Antidevelopment Fervor Reincarnated in East Valley
New housing construction in east San Bernardino valley has carefully and methodically reemerged from the recession. Encouraged by record low interest rates, lower developable land prices, and higher housing demand, local leaders in the housing industry are again building houses.
Development tactics have changed dramatically from the last decade where developers would quickly build out their projects to sell them to ready buyers with easy financing. While interest rates are exceptionally low, new banking regulations and lessons from the last recession caused by the housing bubble have made home loans much more difficult to obtain. Developers also are wary that the frail economic recovery could be reversed by any number of national or international economic upheavals that are now beyond government’s ability to intervene in.
So home builders have cautiously been building a small number of houses at a time and getting them under sales contracts before starting new phases, while keeping a close eye on the housing recovery and available housing supply within their markets.
Unfortunately, though, along with the slow recovery has come the reincarnation of antidevelopment groups in the region. Though many of the projects in San Bernardino, Highland, and Yucaipa have been on the books for years with approvals dating back to the 1980’s the resurgence of the “Not In My Back Yard” crowd has grown louder and become effective in pursuing new tactics. Using provably false narratives of fire hazards, traffic issues, and even planes crashing into homes, the NIMBY’s have evolved past the tired endangered species dogma that had long been cured by the effectiveness of developer environmental impact reports.
Just last year the City of San Bernardino rejected a 200 home housing project in the North foothills over objections by neighbors (who already live there of course) based on false allegations that the new homes would create a fire hazard. The project had full support of staff and was signed off by the planning department as well as the fire department, yet the City Council in a bankrupt city rejected a development which would have improved the city, reduce fire hazards for neighboring housing, and put property tax and sales tax revenues into city coffers.
San Bernardino was notorious in the 1970’s and 80’s for objecting to the development of high end housing in foothill areas leading to a 17 year lawsuit finally settled in favor of the developer in 2003.
The Highland Hills project just north of the City of Highland was approved by the City of San Bernardino in the 1980’s with revisions just last decade. In an effort to get the project under construction, the property owner approached the city to change the phasing of the project and REDUCE the project density by building fewer units. Neighbors to the South in the City of Highland have rallied in opposition to the smaller development plans attending planning commission and city council meetings where, amazingly, the City of San Bernardino upheld the development plan. Litigation has been promised by the NIMBY organization.
Opposition is now arising to a current infill development in Highland even though this project is already under construction as well as the Harmony Project in East Highland. In the case of the Harmony project there are legitimate challenges as this master planned community of up to 3,600 units does raise traffic concerns along what is now mostly a two lane road.
In Yucaipa project objections have been led by equestrians stating that it would limit their access for horse riding, on someone else’s private property.
It is apparent that a new wave of Nimbyism is upon the Inland Empire. As usual, it is driven by irrationality. This time that irrationality is joined by false objections of traffic nightmares, firestorms, and water shortages. Next, they will blame home builders for causing global warming! Oh, they did that too.