Terner Center Blog: No Limits

Announcing New Resources for Understanding Land Use in California

Posted on by Terner Center

Local land use--the accumulated set of decisions and policies about whether, how, and what we build--is a current that runs throughout much of our work here at the Terner Center. Land use policy not only shapes the supply of housing in a region, but is also deeply intertwined with sustainability, economic mobility, and access to neighborhoods and opportunity.

With the support of the Department of Housing and Community Development, in 2017 the Terner Center launched a survey of planners across the state to learn more about local land use policy contexts in California.

Today we are delighted to release the Terner Center California Land Use Data Set, the most up-to-date jurisdiction-level resource on policies that affect the production, location, and preservation of housing in the state.

The data set includes survey responses from 252 cities and 19 unincorporated county areas, and touches on issues from how land is zoned for different uses to the process a project goes through to get approved to policies aimed at producing affordable housing. It will help citizens and policy makers alike understand how cities in California are approaching the use of their land, and with what effect on the quantity, accessibility, and affordability of their housing.

We are also releasing a complementary descriptive report which catalogs and visualizes some of the most significant results of the survey. For example, the graphic below depicts a striking insight into zoning practices in California.  

That, on average, there is more land designated for single family housing than for multi-family housing and non-residential purposes combined points to important opportunities for intervention that would go a long way to addressing the state’s severe shortage of housing.

Beyond specific figures and facts, the survey results and report also offer those outside the planning profession a view into the perspectives of those structuring and implementing land use decisions at the local level. For instance, planners were asked to identify the key drivers impeding the development of new housing in the state. The results, depicted here, speak volumes to the perceived barriers to new residential development. While planners point to land supply and parcel configuration as the biggest challenges to getting new homes online, we know other stakeholders point to issues such as construction costs and the regulatory environment as key impediments to expanding supply.

Producing and sharing this data set is an important first step in designing and deploying more effective land use policy decisions in the state. But we know data are most useful when analyzed with specific research and policy questions in mind, and when looked at in connection with other data and insights. For that reason, we’re also pleased to announce the launch of the California Land Use Working Paper Series, made possible with the support and partnership of the California Association of Realtors’ Center for California Real Estate. Papers in this series will be authored by leading planning, housing, and economic researchers from across the country, and will explore how land use can influence everything from environmental outcomes to regional productivity to patterns of residential segregation. We expect the first paper to be released in early January 2019. Sign up to stay notified of releases here.

Are you a land use planner inside or outside California, a policymaker looking to develop better solutions for your jurisdiction, an advocate looking for new data to support your work, or a citizen seeking to better understand the housing context in your community? Let us know! We’d love to hear how you make use of these data and how the Terner Center can maximize their usefulness in the field.


InnovateHousing: New Ideas on the Future of Home

Posted on by Terner Center

In the face of a national housing crisis, where an unprecedented number of families are struggling to afford a home, can technology and the tech sector offer solutions? This was a key question animating InnovateHousing: New Ideas on the Future of Home, co-hosted by the Terner Center and Fannie Mae on Thursday, November 8th. The conference was invitation-only, but also accessible via a livestream. It brought together over four hundred people in-person and virtually, with a huge diversity of stakeholders and sectors represented on the panels and in the audience, including policymakers, entrepreneurs, lenders, developers, academics, and advocates. In opening…


Disparity In Departure: Los Angeles Region Supplement

Posted on by Elizabeth Kneebone and Issi Romem

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Are Tiny Houses Useful and Feasible for Addressing the Homelessness Crisis?

Posted on by Rebecca Coleman

As part of our commitment to the education and professional development of UC Berkeley students, the Terner Center highlights exceptional student work that connects to our mission and research agenda. The analyses and policy proposals put forth in these projects may not be reflective of the official position of the Terner Center. This piece is the fourth in a series to be released this summer by recent graduates of the City and Regional Planning and Public Policy graduate programs at UC Berkeley. The full report is available here. Tiny houses are on many people’s minds as a possible solution to address our homelessness…


School District Employee Housing in California

Posted on by Sean Doocy

As part of our commitment to the education and professional development of UC Berkeley students, the Terner Center highlights exceptional student work that connects to our mission and research agenda. The analyses and policy proposals put forth in these projects may not be reflective of the official position of the Terner Center. This piece is the third in a series to be released this summer by recent graduates of the City and Regional Planning and Public Policy graduate programs at UC Berkeley. The full report is available here. Housing costs in California have risen dramatically in recent years, particularly in employment-rich coastal urban…


Mapping Oakland’s Vacant Parcels

Posted on by Hayley Raetz

As part of our commitment to the education and professional development of UC Berkeley students, the Terner Center highlights exceptional student work that connects to our mission and research agenda. The analyses and policy proposals put forth in these projects may not be reflective of the official position of the Terner Center. This piece is the second in a series to be released this summer by recent graduates of the City and Regional Planning and Public Policy graduate programs at UC Berkeley. The full report is available here. Vacant Parcels in Oakland Despite Oakland's high demand for housing, vacant parcels remain abundant…


Measuring the Housing Permitting Process in San Francisco

Posted on by Brian Goggin

As part of our commitment to the education and professional development of UC Berkeley students, the Terner Center highlights exceptional student work that connects to our mission and research agenda. The analyses and policy proposals put forth in these projects may not be reflective of the official position of the Terner Center. This piece is the first in a series to be released this summer by recent graduates of the City and Regional Planning and Public Policy graduate programs at UC Berkeley. How long does it take to get a building permit in the Bay Area? Ask 10 developers, you will likely get…


Aligning Sustainable and Affordable Development in California

Posted on by Sarah Mawhorter and Carol Galante

California has long been considered a leader in combating climate change, but the state’s housing crisis—with inadequate supply in urban cores and a legacy of sprawling suburban development—threatens its ability to achieve its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals The Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act (Senate Bill 375) aligns land use and transportation planning in order to drive development in transit-accessible places and reduce car dependency and vehicle emissions. SB 375 resulted directly from the goals laid out in the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Assembly Bill 32) and was signed into law in 2008. SB 375 requires California…


Highlights from the James R. Boyce Affordable Housing Competition Studio Symposium

Posted on by Carol Galante

As the number of individuals and families experiencing homelessness remains at troubling heights, particularly in high-cost regions, planners, architects, and developers are working to confront the crisis with innovative design, financing, and construction methods. Through the James R. Boyce Affordable Housing Studio course—generously funded by a gift from CED alumni James R. Boyce (M. Arch. ‘67) and co-taught by David Baker and Daniel Simons of David Baker Architects—Carol Galante, Faculty Director of the Terner Center and the I. Donald Terner Distinguished Professor of Affordable Housing and Urban Policy in the College of Environmental Design, connects students from a variety of…


Why We Need a New Conversation on Rent Control in California, Today.

Posted on by Carol Galante

Leaders seeking to address California’s housing crisis are facing an important challenge: how to take meaningful and significant policy action to “stop the bleeding” of rising costs, eviction and displacement without generating new challenges that will only prolong the state’s deep affordability challenges. Today’s debate over rent control, and particularly, the movement to repeal Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act (which places statewide limits on how jurisdictions implement rent control), has pushed this challenge to the fore. One side of the debate is working to qualify a measure on the November ballot that would fully repeal Costa-Hawkins, enabling localities to expand rent…