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DSA Santa Cruz Electoral Working Group Recommends Yes on Measure M, Housing for People

by Santa Cruz News
The Electoral Action Working Group of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) Santa Cruz recommends a yes vote on Measure M, the Housing for People initiative, which is on the ballot in the March 5 primary election in the City of Santa Cruz. If passed, Measure M will increase the ratio of inclusionary/affordable housing to 25% in new large projects of 30+ units, and will require a majority vote of the people before the city's General Plan can be amended to raise current building height limits or floor area ratios.
DSA Santa Cruz provided a detailed explanation of the Measure M recommendation in their March 2024 voter guide:

Why we support Measure M: Housing for People:

1. We are committed to Participatory Democracy, which Measure M upholds.

2. Supporting Measure M honors our hard-won General Plan and Objective Standards (12 years and 79 public meetings in the making) that have already identified sites for at least 8,000 housing units in mixed neighborhoods around the city.

3. Measure M supports housing justice and opposes the gentrification that will occur by building a proposed 4-acre Warriors stadium complex on the site of current deeply-affordable housing, the only disabled-owned and fully accessible hotel in the city (locally owned), and local businesses, all in the most socio-economically diverse census tract in the city, South of Laurel (SoL).

In short, we don’t buy the criticisms that Measure M will backfire and reduce housing production overall, or affordable housing in particular. Capitalism’s hypercommodification of housing, “land-banking” by investors, and high federal interest rates do a great job of that already. The Swenson Builders’ “Calypso'' project by Depot Park is a great example of an approved housing project that is now on indefinite hold until interest rates favor developer interests.

Claims that votes on particular projects, mandated by Measure M, will cause delays and cost up to $200,000 is overblown. Major projects take years to weave their way through the planning and permitting process, and the community will have plenty of time to put any particular project on a regular ballot at minimal cost and on a predictable schedule. We also reject disinformation that small projects and variances will be subjected to onerous and expensive votes.

One of our caucus members had reservations about potential unintended consequences when limiting heights, if and when we need to consistently build taller in decades to come. The majority of us felt that in the case that population and environmental concerns necessitate taller buildings, we can update our General Plan.

If Measure M passes, a 25% inclusionary rate will allow a 50% density bonus on buildings with more than 30 units (75-125 ft downtown; 53-72 ft SoL), which we support. If it doesn’t pass, we will stay with a 20% inclusionary rate and a 35% density bonus (68-115 ft downtown, stadium complex, and “new neighborhood” SoL). State density bonus allowances and concessions are complex, and we expect more from the State in the future, allowing additional height and divergence from local objective standards whether we change our local plans or not.

Breaking up the oligopoly of large landowners, developers, and builders active in the Santa Cruz market (yay!) and enacting progressive policies to make public and non-profit social housing more possible–including public banking, land value and property transfer taxes, a municipal Community Land Trust and Land Bank, and a citywide Community Workforce Agreement–is the better path to more affordable housing.

Read more about Measure M, the Housing for People initiative:

The full DSA Santa Cruz Voter Guide can be found in their linktree:

Read more about DSA Santa Cruz:
§Why We Support Measure M, Housing for People
by Santa Cruz News
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