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Saturday, September 8, 2018

Ree-diculous Ree-na - Part I


Ridiculous RHNA ("Ree-na")

Part I

All Kinds of Homes

:  The Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA: pronounced Ree-NA) has been misused by interpreting it as a requirement for cities and counties to build housing regardless of whether or not there is a need for new housing, or hos much of each category.  This "requirement" has been used as a way to remove local control from cities and counties statewide and more importantly, to remove reasonable considerations and requirements for new construction such as parking, traffic, and environmental impacts.

We find 15 counties and several cities which have actually lost population yet are subject to intrusive state regulation (or deregulation) because they did not meet RHNA allocations.  For example, Lassen County declined in population (2010 to 2018) by nearly 4,000 yet is subject to SB-35 "Streamlining Provisions" because it did not meet their RHNA allocations.

Part II is here:

Details:  California has something called the "Regional Housing Needs Allocation", usually pronounced "ree-na".  It is intended to indicate how many housing units for different income levels a city or county needs to zone for.  See screen shot below (click to enlarge):

Housing and Community Development (HCD) web page for RHNA

RHNA numbers are being misinterpreted in order to justify California laws overriding local control of development.  Proposed laws like Senator Scott Wiener's SB-827 would have allowed high rise apartment buildings in the middle of single family neighborhoods.  Under existing law (SB-35) and proposed laws (SB-827, SB-828), builders would not need to consider residents' legitimate concerns about traffic, schools, parking or much else.  No public hearings, no parking requirements no environmental impact requirements.  All this because of gross misinterpretations of what RHNA numbers really mean.

In this part we look at RHNA numbers as applied to various cities and counties and see that if understood to mean "goals" they make no sense.  In Part II we will look at what RHNA numbers actually mean.

Cities that "don't make their RHNA numbers" are subject to SB-35 which is State Senator Scott Wiener's law to "streamline" approval of building companies' housing construction plans.

Terrible, No Good, Very Bad, Just Awful Places That
"Didn't Make their RHNA numbers!"
What is wrong with these places, don't they know there's a "housing crisis"?

A list of over 500 cities and counties that "didn't make their RHNA numbers" is available from the State Housing and Community Development Agency (HCD).  Cities and counties on the list are subject to Senator Scott Wiener's SB-35.  The list looks like this:

There's Biggs at #31 in Scott Wiener's Hall of Infamy!
The full document is available here:

Let's look at one of those cities that didn't "meet their RHNA numbers."

Biggs, CA - Butte County:  Population 1,707 (2010) down by 90 from 1,797 in year 2000.  Biggs "didn't make their RHNA numbers" so is subject to Scott Wiener's SB-35, over-riding local controls on housing construction.  

Biggs, CA (Butte County) in it's entirety.
Biggs "didn't make their RHNA numbers"

Busy Biggs.  Build, Biggs! Build!
We need a Bigger Biggs!  A Biggsier Biggs!  

High Density Transit-Oriented-Development goes here!
Get with the program Biggs!  Senator Wiener is coming after you!

A three hour commute for Biggsians!
This is why we need High Speed Rail!

Is there a shortage of affordable housing in Biggs?  Depends what you mean by affordable.  Here's a nice house for $150K.

Biggs Version of Housing Crisis
3 BR house for $717/month

We'll see in the next census if they have reversed their population decline.  In any event, "housing crisis" hardly describes Biggs' situation.

City of Amador - Amador County: Population 186 (2010) - down from 190 in 2000 - "didn't make their RHNA numbers" and is on Scott Wiener's "list of infamy" that we saw earlier.

The picture below of Amador is from the "Encyclopedia of Forlorn Places" which notes that "The town mostly burned down in 1878 but some buildings survived that fire. It's a great town to walk around in."  No one built housing recently - maybe they are afraid of another fire like the one in 1878.  Sure, it's been 140 years, but you never know, right?  "Once burned, twice shy."

Amador: "Forlorn" but not forgotten!
Here is a screen shot of the Amador County housing spreadsheet with Amador City at the very top  (click to enlarge):
You can find this spreadsheet and many others at:

It shows that the town of Amador's RHNA numbers were for 2 housing units.  One for "Very-Low" and one for "Low".  No one built those two units so Amador "didn't make their RHNA numbers."  And for that, Amador City is on the list of jurisdictions subject to SB-35.  Too bad! 😢

Housing Crisis Extends All the Way to Here!

