Don’t exacerbate the housing crisis, support Nipomo’s Dana Reserve project | Opinion

This story was originally published Dec. 10, 2023, as an opinion by Michael Massey


It’s no secret that housing has been a hot topic issue in California. Headlines repeatedly call out the skyrocketing prices, the frustration of the younger generations, and the need for more inventory. The answer to these challenges isn’t complicated: build more houses. However, as we’ve seen in multiple articles in New Times, a vocal group of not in my back yard (NIMBY) Central Coast residents seem intent on encouraging politicians to continue to exacerbate the problem.

If you’d like to see this in action, turn to the discussion surrounding the Dana Reserve. Ready yourself to hear the NIMBYs oppose a development offering many first-time homebuyers a chance to enter the market. They’ll claim numerous reasons they oppose the project (it’s not affordable enough, the mitigation plan isn’t enough, the millions of dollars in fees going back into the community isn’t enough, etc). But only the truly blunt will identify the real reason: They don’t want new neighbors. As we’ve seen with many projects, but especially this one, it’s often a group of homeowners in our community fighting against new housing that would offer others the opportunity to join the housing ladder. It is the haves versus the have-nots.

At Generation Build, we want to make sure the counter, and we believe popular opinion on the Dana Reserve is represented: We are excited by this project. The Dana Reserve is an ambitious project with the highest rate of affordability for a master planned community ever proposed in SLO County. It promises more than 1,300 homes, including 156 deed-restricted affordable units and 797 moderate, workforce, and missing-middle homes, and would provide some relief to our historic housing supply crisis. We believe this alone warrants support.

However, this project goes beyond housing. The Dana Reserve was designed to fix numerous existing infrastructure problems for Nipomo and provides multiple community benefits. These fixes include funding approximately $35 million in critical infrastructure improvements the county has planned for the future—$27 million of which is unfunded, and payment for such will revert to the Nipomo and county taxpayers if the project is denied. This includes completing the frontage road from Tefft Street to Willow Road, relieving congestion.

The project also includes a solution for the Nipomo Community Services District’s upcoming mandatory order to purchase and pay for increased amounts of imported Santa Maria water, for which it does not currently have users to use and pay. In fact, the Nipomo Community Services District, which serves the majority of Nipomo residents’ water and sewer services, estimates that existing ratepayers can expect their combined average sewer and water payments to increase $750 per year if the project does not go forward compared to if it does.

The Dana Reserve is also one of the friendliest developments for young families and new owners. It offers $3.2 million in down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers, and it will donate a dedicated and horizontally improved site for a standalone child care center and offer incentives for two other on-site in-home child care providers. Did the opposition opinions mention any of that? Did you know that their opposition to this project is akin to fighting for a $27 million tax bill and a $750/year combined water and sewer increase for Nipomo residents?

Read another way: Did you know how much this project will benefit our community (and you) from the information stated in those pieces? We are guessing not. What you probably learned about is the 3,000 oak trees proposed to be cut down. And while it’s true that environmental stewardship is important, we suspect you did not learn about the project’s proposed mitigation for this.

Through on-site conservation, replanting, and off-site conservation, the Dana Reserve permanently conserves 5.6 oak trees in Nipomo for every one it removes. The project will place a conservation easement on 388 acres—with more than 14,000 oaks—in Nipomo and donate the land to the Dana Adobe. The planned solar on every home will also offset the carbon footprint from removing trees and then some. There comes a time when we have to say mitigation efforts are enough—and they are more than enough here. We need these homes.

We hope you remember these facts when you see the “Stop the Dana Reserve” signs in the public rights of way throughout Nipomo. We also hope you remember the tax bill, rate increases, and loss of community benefits these signs will represent if the Dana Reserve is not approved.

The Dana Reserve has our support, and we know we aren’t alone. Our housing crisis can be addressed through projects like these. This is a thoughtful, comprehensive development with infrastructure and systems in place to allow more of our community access to housing.

Join us in advocating for more projects like the Dana Reserve on Instagram @GenerationBuild.

Michael Massey is the president of Generation Build, a 70-plus member pro-housing group in SLO County. 

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