Monterey City Council candidate Tyller Williamson wasn’t homeless for long, but it was long enough to make a huge impression.
In 2010, he and his housemates lost their lease on an apartment in San Diego. Those housemates had family nearby and soft places to land while they figured out their next moves, but Williamson was on his own.
“I spent a while sleeping in my car or finding friends to let me sleep on their couches – whatever worked,” he says. “It lasted two months before I found a studio apartment.”
In Seaside, city council candidate Jon Wizard says he’s knocked on a few thousand doors campaigning, and has had to get creative in trying to bridge the divide between people who own homes, and people who can barely afford their rent.
He’s doing so by trying to get them to see the bigger picture.
“If we don’t fix housing, we’re never going to fix traffic, so even if you have your housing and it’s paid for, you don’t want to sit in traffic,” Wizard says he tells skeptics. “If we can fix housing so people can more easily get to their minimum-wage jobs on the Peninsula, it can help fix traffic. People are receptive to the concept of a regional approach.”
Williamson and Wizard: The name combo sounds like the team in a mildly funny buddy movie. But as the two enter the final weeks of campaigning in their respective cities, they’re buddying in a different way – as potential officeholders tackling the seemingly intractable problem of not enough housing on the Peninsula. (Other founding members of the coalition are candidates and electeds, including Yuri Anderson who’s running for MPC board, and county supervisors Mary Adams and Jane Parker.)
They’re using a white paper, released in January by the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership, as their playbook. The paper examines what MBEP calls five “alterable drivers” of the region’s housing situation: overall housing supply, mix of housing types, affordable housing production, cost of production and risk of production. It also identifies nine policy change recommendations applicable to the region.
Williamson and Wizard say they’re focusing on the three most applicable to their cities. For Williamson, it’s adding accessory dwelling units, also called ADUs or “granny flats,” to Monterey’s housing stock (see story, p. 18); changing the cost structure of developer fees to make it cheaper to develop multiple smaller units instead of one big one; and deferring development impact fees until the city issues a certificate of occupancy.
“We are literally squeezing people out of Monterey,” Williamson says. “Eighty percent of people who work in Monterey can’t afford to live here.”
Wizard is also focusing on ADUs (the city has identified 200 parcels where an ADU could be built today); a change in fee structure to make it easier to develop smaller projects; and removing the rule that mandates all mixed-use developments have retail.
“Not all first floors need to be retail. They can include light industrial. More retail and more unskilled or low-skilled jobs are not how we increase prosperity in our community,” Wizard says.
Post-election, they plan to continue their housing policy work – whether or not they win. “Each candidate will advocate to our respective councils,” Williamson says, “regardless if we’re elected or not.”