Alpine County: Population 1,154 (2018) down from 1,175 (2010).  Area = 738 sq. miles.  

Alpine County was formed in 1864 and peaked in population that year at 11,000.  A year later it was down to 1,200, 10% greater than now. Population declined by 21 in the 9 years from January, 2010 to January, 2018.  The US federal government owns 94% of the land in the county.

There are ski resorts and lots of up-scale vacation homes - probably vacant most of the year.

Nonetheless, the California State HCD lists them among jurisdictions (cities and counties) that "..have insufficient progress toward their Above Moderate income RHNA ...subject to SB 35."  Their "RHNA numbers" are seen in the spreadsheet screen shot below (click to enlarge):

Alpine County RHNA Numbers

Because no one built 11 housing units for Above-Moderate income people, Alpine County "didn't make their RHNA numbers".  (Maybe only 10 were built - but that wouldn't be enough.)  Therefore, should a builder want to, they can, to some degree, bypass local planning regulations.  Of course, it is highly unlikely anyone wants to build in a county where the population is declining and only about 6% of the land is not owned by the US Govt.  Doesn't matter.  Alpine County "didn't make their RHNA numbers" so local control in terms of considerations of traffic and schools is over-ridden by Scott Wiener's SB-35 and any other bill based on RHNA numbers.

"Housing Crisis" goes to the Nevada border!

Sierra County: Population 3,207 (2018) down from 3,240 (2010).  Area = 953 sq. miles.
Downieville - Sierra County Seat
Sierra County was formed in 1852 and peaked in population in 1860 at 12,000.  Population declined by 33 in the 9 years from January, 2010 to January, 2018.

Like Alpine County, Sierra County "didn't make their RHNA numbers" and is subject to SB-35 to alleviate the "housing crisis".  Let's all hope someone decides to build 11 units of "Above Moderate income housing" in Sierra County so the "Housing Crisis" will be resolved!

"Help us!  Builder-Wan, you're our only hope!"

Modoc County: Population 9,612 (2018) down 74 from 9,686 (2010).  Area = 4,203 sq. miles.

Original home of the Modoc People.  Most of the land is owned by the US Federal Govt.  The National Park Service and National Forest Service employ a large fraction of the population.  The county is on the border with Oregon and Nevada.  It reached a population of 8,000 in 1930. Population has never reached 10,000 inhabitants.

Like Alpine and Sierra Counties, Modoc County "didn't make their RHNA numbers" and is subject to Scott Wiener's SB-35 to alleviate the "housing crisis".
Modoc County "Housing Crisis"
5 BR, 2,332 Sq. Ft., Mortgage = $712 per month.

Other Counties Here is a list of 15 counties in California most of which lost population over the 9 years from 2010 to 2018.  I added Amador and Kings which gained a whopping 3 and 31 residents, respectively, in those 9 years.  All of them are on Scott Wiener's list of infamy for not resolving the state's "housing crisis".

Alpine County             (21)  Population declined by 21
Sierra County             (33)    "                  "          by 33 etc.
Calaveras County     (421)
Del Norte County   (1,389)
Kings County         (1,320)
Lassen County      (3,984)
Modoc County            (74)
Mono County            (380)
Mariposa County      (122)
Plumas County         (234)
Siskiyou County       (288)
Trinity County           (151)
Tuolumne County     (625)
Amador County            +3    Population increased by   3
Inyo County                +31    Population increased by 31

Population Decrease of 1,389 in last 8 years.
"Didn't make their RHNA numbers" so...

Scott Wiener's SB-35 applies

In the counties listed above, no one asked for as many permits as the RHNA numbers indicated had been planned for.  Probably because there is no demand for new housing in poor counties that are losing (or not gaining much) population.  As a result, those counties "didn't make their RHNA numbers" and are subject to Scott Wiener's SB-35.

There are nearly five hundred cities which "didn't make their RHNA numbers" but it serves no purpose to enumerate every one of them.  In fact, over 97% of California cities "didn't make their RHNA numbers".

It should be obvious by now that the phrase "didn't make their RHNA numbers" does not mean what you thought.  Don't use it.