We Can Keep Complaining About the Housing Shortage or We Can Support Those Who Want to Address it

 I attended a meeting on May 4 hosted by property developers Guillon, Inc., where a dozen or so of the 80 neighbors who were invited came to hear Steve Honeycutt present information regarding a proposed development on the north side of Lover’s Lane in Ukiah. Guillon would like to buy 23 acres from the Dolan family and rezone the land so they can build single-family homes in the $325,000 to $375,000 range.

After the meeting, I pulled a list of all single-family homes currently for sale in Ukiah priced at under $400,000. We had a total of eleven.

Ukiah’s had a housing shortage for years, and up to this point, no one has stepped up to address it. Just talk to some of the bigger employers in town and they’ll tell you how detrimental the housing shortage can be. Both Adventist Health/Ukiah Valley and Mendocino College have said they plan to hire 20 new people in the next 12 months, but they don’t know where these people will live. In two years, the hospital hopes to open a family medicine residency program, which will bring six doctors and possibly some support staff. I don’t know where they’ll live, either. Even Mendocino County has been trying to hire people to administer the new cannabis ordinance and they’ve lost prospective employees because they couldn’t find housing.

On March 27, the Ukiah Daily Journal noted, “Two out of three biologist positions essential to the cultivation permitting program are still vacant after half a year of recruitment efforts, said interim agricultural commissioner Diane Curry. Of more than a dozen applicants the department has interviewed since November, none have been able to accept the job because of a lack of available housing in the area.”

To address this lack of housing, Guillon would build houses in a price range that’s affordable for many Ukiahans. Unlike some developers who would rather not deal with inconvenient feedback from neighbors, Guillon invited all property owners within 550 feet of the perimeter of the project site to the meeting of their own volition and on their own dime, to gain the neighbors’ perspective and feedback early in the process. While people voiced a few concerns, the overall response seemed positive, so I’m not sure why the newspaper article that followed focused on the downsides of the project. Really, the only concern of any consequence is the potential traffic issue, and Guillon is willing to take care of it. The other issues were often inspired by NIMBYism. Everyone wants more housing, but not in their backyard.

A question was raised about why we should take agricultural land out of production to build houses, but vineyard owner Paul Dolan said the soil on the proposed 23-acre building site isn’t good for grapes. In fact, he said it produces about half of the tonnage of the rest of the vineyard—he loses money farming that section. However, because he and his family are committed to keeping fertile agricultural land in farming, they plan to put the remaining 150+ acres of the Lover’s Lane vineyard into a land trust. So, I have no problem with rezoning 23 low-producing acres for this project.

I’ve lived in Ukiah for more than 60 years. I am the father of five children and, candidly, I’d like them to have an opportunity to move back to Ukiah, to find jobs and places to live. Unfortunately, unless something changes, it seems less and less likely that anyone’s children will be able to return.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit www.realtyworldselzer.com. If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.