Featured Image Courtesy Photo by IDuke, November 2005

Point-Counterpoint: Streamlining Housing Development vs Local Control

Over 200 housing bills were introduced during the 2019 legislative session in California, and the debate between state vs local control hit a boiling point when SB-50, introduced by Senator Scott Wiener, was shelved by Senate Appropriations Committee Chair, Senator Anthony Portantino in May of 2019.

At the center of the debate are 1.) Yes In My Backyard advocates (YIMBYs), who believe that California zoning law must be dramatically streamlined and 2.) Homeowners who assert their right to guide local zoning and planning decisions, sometimes derided as NIMBYs by their opponents.

Historic preservationists often find themselves in the middle - sometimes offering solutions to providing more housing through adaptive reuse of historic buildings, but also often criticized for creating neighborhoods zoned to prevent more density and exclude multi-family residences.

Can the two seemingly opposing sides have any sort of common ground in helping ease the state's housing crisis, or will they always be at odds? How does historic preservation play a role in these processes, and what solutions are there that can both retain historic buildings and add housing stock to neighborhoods?

This debate-style discussion will pair up panelists from each opposing side to discuss some of the following issues:

  1. Is CEQA a root cause of the housing crisis? Or is it simply a scapegoat for much bigger and more critical social issues?
  2. Are NIMBYs always motivated by self-interest?
  3. Can historic preservation be used to alleviate the housing crisis and - if so - how?
  4. Can density be integrated into an historic district without damaging the historic Integrity of that district?
  5. Are single family homes inherently a 'bad' thing?
  6. To what degree have the tech industry, Airbnb, global capital flow, and other factors unrelated to historic preservation contributed to our housing shortages?

Each panelist will have 15 minutes to present their side of the housing crisis; then, the panelists will have two minutes each to respond to questions by the moderator. The webinar will close with time for questions from the audience.

You Will Be Able To...

  1. Establish some of the common problems approached by housing advocates, both in the historic preservation field and by advocates in the Yes in My Backyard (YIMBY) movement.
  2. Debate some of the key issues around increasing density and upzoning historic neighborhoods.
  3. Consider various options for reconciling differences among advocates who may often be at odds, including historic preservationists, environmentalists, housing advocates, and residents of neighborhoods who benefit from exclusionary zoning.
  4. Discuss the various design solutions for integrating density into neighborhoods that would sensitively add to our state’s housing supply.


  • Diane Kane, PhD, Emeritus Trustee, California Preservation Foundation


  • Barbara Bry, City Councilmember, City of San Diego
  • Todd David, Executive Director, San Francisco Housing Action Coalition
  • Ethan Elkind, Director, Climate Program, Center for Law, Energy & the Environment, U.C. Berkeley
  • Dennis Richards, Planning Commissioner, City of San Francisco