California Housing Crisis Podcast: The case for cities to control what gets built

A construction worker builds a single-family home in Palo Alto in April. Several state legislative proposals have aimed to increase home-building in wealthy communities.
A construction worker at a single-family home site in Palo Alto in April. Several state legislative proposals have aimed to increase home building in wealthy communities.
(Noah Berger / For the Times)

At the center of the many debates over California’s housing problems has been a tug of war between local governments and the state over the power to control decisions about home building.

The fight reached a climax this year when cities and counties were among the strongest opponents of Senate Bill 50, a measure that would have allowed four-plexes in neighborhoods of single-family homes and mid-rise apartments near transit stops and job centers across the state.

Buoyed by resistance from lawmakers and community activists from California’s suburbs, the bill was shelved in the spring. State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), the bill’s author, has vowed to bring it back early next year and the battle will likely begin again.


On this episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast,” we hear why city officials and neighborhood groups believe local governments know what’s best about housing. Our guests are Susan Kirsch, a Marin County resident and former president of the activist organization Livable California, and Juan Garza, a Bellflower city councilman.

We also break down what housing legislation Gov. Gavin Newsom signed and vetoed.

Gimme Shelter,” a biweekly podcast that looks at why it’s so expensive to live in California and what the state can do about it, features Liam Dillon, who covers housing affordability issues for the Los Angeles Times, and Matt Levin, data and housing reporter for CALmatters.

You can subscribe to “Gimme Shelter” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Soundcloud, Google Play and Overcast.