Gavin Newsom’s Housing Promises Look Better After Wine Country Fires


Spiking rents after the Wine Country fires could help Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom’s housing policies build support for his campaign for California governor.

Newsom has been calling for California to accelerate housing growth to accommodate demand and lower prices.

The Zillow real estate site reported that the cost of rentals in the region soared in the week ending Oct. 18. Of the 162-rental listings in Sonoma County and 132 in Napa County, many new listings appeared to be higher-end vacation rentals that were listed after the Wine Country fires.

Newsom had been under fire from the Sierra Club and other environmentalists for voting as a State Lands Commission member to sue the City of San Francisco to overturn Proposition B. The initiative, approved by 59 percent of voters in November 2014, restricts new waterfront heights unless approved by voters.

Newsom supported the Lands Commission’s position that the 7.5 mile beachfront “tidelands” belong to the state and can only be managed by the Port Commission, not by voters or the city. The Ports Commission claims that it needs develop the tidelands to create revenue streams to fund its activities.

Newsom in August told that an Orange County group that he supports expanding California’s housing supply through more construction and some increases in density. As mayor of San Francisco, Newsom was unsuccessful in two ballot initiatives in 2013 to provide height limitation waivers to build 12-story upscale apartment towers near the Ferry Building due to opposition by the Sierra Club.

But Newsom has also been seen as a successful supporter of Airbnb and other emerging home-sharing strategies’ efforts to increase extended-stay rentals and other housing options in the “gig economy.” MapLight, a nonpartisan site that tracks political spending and its influence, reported that Airbnb employees had already donated $225,850 through April to support Newsom’s 2018 campaign for the governor’s mansion.

Breitbart News reported just three weeks before the October 2017 “fire siege” that the University of California Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies’ latest poll showed Newsom leading the 2018 governor’s race with 26 percent of support among likely voters, versus 11 percent for Republican San Diego businessman John Cox, 10 percent for former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and 9 percent for Orange County Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach).

But the Wine Country fire devastation and rental price gouging is already generating support for a big jump in rental construction in usually development-restricted communities. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported recently that Sonoma County’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved new rules on October 24 that will allow 8,000 fire-dislocated residents to live in parked RVs on their own or other people’s property, and to convert pool houses without kitchens and bed-and-breakfast rooms into long-term rentals. The supervisors also designated locations where residents may now legally sleep overnight in cars or trailers. The supervisors agreed to reduce or waive fees to build-out so-called granny units.


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