Caitlyn Jenner’s housing affordability plan likely to spark Bay Area building boom

California’s highest-profile gubernatorial candidate is heralding the virtues of supply-side economics in a yet-to-be-released plan to make housing more affordable in California.  The Olympian Caitlyn Jenner wants to make it far easier, cheaper, and quicker for developers to bring new housing units into the State’s housing market through a slew of regulatory reforms on everything from land-use laws, environmental reviews, public comment periods, and historic preservation protections.

Jenner believes that the only way to reduce rents is to very significantly increase the supply of housing units, in order to alleviate demand pressures.  With a significant influx of new luxury units at the high-end, market prices for existing units will fall, making the State a more affordable place to live within a short number of years.

Among the reforms will be a State-mandated rezoning of a transit-privileged swath of the City of San Francisco, from South of Market to the Mission District, where density limits, historic preservation ordinances, and City-imposed roadblocks on new residential skyscrapers will be effectively lifted.  That new “Special Zoning District” will allow the State of California to lift the discriminatory ‘housing supply cap’ that has effectively been institutionalized by Democratic Party politicians at San Francisco City Hall.

“Jenner wants the City’s skyline to flourish,” one political staffer explains.  “A building boom will be good for developers, for renters, for workers, and for housing affordability across the Bay area.”

San Francisco’s Mission District neighborhood is served by municipal light rail and subway lines, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, and CalTrain. Urban planners say that the area’s relatively flat geography, traditional street grid, and proximity to the financial district make it a prime area for skyscraper-style residential development. Jenner would like to see 100,000 new housing units built inside the City within six years.

Sources familiar with the plan say that it will include landmark investments in infrastructure designed to enable higher-density transit-oriented housing development, particularly in the Los Angeles metropolitan area where mass transit infrastructure is lacking and automobile dependence is high — both of which constrict developers’ ability to bring new housing units into high-demand neighborhoods.  Commitments will include $30 billion to construct more than 300-miles of new elevated monorails in and around the City of Los Angeles.

More than $10 billion will be made available for new water and sewer infrastructure in areas that are geographically and environmentally suitable to accommodate new housing development.  Much of that funding will be allocated to enable the Los Angeles metropolitan area to sprawl beyond the Angeles National Forest, and toward the broad expanses of the Mojave Desert.

Jenner is expected to task a network of researchers at the University of California and CalTech to perfect water desalination technology, with the objective of enabling the State to source, process, and purify ocean water efficiently at scale — both for agricultural use and drinking water.  She plans to appropriate up to $5 billion to fund that research.

The University of California at Berkeley will benefit from a $5 billion research endowment that Jenner plans to establish as Governor.  The endowment’s mission will be to advance water desalination, filtration, and distribution technology.  Jenner believes that the technology will enable California to build out next-generation water infrastructure across the State.  Jenner plans to make the case to Republican voters in the Central Valley that doing so will increase agriculture outputs.

“When water desalination technology becomes deployable at scale, we will be able to literally irrigate the desert,” Jenner plans to say in prepared remarks.  “This vital research will alleviate so much of the environmental pressure we are putting on the environment.  We need new suburban housing to lower housing costs, but we can’t build it because our water situation is so untenable.”

Among the policy document’s more ambitious visions is the formation of an engineering task force that will study the viability of drilling underground aqueducts between the Pacific Ocean to low-lying valleys of the Mojave, which Jenner envisions as future Oasis-like flood plains.

Much of the Mojave Desert’s vast valleys and plains sit below sea level. Jenner wants engineers at CalTech and the University of California at Berkeley to study the viability of using underground drilling technology to construct massive aqueducts from the Pacific Ocean to flood these low-lying areas. Jenner envisions the Mojave full of oasis-like reservoirs.
Jenner believes, if tasked by an ambitious Governor, engineers will be able to design ‘transformational water infrastructure’ that will make it possible to irrigate thousands of square miles of Southern California, and to accommodate sprawling suburban-style waterfront “Oasis-communities” across the desert interior of the State.  She estimates that housing costs there will be ‘a fraction’ of what they are in the State’s coastal communities.

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