In the city of Lompoc well over one-third of the city’s residential area is zoned for single-family dwellings.

A couple of years ago, the state of California concluded there was an “affordable housing crisis.” California Environmental Quality Act reviews contributed to this phenomenon because it had been used to delay, obstruct, and prevent the construction of many residential developments.

Another factor was the huge influx of large numbers of non-citizens into what was now a sanctuary state; so far politicians have refused to acknowledge this impact.

Other factors included very expensive regulatory changes that drove the price of construction well beyond the affordable category. Lastly, land on which to construct new housing was becoming much harder to find, largely due to environmental concerns.

In Lompoc there are a couple of projects that demonstrate problem.

One would contain 340 new single-family residences; it is tied up by legal wrangling concerning the provision of some needed services to the area. It was annexed to the city and the development plan approved almost 15 years ago, and when all is said and done, I am sure the cost of these homes will be well north of $600,000 each.

Another is a proposed annexation to the west of the city which would add about 1,700 new residences; the annexation request, also 15 years old, is being held up by the Local Area Formation Commission because the land is considered “prime agricultural land.”

Instead of reassessing the need for many of the regulatory restrictions that apply to new developments, the state concluded that they would simply instruct/order local governments to increase the density in single-family neighborhoods by adding so called “assessory dwelling units.”

In September 2021 California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 9, “Housing development: approvals” to fix it.

To accommodate the new mandate, SB-9 exempted the approval of additional residences on parcels in single-family zones from CEQA review.

In other words, public agencies can’t consider the environmental, traffic circulation, provision of utility services or any other consequences of their actions when allowing increased density in single-family areas. SB-9 also stipulates these additions will be approved “ministerially” e.g., without a public hearing.

That sounds like a good idea until it’s put into practice. CEQA was created to require public agencies to “look before they leap” and consider the environmental consequences of their discretionary actions.

Keep in mind that when existing homes were built, the provision of streets, parking, domestic water, and wastewater systems was based on the density that was planned for one-families use, not for two or more families.

I live in a single-family neighborhood; some of the homes have already been modified to allow more than one family to live in them. One had a second story apartment added, another had an additional room added, and still others simply allowed their adult children to remain at home and bring their significant others into the home, too.

Of the dozen homes on our block, three use the required garages for purposes other than parking; some for storage and others for recreation rooms. And, because there are so many adults living in these homes the street is full of parked cars and utility trailers.

The unintended consequences are that the street sweeper can’t service our street properly because of the congestion; trash trucks must maneuver through the parked cars to pick up the containers; and the increased traffic has caused severe deterioration of the pavement to the point that will probably have to be replaced — if the city ever has enough street maintenance finds to fix it.

Theoretically, all 12 houses could be converted to allow additional residences thus adding to the congestion and service needs on this one city block.

More unintended consequences are that the state is suffering from drought conditions; water supplies are dwindling as local governments are required to allow urban densities to double in some areas.

Eventually there won’t be enough water to serve all these people, but local officials aren’t even allowed to assess the impact of increased densities because the state waived the CEQA process.

Currently, the median price in Lompoc for preowned homes is approaching $400,000; average families who work multiple jobs can’t afford to buy their own home.

I understand the need for so-called affordable housing, but our politicians need to consider that every time they delay a project, add a new regulation or mandate green energy programs, they are driving the construction costs even higher.

It just seems like the average citizen no matter what their political affiliation can’t get ahead.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry. He has been following Lompoc politics since 1992, and after serving for 23 years appointed to various Lompoc commissions, retired from public service. The opinions expressed are his own.