Unfair shake in housing reportLast April saw the grand opening of San Antonio Place, a handsome 118-unit building of "efficiency studios" designed to provide affordable housing for those most in need of it.
That's only a taste of what's to come. According to planning department estimates, Mountain View will build about 3,000 new housing units in the near future, with most of them adhering to smart-growth philosophies, such as locating the housing close to other neighborhoods, businesses and mass transit.
But don't tell that to the Bay Area Council, a business-friendly group which last week released a report claiming that Mountain View deserved an "F" for its work in providing housing.
The report has some Mountain View officials hopping mad, and for good reason. They don't need to be told that their painstaking efforts to increase housing — in what is already one of the densest cities in the Bay Area — are worthy of nothing more than a slap on the wrist.
Of course, the Bay Area Council merely churned out its grades based on "projected need" goals as determined by ABAG, the Association of Bay Area Governments. By ABAG's reckoning, Mountain View had a "fair share" allocation of 3,423 units, meaning that between 1999 and 2006, the city must approve that many units or fall short of its goals. The city only approved about a third of this "fair share" allocation, hence the failing grade of 34 percent.
By contrast, the sleepy community of Los Altos, consisting primarily of single-family homes on large lots, was given a "fair share" allocation of 261. It nearly doubled that modest goal, and scored an "A+" in the bargain. Los Altos Hills, an even more sprawling community of large homes and estates amid rolling hills, was asked by ABAG to build just 83 units. It nearly tripled that goal (another "A+").
This raises the question: Why are the wealthier communities asked to build a handful of units, while their denser, more urban neighbors — which already provide the bulk of affordable housing in the area, even as they wrangle with open-space and quality-of-life concerns — are asked to build multiple times that goal? ABAG's Web site attempts to explain how it arrived at those goals, but the calculations are strange to the point of obtuse.
Unintentionally, the report has underscored the disparity (for anybody who missed it) between cities on the Peninsula, some of which function — worse, are expected to function — as upscale bedroom communities for the others.
But that hardly makes up for the report's shortcomings. Trying to assign grades to housing efforts is a simplistic exercise. And when based on such a narrow range of data, with such ill-conceived criteria, it's just plain dumb.
The Bay Area Council's grading system is a poor excuse for a reality check, and should either be made meaningful or abandoned.