We would like to thank you for your leadership and prompt and decisive action to protect our state and the county of Los Angeles from the COVID-19 pandemic. We applaud you for taking this threat seriously, and taking the necessary actions to prevent its rapid spread thereby reducing the impacts on our healthcare system, economy, and housing that are sure to come. It is in this spirit that we bring to your attention a regulation that we believe will dramatically impact the ability for many Californians, including millennials and communities of color in particular, to purchase a home – Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), and respectfully request the extension of the implementation date to July 1st, 2021. 

We have filed a lawsuit against the California Air Resources Board (CARB) because we find many aspects of their scoping plan, including the VMT fee, to be discriminatory against California’s most vulnerable populations. The first lawsuit we filed in April 2018  was due to their efforts to make it easier to block new housing and because of their aims to increase California housing prices. CARB’s anti-housing legislation would have a disproportionate impact on communities of color, as their proposed CEQA scoping plan would add $40,000 or more to the cost of each new house and make commutes longer for people of color who commute to housing that they can afford. CEQA is supposed to protect the environment but these longer commutes will actually increase air pollution by forcing longer commutes. 

We later filed a Civil Rights lawsuit on December 18, 2019 as regulations to implement CEQA are unlawful and unconstitutional; they exacerbate the housing crisis and the poverty and homelessness crisis. Vehicle use is a fundamental civil right and a basic necessity for these Americans who need to commute and it is unconstitutional to take that right away from them without any substantial evidence that these measures will limit greenhouse gases. The Two Hundred filed this lawsuit to advocate for the rights of American citizens to housing and mobility and to call out the unconstitutional restrictions being implemented by CEQA. 

In the middle of an economic and public health crisis, the government should not be imposing new laws that will increase the cost of housing and potentially endanger public health. Forcing residents and their families into expensive high-rise housing and onto crowded buses and trains is bad public policy and needs to be reconsidered. By ignoring the critical role that social distancing has played in slowing the spread of the Coronavirus, Vehicle Miles Traveled does not protect our aging population from future virus pandemics.

The VMT fee has been delayed in many Southern California counties with the exception of LA county and the city of Los Angeles. Given the racial injustice protests, it is particularly disturbing to us that LA county and the city of Los Angeles will not get on board with the delay of the implementation of the VMT fee. 

The ideological approach of VMT is to get people to abandon their individual vehicles and utilize multimodal transit opportunities such as walking, biking, and using public transit. The regulation views road congestion as a good thing, since it slows down traffic and incentivizes individuals to use alternative forms of transit. Improvements like road widening is considered a negative impact on greenhouse gas reductions because it increases commuter speeds which the regulation assumes will encourage people to drive longer distances. The new regulation advocates that California go on a “road diet” and calls into question whether the voters understood this when they approved an increase in the gas tax. Additionally, many residents of Los Angeles do not have adequate access to public transportation from their homes to their jobs. Until the transportation system is improved, it is very unfair to punish those who are already forced to live far from their work to pay extra in the fight against climate change. 

We hope you will support a resolution encouraging a one-year delay so that the numerous problems associated with Vehicle Miles Traveled can be adequately addressed.

These are difficult times for all of us. We appreciate your hard work and your continued efforts to strengthen our economy and protect public health.


John Gamboa

Vice Chair

The Two Hundred

Yesterday, California Air Resources Board (CARB) President Mary Nichols posted an insensitive and tone-deaf Tweet, taking advantage of the Black Lives Matter movement and the death of George Floyd to push her environmental agenda. This Tweet enraged many, for good reason, as it shows that she does not really understand the needs of communities of color. 

While Black Lives Matter is a movement primarily about police brutality and that is the focus of their cause right now, we wanted to take the opportunity to address Mary Nichol’s own statement, that those who do climate and environmental policy “can and must do more.” 

Ironically, many of the policies that Mary Nichols and CARB have promoted in the past few years will negatively affect BIPOC families the most. CARBs new scoping plan for CEQA’s expansion would multiply the negative effects of California’s housing crisis on families and communities of color. The plan promotes racial discrimination in housing and violates fair housing laws. It is a civil rights violation. The additional cost of $40,000 to each new home through the implementation of these new requirements would force families who need more affordable housing to live in areas further from job centers. The increase in long commutes for people of color who cannot afford to live near where they work actually would increase air pollution, undermining CARB’s goal of decreasing greenhouse gases. 

