Darrell Berkheimer: Questions that point to Nevada County’s top local priority
I have read that we can’t expect to get the right answers or find the best solutions to problems and issues unless we ask the right questions. So I’m raising the questions, lots of them — beginning with: What are the one or two most critical needs in western Nevada County?
Isn’t it evident, in terms of local development, that what most area residents want for this area will require more population growth, especially by young adults looking to grow their families in an attractive place to live?
And isn’t it true historically, across our nation, that communities are doomed to decay unless they have young families raising children?
Aren’t some of the younger people already here — among the homeless folks and service workers who simply can’t even afford a small rental unit with the low-paying retail jobs available?
Doesn’t that indicate that more retail jobs are not what is needed?
And what are the choices for local young people completing their professional training? Are they being forced to live with their parents; delay marriage, or move away to where they can get a decent job?
Aren’t local school enrollments continuing to drop because there are fewer and fewer children living here?
And if retail jobs are not what’s needed, why should this community be looking to add retail space at the Dorsey Marketplace site?
Is another retail marketplace needed when we read that JC Penney is facing bankruptcy; and that Kmart stores are being closed nationwide? Who will fill the retail spaces there if those stores are closed?
What about vacant storefronts downtown? And who’s going to occupy the Big 1 building on Sutton Way?
Doesn’t Grass Valley Mayor Lisa Swarthout have a very valid concern about how one or more stores locating at Dorsey Marketplace probably would merely cannibalize existing retail outlets?
Don’t all of these questions point toward one conclusion — that the entire Dorsey Marketplace should be developed with affordable housing only?
And aren’t we already facing the crisis level on both affordable housing and local homelessness?
Yes, I know that some folks would like to pull up a drawbridge at Bear River to keep others from moving in. But haven’t we learned that without growth and progress, communities decline?
And yes, there will be more traffic. But isn’t it better to have the growth located where mass transit can be offered, rather than having all of the growth traffic coming into the city with mostly one person per car?
Isn’t it obvious that folks want to move here because this is an attractive area?
Hasn’t this area already attracted some professionals who can work remotely from their homes?
And if young professionals can find affordable housing here, won’t they attract more of the better paying employers, such as a tech-related company?
If affordable housing is under construction, or about to break ground, doesn’t that make it easier to sell the attractiveness of this area to companies that offer higher paying wages and salaries?
Doesn’t all of this lead back to my first question about what are the one or two most critical needs in western Nevada County?
Are affordable housing and better paying jobs the top two answers?
Isn’t it apparent that better paying companies won’t come unless affordable housing is available for a professional workforce?
I raised similar issues in a column published by The Union back on Aug. 5, 2017. The headline on that column asked: “Isn’t affordable housing the key to area’s future?”
And as I read back through all of the issues cited then and now, it becomes apparent to me that affordable housing should be the top priority for this area. And that the best use of the Dorsey Marketplace would be to fill the entire site with affordable housing.
Also, as noted in my column of two weeks ago, what really is needed are studio apartments of 300 to 400 square feet; one- and two-bedroom units of 400 to 500 square feet, and two-bedroom units of 500 to 600 square feet, plus a selection of small townhouses and condos.
Space-saving designs will provide for more units; and more units can make the overall project more profitable and attractive to builders.
Won’t more expensive single-family homes continue to go on the market as long as the demographics of this area remain top-heavy with retirees? Isn’t that evident by who’s selling and who’s buying in suburbia neighborhoods like Morgan Ranch?
And I do not subscribe to the frequently stated opinion that more money can be made by large acreage-eating single family homes. That land does not come cheap. So doesn’t it seem reasonable that more profit can be earned by selling or renting two dozen units that occupy no more land than what might be used for three or four single-family homes?
What can really drive up the costs, however, is battling all the objections and appeals created by the “NIMBYs” – the “Not-in-my-backyard” folks. That can equal a lot of costly wasted time and effort for developers.
But if local residents want their children and grandchildren to be able to come back to this area to live, they must finally realize the critical need for such high-density housing. And the Dorsey Marketplace site currently is the best option available.
So, for the second time I must end with:
It’s a choice the NIMBYs must make.
Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He now has seven books available through Amazon. His sixth, Essays from The Golden Throne, includes 60 columns published by The Union. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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