Most of America’s biggest problems - inequality, climate change - are at some level a housing problem. There’s a lot of solutions, but the most important, building more housing, is the hardest. My story on an epic development fight that illustrates why.

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  • The fight, in a Bay Area suburb called Lafayette, has been going for eight years. There’s been two lawsuits, one election and a city manager who resigned in protest. It’s full of “you won’t believe what happens next” moments.

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  • It started in 2011, when a developer proposed a 315-unit apartment project on land that was zoned for exactly that. The city tried to downzone the land to make this illegal, at which point the developer threatened to sue.

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  • At that point the city manager tried to make a deal. And they found one. The developer decided to propose a project with 44 single-family homes instead. You won’t believe what happened next....

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  • Just before the city approved the comprise project, an upstart housing group called the Bay Area Renters’ Federation (BARF) sued to try and make the city go back to the original 315-unit apartment project. The suit was unsuccessful but the city had to pay them to go away.

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  • After the first suit was gone, a second activist group, made up of neighbors who hated both projects, sued to try and force an election to undo the city’s approval of the new 44 single-family home project (which was designed to placate neighbors, but obviously didn’t).

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  • Meaning, in essence, that after one group sued because they thought the project was too small, another sued because they thought it was too big.

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  • Replying to @ConorDougherty

    This is a wonderful piece - and now I'm off to go buy your book. Thank you!

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  • Replying to @akiltykramer

    Thank youI!!!

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  • Replying to @ConorDougherty @nytimes

    Building housing is not the hardest. Building the infrastructure, especially transportation, to support the housing is the hardest.

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  • Replying to @McG329 @ConorDougherty @nytimes

    Live near where you work-nearly no new infrastructure needed

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