Land Use Committee recommends moving forward with housing study

COVID-19 uncertainties outweighed by need for long-term planning
Tuesday, August 4, 2020

It’s been over two years since RCPC initiated a study of housing in Rockridge. The purpose was, and remains, to figure out how best to accommodate more housing in Rockridge without destroying the charm that has attracted residents to it for over 100 years.

The impacts of COVID-19 have disrupted that study, as they have so many aspects of our world. The study has relied on models that help predict what could feasibly be built in Rockridge. The models are based on expectations for things like land values, construction costs, and predicted sales prices or rental costs for different kinds of new residential buildings. The models’ predictions, in turn, have allowed testing out various options and incentives to see how they would affect future development here. The uncertainties created by COVID-19, and the ensuing economic disruption, have, however, upended many of the expectations underlying the modeling.

What to do? Continue forward using the current models or put the study on hold until the long-term effects of COVID-19 became clearer? At its July 22, 2020 meeting, land use committee members, along with other interested Rockridge residents, looked at the pluses and minuses of the options.

Factors favoring pausing included not wasting time evaluating modeling results that turned out to be based on invalid assumptions, as well as the fact that most development planning had also been placed on hold by COVID-19, meaning the on-the-ground situation in Rockridge might not be affected by a pause. 

Factors favoring moving forward included the general assumption that in the long term, it’s likely people will continue to want to move to Rockridge, so the pressure for more housing is unlikely to disappear. Further, both City and state planning are continuing to move forward, so developing an affirmative long-term planning stance would help Rockridge control its own destiny, rather than being pushed by outside forces. Finally, there is the fact that the models being used, and the analysis coming out of the study, can continue to be modified to reflect changes and provide ongoing guidance.

After considerable discussion, the committee voted unanimously to recommend to the Board of Directors to continue moving forward with the housing study. The Board will consider that recommendation at its August 6th meeting.