California only contributes 1% of greenhouse gases worldwide. CARB’s scoping plan would only decrease this amount by 1% (so, 1% of the 1% contributed). Last year, California’s grass and forest fires created nearly five times more air pollution than this goal would try to reduce. The new costs associated with this scoping plan would drastically decrease any possibility we have in fixing California’s housing crisis. As this disproportionately attacks low and moderate income families, therefore endangering the economic future of the state, we ask you to consider if the goals of your new scoping plan are worth it. 

This scoping plan makes it easier to file CEQA lawsuits which reduce the overall supply of housing and drive up costs, forcing families to live outside of city centers and then would charge them a per mile fee for driving more. The plan disproportionately places the cost of environmental protection on families that are already struggling to afford California’s already astronomically high cost of living. 

We urge Mary Nichols and CARB to reconsider the scoping plan, and join in the efforts to more fairly distribute the cost and benefits of environmental protection. To help, email  or call (800) 242-4450 to voice your complaints and make CARB and Mary Nichols DO BETTER. You can also Retweet, Like, or comment on our Twitter thread on this topic:

SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 18, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — In May 2020, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson has introduced a bill that will prove detrimental to affordable homeownership in the state of California. SB 950, authored by Senator Jackson, will strengthen the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a law that has been dangerously used as a tool to deny people of color access to homes in their communities. The Two Hundred, an assembly of veterans of the civil rights and social justice movements, headed by vice-chair, political activist John Gamboa, has tirelessly worked for years to mitigate the growing racial wealth gap in California.  To oppose the bill, they have taken their campaigning to the people by launching a petition.  The petition, “Help Make Homeownership Possible Again – Stop Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson from Passing SB950,” has already garnered hundreds of support signatures.

The Two Hundred has documented and exposed how a group of predominately white activists have been able to effectively wield CEQA to halt home building in selected neighborhoods. By citing environmental concerns, these activists have systematically filed frivolous lawsuits that have effectively shut down construction sites throughout California.  A Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) assisted study revealed that 14,000 housing units were opposed by CEQA lawsuits in the last several years!

“The Two Hundred has been waging an uphill battle in court,” explains John Gamboa. “With the launch of our petition we are hoping to gain even more ground in our efforts to halt this ominous bill.  While Senator Jackson is busy supporting these efforts under the guise of environmental concerns, the needs of people of color are being blatantly ignored.”

The racial wealth gap divide, exacerbated by California’s housing crisis, was created, in part, by the catastrophic economic impact of the Great Recession, when millions of Americans, especially households of color, lost what little equity they owned. The Two Hundred, who also advocate for millennials and students, believe that the shortage of affordable housing; the high cost of land; the mindset of developers and state policies that favor multi-family rentals; and ever increasing rents, continue to lock out marginalized communities from the wealth-building legacy opportunities that created affluence for white, middle class families.

The Two Hundred, under the direction of Gamboa, intend to send a letter with the petition signatures to all the legislators, including Senator Jackson, after they are scheduled to return to session in May.   They are hoping to appeal to Senator Jackson to take into consideration the well-beingness of all Californians, particularly people of color and students, and not just the special interest of a selective and elite minority.

John Gamboa is a veteran community activist. His advocacy work began in 1968 when he became involved with the anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights movements. While attending UC Berkeley, he started doing community activities around racial discrimination. He launched the Latino Issues Forum, which focused on the economic injustices that Latinx people faced, and then later The Greenlining Institute, a multi-ethnic coalition focused on combating redlining practices.

Since 2006, John has served as President of the Board of Directors of California Community Builders (CCB) alongside colleagues from Greenlining. The Two Hundred is an initiative of CCB and focuses primarily on mitigating the growing racial wealth gap through homeownership and home building in California. Prominent members include Elaine Brown, a former leader of the Black Panther Party; Joe Coto, former chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus; Herman Gallegos, the co-founder of National Council of La Raza, now known as UnidosUS, and attorney Jennifer Hernandez of the law firm Holland and Knight. The group’s activism efforts include a groundbreaking civil rights lawsuit against the California Air Resources Board.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is dealing a devastating blow to us all, but people of color will suffer from it the most,” cites Gamboa. “An ongoing practice of blatant discrimination, namely redlining by government, financial institutions, realtors and brokers, has deeply impacted homeownership for non-white families. A decade ago, the wealth gap was such that white families were six times wealthier than minority families. Today, they’re 10 times wealthier.  We are hoping that our petition will help the people’s voices be heard!”

