November 2023 Meeting Report

By Nancie Silver

The Palos Verdes Democrats met virtually on Sunday, November 12. PV Dems 2nd Vice President Ann Nye began the meeting with the day’s agenda and announcements, followed by PV Dems President Connie Sullivan sharing thoughts about her father and his military service, in recognition of Veteran’s Day. PV Dems Parliamentarian Carol Moeller highlighted Activism wins and upcoming opportunities.

Ann introduced Emma Chen, Vice President of Finance for CA College Democrats (CCD), who gave an overview of the organization and its current actions. They are very focused on getting college students involved in the political process. For more information, visit their website at  The Palos Verdes Democrats Board voted to donate $250 to the CA College Democrats.

Next, Ann introduced the featured speaker, UCLA Professor of Law Jonathan Zasloff, who spoke about the Los Angeles housing crisis and how a Palos Verdes city can create its own required housing solutions while still retaining its character. 

Professor Zasloff discussed the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) requirement that cities must update the Housing Element section of their General Plan every eight years.  In order to better understand this process, I thought it would be helpful to add some excerpts from the HCD website ( If you want to look up your city, you can do that on the HCD website.  It appears that RPV and PVE are out of compliance, and RHE and RH are in compliance. I bolded some of the text below for emphasis.

Since 1969, California has required that all local governments (cities and counties) adequately plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community. California’s local governments meet this requirement by adopting housing plans as part of their “general plan” (also required by the state). General plans serve as the local government’s “blueprint” for how the city and/or county will grow and develop and include eight elements: land use, transportation, conservation, noise, open space, safety, environmental justice, and housing.”

“California’s Housing Element Law acknowledges that, in order for the private market to adequately address the housing needs and demand of Californians, local governments must adopt plans and regulatory systems that provide opportunities for (and do not unduly constrain) housing development. As a result, housing policy in California rests largely on the effective implementation of local general plans and, in particular, local housing elements.

“In order to create a housing plan (aka housing element) showing it could meet the local housing needs, a jurisdiction must first know how much housing it must plan for (and estimate how much will be needed at a variety of affordability levels in order to match the needs of the people who will live there). This is determined by a process called the regional housing needs assessment (RHNA).”

“The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) plays the critical role of reviewing every local government’s housing element to determine whether it complies with state law and then submits written findings back to each local government. HCD’s approval is required before a local government can adopt its housing element as part of its overall General Plan.”

Professor Zasloff began his talk with information about how almost 60% of the renters in the City of Los Angeles are rent burdened, meaning that they are spending more than 30% of their paycheck on housing.

The City of Los Angeles (LA) is very large, so it has a RHNA number of 456,643 housing units. LA already has an anticipated unit potential of 230,947 units (72,640 are lower income), so they will only need to rezone for an additional 255,432 units in eight years (about 201,000 are low- or moderate-income units).

In comparison, the much smaller city of Rancho Palos Verdes (RPV) has a RHNA of only 639 units during eight years. The RHNA number of 639 breaks down as follows: very low income – 253, low income – 139, moderate income – 125, above moderate income – 122.

RPV submitted its Housing Element to the HCD but was notified that it needed to address various concerns with the original document, so it is currently out of compliance with the law. This creates a problem because RPV could be sued by the Attorney General, with penalties, and could also be subject to what’s called the Builder’s Remedy. The 1990 California Housing Accountability Act (HAA) allows this option for developers to essentially build whatever they want in cities that don’t have state-compliant housing plans, if 20% of the units are affordable for lower income, or 100% are affordable for middle income households. Obviously, no one wants housing to be built this way.

Professor Zasloff said that for many decades cities have not taken housing needs seriously, because there was no pressure to do so.  However, as California continues to face a housing and homelessness crisis, the state has stepped in to enforce the laws related to housing because the cities and counties are not addressing the need for additional housing, and low-income housing, with their housing elements.

He discussed some options for addressing affordable housing in RPV where there is a shortage of available land. RPV could allow ADUs (but the city still has a restrictive ordinance), duplexes, housing over city-owned or privately-owned parking lots, use inclusionary requirements/incentives, and consider some housing on the UCLA South Bay campus. Professor Zasloff shared some pictures of modern-looking duplex units and housing over parking lots to allow attendees to see that this type of housing could fit into a residential neighborhood without ruining its character. Modern buildings no longer look like “the projects”.

Finally, he argued that homelessness is a housing problem. When the vacancy rate is low, the homelessness is high. As the average median rents increase, homelessness increases. It’s not as closely correlated with mental illness, illicit drug use, poverty, or the weather as some people think. It’s the combination of a vigorous economy and a refusal to build that causes this dual crisis. 

Here are some of the questions posed to Professor Zasloff during the Q & A:

  • How does the additional housing affect home values?  
  • Will higher density and affordable housing bring more crime? 
  • What about using existing commercial space for housing?  
  • What about having the government build housing?
  • Can you address the issue of speculative housing?
  • What about home sharing for seniors?
  • How is climate change affecting housing?
  • How has Proposition 13 affected housing in California?

A few members of the South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG) were in attendance, and they shared some thoughts on housing as well. Ronson Chu, with SBCCOG Housing, said that there are real people living in the city that need more affordable housing; for example, seniors on a fixed income who cannot afford their rent.  It’s important for City officials to be aware of the people in their city that are struggling. Ronson encouraged constituents to contact their city officials to express their needs and concerns about housing.  Lauri Jacobs, with SBCCOG Homeless Services, commented that home sharing is a win-win opportunity to help seniors stay in their homes, although it doesn’t improve the RHNA numbers. She said we also need to add regulations to limit Airbnb’s. 

Watch the video to hear Professor Zasloff’s responses to these questions, and to gain a better understanding of the complexities of the housing crisis in California. 

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.