California state lawmakers are grappling with a particularly 21st-century problem: What to do with the growing number of shopping malls and big box retail stores left empty by consumers shifting their purchases to the web.
A possible answer in crowded California cities is to build housing on these sites, which already have ample parking and are close to existing neighborhoods.
But local zoning laws often don’t allow housing at these locations. Changing the zoning is such a hassle that many developers don’t bother trying. And it’s often not worth it for local governments to change the designations. They would prefer to find new retailers because sales taxes produce more revenue than residential property taxes.
However, with a stubborn housing shortage pushing prices to all-time highs, state lawmakers are moving to pass new laws to get around those barriers.