SAN DIEGO — Gov. George Deukmejian on Thursday blasted California's slow-growth movements, saying the efforts to limit development are to blame for high housing costs that are pricing young people out of the market.
The Republican governor also took aim at the fees local communities charge developers to pay for roads, sewers, parks and other public works. He said the state may need to further restrict the ability of local governments to levy those kinds of assessments on builders.
Instead of growth limits and fees, Deukmejian said, the state should rely on the forces of free enterprise to determine how many houses are built and how much they cost.
"If you let the marketplace take effect and allow supply and demand to determine the quantity of housing and the price of housing, generally speaking that has worked," Deukmejian said at a press conference here.
"But, if you continue to have policies that limit the supply, then you are interfering in the marketplace, and that always seems to have the result of limiting accessibility and increasing tremendously the prices."
Deukmejian said he did not mean to single out San Diego, where voters rejected limits on development last year but since have elected slow-growth City Council members.
After his news conference, Deukmejian crossed the border to Tijuana, where he met at a private home with the governors of Baja California and Baja California Sur. He also addressed a meeting of the Commission of the Californias, a binational panel that discusses problems common to the three areas.
While in Tijuana, Deukmejian pointedly went out of his way to commend Mexico's efforts to crack down on drug trafficking, touching upon an issue that is particularly sensitive in the aftermath of the NBC docudrama "Drug Wars: The Camarena Story." The nationally broadcast miniseries, based on the life of a U.S. narcotics agent murdered in Mexico, has unleashed a firestorm of controversy south of the border because of what Mexicans view as inaccurate and stereotyped depictions of official corruption in Mexico.
Questioned by reporters about the series, the governor stressed his admiration for Mexico's fight against drug traffickers, and he noted that the program was only loosely based on fact.
"The people of Mexico have to remember that this is a television program," Deukmejian said after addressing the commission. "We know that people in the entertainment field like to dramatize things."
Deukmejian's comments on the growth issue came as he was discussing his $2-billion proposal to increase state assistance to first-time home buyers, who he said are finding themselves increasingly unable to qualify for a loan or afford a down payment.
He noted that his own children are entering the market for housing and will have difficulty affording homes. But he said that is not what is motivating him on the issue.
With California's population growing by 600,000 each year, he said, the state simply cannot limit the supply of housing and expect people to be able to find a home.
"We cannot close off our borders to people and say you cannot come in," he said. "We have to have more housing available."
Although the state already caps the fees that schools and local governments can charge developers, Deukmejian said the assessments have become "almost confiscatory" and may need to be regulated further.
The governor's remarks drew a rebuke from a representative of the Sierra Club, who said in a separate interview that the slow-growth movements are legitimate local responses to the problems associated with growth.
At the same time the governor was criticizing restrictions on developers, he was promoting a proposed 9-cent-per-gallon increase in the gasoline tax to improve transportation. A key component of that plan would place new requirements--and financial responsibilities--on developers to help reduce traffic congestion caused by new developments.
Times staff writer Patrick McDonnell contributed to this story.