To learn more about The Two Hundred, log on at Follow them on Facebook @The Two Hundred and Twitter at @The 200 Leaders.

To sign the petition, go to at “Help Make Homeownership Possible Again – Stop Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson from Passing SB950.

Check out The Two Hundred video which shows how homeownership housing is being stopped in its tracks at

Photo of John Gamboa:

jazzmyne Public Relations

Cision View original content:

March 28, 2018

Read the full article at Urbanize Los Angeles

Homeownership has long been considered a part of the American dream, and the government has spent decades developing laws to promote and incentivize it as a practice. As so many Californians are housing insecure during our current affordability crisis, ownership is a way to create stable, predictable household housing costs at all income levels.

Homeownership provides the predictability of fixed housing costs. The most common form of a home mortgage, the 30-year fixed mortgage, is 360 monthly payments of the same amount. If you secured a fixed-rate mortgage today, what you pay this month is the exact same amount that you would pay in 2048. To go further, government-sponsored entities like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration provide robust, liquid markets that ensure the cost of originated mortgages are as low as possible.  This situation is completely different for renters.  In this rising market, renters are always at risk to rent hikes, even those living in rent-controlled units.

Californians also have fixed property taxes under Proposition 13.  If you bought your home in 1980 for $50,000 and today it is worth $750,000 (not uncommon in California), you pay property taxes based on the original $50,000 purchase price.

To make the deal even better, the interest portion of your mortgage payment and property tax payments are often tax-deductible. Say a person is in the 30% state and local tax bracket. If their rent is $2,500 per month, they pay $2,500 per month. But if the sum of their monthly property tax and mortgage payment is $2,500, generally speaking, their actual payment after tax benefits is often under $2,000 a month.

Historically, California residential real estate has been an excellent long-term wealth creator. In today’s world, home equity comprises a substantial part of the net worth of many California homeowners. As the Los Angeles County median home price hits record highs, most homeowners have materially increased their net worth by simply owning a home. This home equity provides certain levels of flexibility. If your income has risen in the years since you purchased your home, you can refinance to take cash out to pay for things like your children’s college tuition or business investments. If you died today, assuming you are worth less than approximately $11,200,000 (not a typo), you can typically give your house to your heirs estate-tax-free.  

Ownership doesn’t need to come from single-family homes. In infill settings, condominiums and townhomes provide the same benefits listed above. The units can be small too. As of this writing – March 24, 2018 – there are 2,325 units for sale in New York City under 750 square feet.

Homeownership provides upward mobility, home security, and long-term wealth creation opportunities to Californians.  But despite all of these benefits, housing developers in California infill locations overwhelmingly chose to build rental apartment buildings. In 2017, well over 90% of the completed multifamily units in the City of Los Angeles were rentals.

Why are we depriving so many Californians of this terrific deal? There are four main reasons, and unfortunately, they are not easy fixes.

It Often Takes Much Longer and Is Riskier To Get For Sale Housing Approved

The Subdivision Map Act is a California state law that determines how new for-sale housing is approved. Anytime you take a piece of property and plan to sell it to more than one individual you must go through this process.

In many jurisdictions, the process is often much simpler for rental developments. In the City of Los Angeles for example, if your apartment building is under 50 units, not located in a specific plan area, and conforms to existing zoning, there is no planning case. You can take your building plans straight to the Department of Building and Safety for building permit plan check.

Let’s walk through the process of what the approval process is for a simple two-unit, zone conforming duplex in Los Angeles for rent, then compare it to an otherwise identical project that will be marketed for sale.

As mentioned, if the duplex is for rent in Los Angeles there is no planning case. You take your plans straight to Building and Safety for a permit, then you start construction.

If the duplex was for sale, under state law you need a planning case for a parcel map. Neighbors within a 500-foot radius and the local neighborhood council are notified. There is a public hearing and the parcel map case can be appealed. You also need an environmental clearance under the California Environmental Quality Act – which can also be appealed. After it clears appeal at the local level, it can still be challenged in the California courts both at the Superior level and then the Appellate level. Once the parcel map is approved, it is only a tentative approval. You still must go through the next process of recording your final map. Many jurisdictions in California do not allow construction to begin while you are recording your final map. All of this because of a state law that guides how to make your duplex for sale.

