Lee Eng told the Post. “That could be a wonderful university town, but you’ve got to incentivize these companies to go over there, right? And we haven’t done that.”

Related articles on this topic

• Jan. 25, 2019 — Businesses, philanthropists to raise $500 million for housing

• Jan. 2o, 2019 — ABAG approves new regional housing agency

• Jan. 15, 2019 — Opinion: Why a ‘closed door’ meeting on housing policy?

• Jan. 11, 2019 — New regional agency wants more taxes for housing

• Dec. 20, 2018 — Regional housing agency formed, tax increases eyed

• Dec. 5, 2018 — Wiener bill may force cities like Palo Alto to build more housing

• Nov. 28, 2018 — Local officials meet at posh resort to discuss housing crisis

• Oct. 6, 2018 — Regional housing tax in the works — 9-county agency looks to raise $1.5 billion a year

• June 9, 2018 — 46% planning to leave Bay Area — residents fed up with housing shortage, horrible traffic

• April 17, 2018 — Controversial housing bill SB827 dies in committee, would have bypassed city ordinances

• Feb. 21, 2018 — Councilman Fine critical of letter opposing housing bill SB827

• Feb. 12, 2018 — Housing bill SB827 could result in 85-foot tall buildings on El Camino


  1. To Guardino, local residents are just in the way. He just wants to shove more stack-and-pack housing down our throats. Our once pleasant, quiet towns are turning into Manhattan. SB50 should be voted down.

  2. The elephant in the room, mass immigration, is totally ignored once again. Are any of these Silicon Valley “leaders” even Americans? Who chose them to turn the Bay Area into a densely-packed megalopolis? Cut off the ability of Google, Facebook, Apple etc. to import tens of thousands of Indian and Chinese H1-B programmers at cut-rate salaries and deport the accompanying millions of illegal aliens from Mexico who work as janitors, gardeners and construction workers (all stealing welfare benefits and not paying taxes) and the “housing shortage” will be solved in a month. Force companies to pay living wages and to grow sustainably, not by devastating working people and their families so Zuckerberg and his ilk can buy another Tesla!

    This fake “crisis” is the result of government policy from the local to the federal level that allowed the brutalization of the American middle class for the benefit of Silicon Valley robber barrons. The Bay Area is severely overpopulated (not to mention culturally balkanized) and building more pods to shove worker ants into is not the solution. Hours-long commutes on 280 and 101 are unacceptable and obscene.

    • Nick, spoken like a pure NIMBY elitist. You got your home in Palo Alto, so you want to keep every else out, esp. those lower class who need apartments and those foreigners who wish would go away.

      you lose all credibility when you call it a “fake crisis” just because you got your gingerbread house and believe all others should get out of your town or drive 2-3 hours a day to jobs in Si Valley. and your NIMBY solution… get rid of jobs and all the economic growth they bring? Those who you falsely demagogue as “Silicon Valley robber barrons” are the angels who put Si Valley on the map w/ the strongest economy and best jobs in the country. If it wasn’t for them south bay might still be farms and orchards, and no one would want to live in your NIMBY neighborhood. Progressives are inclusive and look forward to growth and development. You and your ilk are a stain on the Bay Area. Maybe you should sell your house near the Si Valley Titans and move to a gentrified area where building affordable housing will remain illegal after SB 50 passes. Because housing near where the jobs are is a right for all, not for the rich, white NIMBY few who gamed the (zoning and funding) system to get there first and keep out the rest of us.

      • HousingIsARight, it is you who has no credibility and your comment only confirms you don’t have the capacity to reason or be part of civilized society.

        First show us where in the Constitution–Federal or State–housing is defined as a right.
        Second show us where “housing near where the jobs are is a right for all.”
        Third what is preventing you from being near where your job is. If you dislike your commute what prevents your moving closer to your job? I believe you’d find the constraints are self-imposed, self-induced…and the rest of society has no responsibility to pay for the problems you create for yourself.

        We prefer the jobs move to areas where housing is or can be available. That makes sense too so the quality of life here (or where the jobs move next to) are not destroyed, the commute is easier for all.
        Your name calling and rants and raves only confirm it is you and your ilk that is a stain on the Bay Area.

  3. The fact that this would be “propaganda”, as Ms. Kou said, is predictable. Why do our busy elected officials waste their time going to Guardino’s presentations? A better use of their time would be to convince our legislative representatives, Marc Berman and Jerry Hill, to aggressively oppose SB50.

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