NovoMetro

Education in Oakland

The China Syndrome

Posted by novometro on June 21, 2006

The current issue of Builder and Developer Magazine has a slightly tongue-in-cheek essay arguing that California can learn something from the way new homes are built in China. The author, who was this year’s president of the Pacific Coast Builders Conference, recently returned from Beijing envious that a 200-home development in Beijing could be approved in just a year, compared to the 10 years customary for “a similar project in California.” A Beijing developer tells him that developers in China don’t face litigation or NIMBYs, or protesters. The author doesn’t speculate about what happens to Chinese citizens who might dare oppose a state-sanctioned development. He has seen the future and it works.

China-envy is on the rise. Everyone from developers to environmentalists have been looking with longing toward China’s totalitarianism-light ability to get things done without the bother of a democracy to slow things down.

No doubt, Signature Properties and Reynolds and Brown would have liked to move forward with their ambitious plans for Oak and Ninth with the ease that a Beijing developer can push a project to completion. Instead they had to work with the community to maintain open-space and build affordable housing.

The plan approved by Oakland's City Council early Wednesday morning represents the advantages of forcing various parties to sit down and negotiate. It took longer than what it might have taken in China, but the city will benefit from well-conceived and bold project that didn’t run roughshod over its neighbors.

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