Understandably, you can see why many builders are incentivized to go the for-rent route for approvals rather than for-sale. Especially in jurisdictions that have by-right processing for non-subdivision cases. The California Legislature has their hands full at the moment with housing. But eventually, some common-sense reform of the Subdivision Map Act is warranted.

It is Much More Difficult To Obtain a Mortgage For a New Condominium than a New Home

Most mortgages are affiliated with one of three major government-sponsored entities: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or the Federal Housing Administration. Say you have a new development of 40 single-family homes. These three entities would have no problem providing a mortgage for a qualified buyer of that project.

The same is not the case for a brand new 40-unit condominium or townhome project. These organizations consider condominium projects riskier. The rules are always changing, but they generally require that a significant portion of the project be pre-sold (usually about half) before issuing the first mortgage. In the case of the 40-unit townhome project, you would need to pre-sell about 20 of the homes before closing on a single one.

Frankly, this process is a giant pain for the builder. It also adds a certain element of risk. It can take months to pre-sell half of a project. Some of the first buyers can, and often do, find other places to buy and drop out before the first half is sold. Condominium mortgages can also be more expensive than those for single-family homes.

This process was put in place to protect lenders from getting hurt on risky projects. I understand why lenders would want to be careful on luxury skyscraper condo developments, but wood-constructed townhomes and condominiums from three-to-five stories are much less risky. Washington is always adjusting Freddie and Fannie. The next time they do, it would be great if they lowered the pre-sale requirements on these less risky projects.

Our Tax System Favors the Construction of For-Rent Over For-Sale Housing

As I described above, a homeowner generally enjoys significant tax benefits over a renter. As far as the development of for-rent housing versus for-sale housing, the complete opposite is the case. There are often significant tax advantages to building a rental project over a for-sale project.

For-sale projects are taxed as ordinary income, which is our highest level of taxation.

Unlike a for-sale project, an apartment developer has the option to keep the apartment building. Assuming the project was done properly, lenders like Fannie Mae have mortgage products available to refinance out a significant portion of the developer’s invested capital upon building completion. Once tenants move in, the developer can often take depreciation losses against new rents. This is a much more favorable tax situation than paying ordinary income the day your project is complete. These favorable tax advantages are a major reason why developers take the for-rent route over the for-sale route.

I’m confident that neither Paul Ryan nor Nancy Pelosi are Urbanize LA readers. They should be though. If the country is as serious about promoting homeownership as they say they are, they need to look at reforming how they tax various forms of new residential construction.

Development Insurance is Much Higher for For-Sale Projects than for Rental Projects

Senate Bill 800, passed in 2002, guides the process of construction defect litigation in California. Existing laws provide that owners of new residential construction have ten years from building completion to file a lawsuit for defects. These lawsuits are very common for new condominium projects.

Because of this, insurance for new condominium projects is more expensive than that of other residential projects. As a result, many reputable California architects, engineers, and subcontractors simply refuse to work on condominium projects.

In 2005, the City of Los Angeles established the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance. This ordinance allowed a new hybrid housing typology that looked and functioned like row townhomes but where each unit was built independently on individual “small lots”.  A major consideration in this ordinance was insurance. Small lots are technically single-family homes and have lower development insurance than condominiums. I wrote earlier this year that the California Legislature should consider a statewide small lot ordinance as a way to address some of these insurance issues and promote home ownership.

So why are most new developments rental apartments? Because the developer does not want to deal with the longer approval periods, the often less favorable tax treatment, and the increased risk.

Increasing homeownership opportunities for new housing is very important. California residential real estate will almost certainly appreciate in the future. I want as much of that appreciation to go to the California worker as possible over a landlord. Promoting for-sale housing is a way to bridge the large wealth inequality gap we have in the state.

I often write that land use supply decisions must be addressed at the state level because it so difficult to fix at the local level. The ownership dilemma is different. It is not a local issue and must be addressed at the state and federal level. For decades in California, homeownership was often an attainable choice for many that wanted it. Today, especially in our urban centers, that is no longer the case. As we look for ways to create stable housing costs for Californians, addressing the issues that incentivize the construction of for-sale housing needs to be part of the conversation.

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