Los Altos Mayor Mary Prochnow and Community Development Director Jon Biggs underscored the effects of the affordable housing shortage crisis on the community at the September meeting of the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors Los Altos-Mountain View District.
Although both Prochnow and Biggs touched on a number of issues, the shortage of affordable homes was the focus of their presentation.
Prochnow said because cities and municipalities have not been supplying enough housing, the state is now taking a hand in approving housing, removing responsibility from local government.
The California State Legislature recently passed a package of six housing-related bills. Senate Bill 35 seeks to streamline the approval process for new housing by eliminating environmental and planning reviews for some projects. Another bill, Senate Bill 167, would prohibit local officials from opposing housing projects that fit within zoning and other land-use designations.
The lack of affordable housing has definitely impacted Los Altos, according to Prochnow. She said the city used to have ethnic conformity and economic diversity; now, that has switched to ethnic diversity and economic conformity. Service/retail employees cannot afford to live nearby, she said, and many restaurants cannot afford to open for lunch and dinner because it is too difficult to find labor for split shifts. In addition, minimum-wage employees have to drive longer distances to get to work.
Even those employed in other sectors, including government, are impacted by the housing affordability crisis. Prochnow said the city lost a very good employee this year due to housing costs. Biggs himself noted that he commutes to Los Altos from Hollister weekdays.
Prochnow said the city is going to have to find some very creative ways to deal with the problem. A realtor for 45 years, she has resided in Los Altos for more than three decades. She was elected to the Los Altos City Council in 2014.