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Gilroy
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April 12, 2021

Guest View, Robert Weaver: The jobs/housing imbalance

For years, I have been railing against the so-called jobs/housing imbalance, believing that the underlying construction of the logic that forms this seemingly simple premise is fundamentally flawed. While there are several flaws in the jobs/housing imbalance premise, this discussion will be limited to boundaries. 

The question here is how the boundary of the area to be “balanced” is determined. On the micro level, is your block well-balanced? Most likely not. On the macro level, does your neighborhood meet anything close to balance? If you live near an urban core, perhaps it may. Using the city limits boundaries have been the generally accepted norm for evaluation of jobs and housing, however city limits have now proven to be problematic, as some communities developed as mostly residential, some commercial and some agricultural. 

Now we get into the regional view, where adjacent communities are pooled in the hope of achieving balance. For example, Mountain View has the boardrooms and its neighbor Los Altos has the bed rooms. A simple Gerrymander solves the problem right? If things were only that simple. The next progression is a super regional/Bay Area-wide boundary. Since each community fiercely protects its sovereignty from outside interference, there is natural resistance to mandates, forced changes and restrictions. To get around city resistance, regional governance bodies have been established by the state and given powers to mandate changes to city planning. Positions on these regional boards, by design, are never directly on the ballot. Members of these boards and commissions generally live in the urban core areas of the Bay Area, hence that is the world that they see. 

From their urban core perspective, the regional boards, be they transportation, air quality, housing, etc., look to the areas of concern and make blanket pronouncements that affect the entire region, a one-size-fits-all approach. 

The cities in northern Santa Clara County, where all the economic activity is located, have been mandated to build more housing in the effort to achieve a jobs/housing balance there; however those same mandates also apply to Gilroy, where we have ample housing but a dearth of economic activity to balance that growth. To mandate that Gilroy build even more housing, only serves to make our imbalance even more lopsided and will greatly increase transit traffic which means more pollution. This would go against efforts by the regional air quality folks and the regional traffic congestion folks to reduce these issues. Gilroy does have a jobs/housing imbalance, though it’s the opposite from the communities up north. 

If we can get past the big government politics and the one-size-fits-all regional control thinking, it would appear that if balance is truly the goal, the blanket mandate for Gilroy to build more homes is a blind overreach and counterproductive effort. 

Government is forcing cities to build homes for “balance” but it cannot force people to work in those cities. Creating an economic opportunities magnet and stimulus where the homes are being mandated would go a long way to achieve the sought-after result. 

Gilroy is not a North County city, we do not suffer from an embarrassment of riches here, and our issues are vastly different from our northern neighbors. A regional mandate for jobs/housing balance should also include an economic stimulus for balance, as well as one for housing. With regionwide mandates, one solution does not fit all. 

“When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem begins to resemble a nail.” — Abraham Maslow 

Robert Weaver is a resident of Gilroy.

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