Assembly candidates question state’s approach to housing

Daily Post Staff Writer

Candidates running against Assemblyman Marc Berman are challenging his and the state’s approach to housing, which is focused on mandating cities to plan for and permit a certain number of units each year.

Gus Mattammal, a Republican from El Granada, said he would create a “housing opportunity area” in the middle of California.

The area would have no zoning rules so that people can become homeowners at a lower price, Mattammal said at a candidate forum on Feb. 7.

Mattammal, 51, said he wants to spread jobs around so that everyone with a computer science degree doesn’t feel like they have to live in Mountain View or San Francisco.

“That takes some of the demand pressure off the supply that we have,” Mattammal said. “You can’t actually build your way out of the demand — I moved from the upper east side of Manhattan.”

Candidate Allan Marson, a Republican from Palo Alto, said he lives on El Camino Real and sees a lot of traffic, so he doesn’t support building along transportation corridors.

Instead, Marson wants to see new single-family homes in open space around the perimeter of the Bay Area.

Marson, 71, said he’s lived in populated areas including Beijing and Taipei, and everyone there strives to have a car and a place of their own.

“Isn’t that the American dream?” he asked. “When immigrants come here, isn’t that what they want?”

Palo Alto Councilwoman Lydia Kou, 57, said the state has an affordability crisis, not a housing crisis.

Housing mandates only benefit developers and won’t bring prices down, she said. The numbers are “hugely inflated” because residents are moving out of California, she said.
Kou, who is a realtor, said the state should give funding to cities for “truly affordable” housing that is deed-restricted for people with low incomes.

The state Legislature requires every city and county to turn in a housing plan every eight years, called a Housing Element.

The 2023-2031 Housing Element came with higher unit counts and stricter penalties than ever before, leaving cities scrambling to find suitable locations and meet the deadline.

For example, Palo Alto was required to plan for 6,086 new units, spread across income levels.

The Housing Element was due on Jan. 31, 2023, but the state still hasn’t approved Palo Alto’s plan.

Berman said the system the state has created allows for housing to get built faster and cheaper.

A housing crisis exists because “nearly every community” has failed to build enough housing over the last 40 years, he said.

“If you build more supply, then demand will go down, and prices will moderate or go down. We’ve seen this in other cities across the country,” Berman said.

Last week’s forum by the League of Women Voters is the only event scheduled where the four candidates will appear together. The primary election ends on March 5, and the top two vote-getters will move on to the November general election.

Berman has a large fundraising lead in the race.

His campaign has raised $723,616 as of Jan. 20, campaign finance forms show.

Kou has raised $115,534, Mattammal has raised $35,418 and Marson has donated himself $1,605, campaign finance forms show.

1 Comment

  1. Anyone running for a seat on a council, commission, state assembly, congress, senate, president with ties to the run amuck real estate industry is a major conflict of interest. Their job is to keep sales high on properties to make profits. This is the crisis, Ms. Kou.

Comments are closed.