In the new episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast,” CalMatters’ Manuela Tobias and the Los Angeles Times’ Liam Dillon pick California’s wildest housing story of 2022: How a California town almost used mountain lions to sidestep a new housing law.
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Each biweekly episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast” takes listeners to a new city or town where an outlandish housing story is unfolding to better illustrate the state’s housing crisis.
That segment is called the Avocado of the Fortnight, in honor of a particularly wacky housing tale: when in 2017, an Australian real estate mogul blamed millennials’ outsize spending on avocado toast at brunch for their inability to afford to buy a house. And once a year, one of those stories is selected as the Avocado of the Year.
California produced a bushel full of ripe avocados in 2022, but the winner was clear from the start.
In February, the wealthy Silicon Valley town of Woodside declared itself a habitat for potentially endangered mountain lions in order to sidestep a new state law requiring cities to allow duplex construction on lots previously set aside for only single-family homes. It wasn’t the only city to push back against the state duplex law, but it might have been the most brazen. The story went viral, and the town reversed course after state Attorney General Rob Bonta stepped in. In a guest appearance, Bonta came on the show to announce Woodside as the winner.
To dig deeper, “Gimme Shelter” co-hosts Manuela Tobias, housing reporter for CalMatters, and Liam Dillon, housing reporter for The Los Angeles Times, interviewed Angela Swartz, the reporter who first broke the story for The Almanac. Swartz covers housing and other local debates in the wealthy Silicon Valley enclaves of Atherton, Portola Valley and Woodside, all of which made news this year for their opposition to state mandates to increase housing density.
Cougar Town had some noteworthy opponents in the housing story contest.
In March, it appeared that UC Berkeley would have to cut its incoming enrollment by thousands of students because of an environmental lawsuit. A judge sided with neighbors of the campus who argued enrollment growth was harming traffic, noise and housing prices — and then the state Legislature intervened.
In April, the city of Fresno sought to lift local spirits by hanging banners, one of which declared the city had the “hottest housing market,” quoting the Los Angeles Times. Turns out the story it quoted was written by podcast co-host Dillon, who found the city’s rising prices were in fact making it harder for longtime residents to remain in Fresno.
Finally, in August, The Atlantic reported that billionaire investor Marc Andreessen, who had publicly decried the not-in-my-backyard mindset and argued in an essay it was “time to build,” had in fact submitted public comment with his wife saying they were “IMMENSELY AGAINST multifamily development!” when his community of Atherton was considering bringing more housing to its backyards.
Special thanks to the more than 200 listeners who participated in the online poll to pick the winner.
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