The Perfect Storm: Advocacy and Education
By Craig Foster
Chief Operating Officer, BIA of Southern California
As published in Southern California Builder digital magazine, August 2021 Issue.
It’s been a good year for homebuilding thus far, and we hope you are enjoying the financial benefits that being a part of our industry affords you.
Unfortunately, this is an “Enjoy the good times while they last” message, because there is a regulatory Perfect Storm is descending on us. You’ve heard warnings like this before, but the threat now is so dire that if it hits us with its full strength, it threatens to put most California homebuilders out of business. The storm’s four converging new threats will ravage builders’ profits and in the worst case, national builders would be forced to leave the state for less regulated markets and local builders would have to cut back or close.
BIA exists for challenges like this, but this is the biggest challenge we have ever faced. To succeed in beating back any of these threats, we will need our Builder Members, our Associate Members and their employees to join us. Just read this brief summary of the four threats that are poised to deluge our industry in crippling costs, lawsuits and delays:
- Vehicle Miles Traveled. A study by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors found that as currently written, VMT would add as much as $2 million to the cost of a house. That’s the worst case, but when the better-case adds $200,000, it’s still enough to kill projects. Here’s just one VMT mitigation measure the study identified: The developer would have to buy transit passes for every resident of the development for every year in the life of the development – typically 50 years!
- Stormwater. New statewide stormwater regulations will cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars by requiring water quality tests upstream and downstream from all construction sites. Our modeling shows that it would cost a four-year construction project $250,000 or more to comply. Failure to comply would result in fines of $56,460 per violation per day even though technology doesn’t exist to meet the new standards. As if that’s not bad enough, the Legislature is talking about halting all construction during the wet season – from October through May!
- SB 12 and Wildfires. We stopped this bill this year, but it will be back next year with another tragic wildfire season pushing it forward. This bill gives the anti-housing Office of Planning and Research control over development approvals in high fire risk areas – even though new developments are subject to fire safety standards that make them effective fire breaks that often protect existing homes. The 2021 version of the bill acknowledged that up to 49% of the regulations it triggers don’t even need to be reasonable – just “a majority” of them have to be!
- The SCAG SoCal Greenprint. Finally, we are threatened by a secretive, sole-sourced contract issued by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) creating the SoCal Greenprint. Promoted as a “conservation mapping tool,” the SoCal Greenprint imposes new development constraints on land already approved for housing by local governments. Without the protections proposed by the BIA, anti-housing groups and ambulance-chasing attorneys will be able to misappropriate this database to bring litigation against developments just because they don’t conform with anti-growth/NIMBY views.
If the four storm fronts of this perfect storm are allowed to flood over our industry, projects will fold, followed by companies fleeing the state, cutting back, or shutting down – even though Gov. Newsom tells us that California is supposedly committed to building 3.5 million new homes before 2030. Job losses will follow – possibly including yours.
To help you help us fight this perfect storm, BIASC is developing a Perfect Storm education and action campaign. On the education front, we will be holding in-person and Zoom meetings with BIASC member companies to educate company leaders and their employees on these risks and how to fight them. On the action front, we are creating new and easy tools you can use to find out when flash points in the storm are coming – which can then be used to advocate for homebuilding through a user-friendly letters and calls program. All this will be backed with new educational materials and an aggressive social media and lobbying effort.
And, because building industry people love a good competition, there will also be an awards program, so your activism can be recognized and rewarded!
To prevail against this perfect storm, we need numbers, big numbers, on our side. That means we will be urging our Member Companies to give us access to all their employees for our Perfect Storm education sessions, updates and materials. Direct access is preferred, but access through company HR Departments will work, too. And once we have our toned and talented team of heavyweight storm fighters, we’ll be ready to take on whatever Sacramento throws at us next because, unfortunately, we’ve learned all too well that there will always be another storm.