■ By SAMANTHA MEHLINGER Long Beach Business Journal O ver the past 30 years, The Olson Company has built thousands of homes in a hundred cities across California, working closely with local officials and their respective policies. This has provided Olson executives a unique understanding in dealing with the housing crisis most communities are facing. In this interview with Todd Olson, President of Community Development for The Olson Company, we examine issues such as land-use and planning policies that impact housing development. Q: Why are land use policies dealing with California’s housing crisis so outdated? A: Land use policies and planning can help encourage a greater supply of housing at more affordable prices. Thoughtful land use policies maintain bal- ance between the stresses of growth and the local community culture. They allow developers to build in metropolitan neighborhoods where people want to live, and to plan transit lines that link housing to job centers. The challenge is that the state will soon have 40 million residents, yet new construction has averaged just 71,000 houses per year over the past decade. Housing issues have typically been addressed at the local level, but they are really regional problems. The state and local governments do not have the necessary tools to address the magnitude of the problem. Q: Cities sometimes resist new developments by charging high impact fees, resisting changes to density, and being opposed to affordable housing. How should cities work through these issues? A: Cities need to be more aggressive in their planning activities to build more homes, especially in the metropolitan cores. The gap between construc- tion levels of new housing versus formation of new households needs to be measured accurately and publicized annually. The housing deficit varies by region. Established transit corridors offer an opportunity for the state to work with local agencies to increase density bonuses along the corridors in ex- change for certain tax credits and other financial resources. The state can also be helpful in working with cities on parking reductions and fee deferrals. Q: Where is new housing going to go? How does The Olson Company find land in this challenging environment, as Southern California is mostly built out? A: Planning agencies need to first try and match jobs with housing. Freeway travel continues to become more exasperating for many. In many cases, light rail and Metrolink offer improved connectivity. Local transit authorities have identified 20 additional transit stops, and these may become future opportu- nities for residential construction. State and city surplus lands also offer oppor- tunities for additional housing. The com- pany has learned that the alternate use of land is dynamic in California. Every- thing is always in the process of becom- ing something else, and housing is a definite priority for such projects today. Many retail complexes will be ultimately transitioned to a blend of housing, en- tertainment, healthcare, food, and re- tail. Supermarkets are closing numerous stores. Some of these properties will be converted to housing as well. The other challenge is matching proj- ect opportunities with cities that have the necessary infrastructure to support additional housing. California is signifi- cantly behind in its infrastructure devel- opment and that affects the growth potential for the entire state. The state needs to conduct, along with its annual housing surveys, infrastructure updates that will provide information on proj- ects, funding, agencies and utility providers so the footprints for growth are properly identified. And, most im- An Interview With Community Development President Todd Olson Finding The Right Location: Dealing With Land-Use And Other City Policies 12 ”The company has learned that the alternate use of land is dynamic in California. Everything is always in the process of becoming something else, and housing is a definite priority for such projects today.” Todd Olson, President, Community Development, The Olson Company 2017_18Pages_OlsonCopy_PortAnniversary 12/28/17 11:52 AM Page 12