Opportunity Lost

Ukiah Unified School District has two excess properties, former school sites in Hopland and Redwood Valley. State of California legislation severely restricts public school districts from marketing and selling their properties without going through a very long and protracted process with any cash proceeds being restricted to capital improvements only. Therefore, the District’s best options are to enter into either a long-term lease or a property exchange.

UUSD has been working with a developer who wants to build 29 homes on the old Redwood Valley school site. The developer really loves the site and would jump at the opportunity to build several moderate to higher end homes, appropriate for the people we are trying to recruit to our valley: teachers, doctors, police officers, firefighters, county employees, and others.

As with any housing development, there were a few challenges, but nothing insurmountable. There’s no public sewer, but the leach field is big enough for 29 houses and it could be expanded. There’s limited water, but enough for 29 houses and they could sink a well.

Because the school was built when asbestos and lead paint were common building materials, the demolition and subsequent disposal will undoubtedly cost extra because state law requires a licensed hazardous materials disposal company to transport the material rather than a normal waste management company. Even with this barrier, the developer remained optimistic.

And then the straw that broke the camel’s back: inclusionary zoning. The developer decided not to put a proposal together because of the county’s greedy and counter-productive requirement that all housing developers give 25 percent of the lots they purchase to the county or pay an in-lieu fee. These lots or the fee would then be used to build yet another subsidized housing complex in the Ukiah Valley.

Next time you drive around town, look at residential developments built in the last 10 to 15 years. You’ll notice that 95 percent of them are subsidized.

I am not against building affordable housing, but when I say “affordable,” I mean homes or apartments that a contractor can build, and then sell or lease to a buyer or tenant and make a profit.

I do not equate affordable with subsidized by tax dollars or subsidized by the extortion of an in-lieu fee. What many advocates for subsidized housing don’t understand is that for the government to give something to someone without compensation automatically means they must have taken it from someone, also without compensation.

Unless and until our county comes to terms with the issue of inclusionary zoning, we will not see significant private property fair market development. That means we’ll continue to lose teachers, doctors, police officers and even county employees to other areas with higher pay or lower housing costs.

I spoke with UUSD Superintendent Deb Kubin today, in fact. She said teachers are opting for positions in other school districts or commuting to work from neighboring communities because of Ukiah’s housing shortage.

She said, “It is difficult to attract teachers to our area because of a lack of affordable, market-rate housing.”

If you would like to see qualified professionals choose our community over another, contact your Mendocino County supervisor and share your thoughts today. You can reach them at (707) 463-4221.

If you have questions about getting into real estate, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or call (707) 462-4000. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

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