Gary Delsohn

Planning, Architecture and Development Columnist

About This Author

Gary Delsohn is a former Sacramento Bee urban affairs and political reporter, a design and architecture columnist, governor’s speech writer and author of The Prosecutors: A Year in the Life of a District Attorney’s Office.

Articles by this author

Enemy Is Us

Dan Dunmoyer, president and CEO of the California Building Industry Association, likes to cite numbers when asked about the state’s housing crisis.

“In 1963, we built 331,000 homes in California and the population was half what it is now,” he says. “Last year, we built about 120,000 and we have a population at least twice that size.”

We can do the math. Prices are driven largely by supply and demand. California is woefully short on supply.

To dig deeper and get the homebuilder perspective, I reached out to Dunmoyer, who I enjoyed working with when I was Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s speechwriter. Dunmoyer was the governor’s cabinet secretary, juggling multiple complex issues.

But first, Dunmoyer politely corrected me. We don’t have a housing crisis. We have a housing policy crisis.

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Traffic Detour

California has an estimated 31 million registered motor vehicles, nearly twice as many as Texas, the next closest state. All those cars make the work of Mellissa Meng and her colleagues at North Natomas Jibe vital.

North Natomas Jibe is a nonprofit devoted to making it easier for people to walk, bike and use public transportation. Meng is executive director.

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Silent Treatment

Add John Hodgson and Bob Chase to the long list of prominent Sacramentans frustrated with city government’s response to homelessness.

Unlike some critics who hate to see encampments but offer no solutions, these two friends, both in their 70s, pursue creative ways to make a difference.

For the past three years, Hodgson, a land-use attorney and developer, and Chase, an architect with a history of public service, worked with colleagues from the Urban Land Institute and American Association of Architects Central Valley to promote their plans for transitional housing throughout the city.

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Last year, a report from the California Association of Realtors told a disturbing story. Just 15% of California households can afford to buy a house.

That’s less than half the historic average over the prior three decades, when the Realtors said 33% of Californians could afford homes. In March 2012, the rate was 56%, inconceivable today.

These numbers are more than alarming. They are unsustainable for a state that prides itself on having just four nations in the world generate more economic activity. If our children and grandchildren can’t afford to live here, how will our economy attract workers and keep thriving?

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‘A’ Winner

The idea that government can do things well is a tough sell in some circles. But I’ll go out on a limb to argue Measure A, the half-cent sales tax for transportation approved twice by local voters, is a success story.

Don’t confuse this with the so-called “citizens’ initiative” Measure A that went down in flames in 2022. That Measure A was opposed by good-government groups such as the League of Women Voters, who denounced it as “the product of developers, business organizations and labor advocates” rather than sound and balanced transportation planning.

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