VC Billionaire Marc Andreessen and Ultra-Wealthy Neighbors Thwart Housing in California Town

(Bloomberg) — With wrought iron gates, mega mansions and towering hedges, Atherton, California has long been a bastion for Silicon Valley’s ultra-wealthy, where the median home value is north of $8 million. Billionaire venture capitalist Marc Andreessen and his moneyed neighbors have been lobbying local officials to keep it that way.

In a letter to the Atherton Town Council, Andreessen, who is the co-founder of VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, railed against a proposal to add multi-family overlay zones to the wealthy zip code, which would provide incentives for developers to build more housing in the area.

“I am writing this letter to communicate our IMMENSE objection to the creation of multifamily overlay zones in Atherton,” Andreessen and his wife, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, wrote in a letter in June.

Andreessen complained that an effort to boost the housing supply would “MASSIVELY decrease our home values, the quality of life of ourselves and our neighbors and IMMENSELY increase the noise pollution and traffic.” The Atlantic earlier reported on the Andreessens’ objections.

The letter was one of 270 comments submitted to the town, the vast majority of them from residents opposing multi-family overlay zones. People cited safety concerns for pedestrians from increased traffic and congestion, and questioned whether the town’s existing infrastructure could support more people.

The residents of the affluent neighborhood were successful: The multifamily overlay zones were expunged from the town’s draft housing element entirely in August.

The effort comes in a state that has the worst housing crisis in the country: Many California cities have been slow to build housing, leading to a deficit of 980,000 homes. Andreessen did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Andreessen’s attempt to block efforts to increase the housing supply stands in contrast to the Silicon Valley heavyweight’s previous advocacy for more building. In an influential 2020 essay, the venture capitalist criticized the country’s failure to construct enough homes, particularly in San Francisco and other job centers. “We can’t build nearly enough housing in our cities with surging economic potential,” he wrote. (Bloomberg LP has invested in Andreessen Horowitz.)

Atherton is a well-known enclave for Silicon Valley elites, and has been home to the likes of Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg and brokerage pioneer Charles Schwab. Zillow estimates that Andreessen’s Atherton residence is worth more than $20 million. The billionaire also owns real estate elsewhere: He completed a $36 million deal in June in Las Vegas for four parcels, and purchased a $177 million estate in Malibu last year, the most expensive purchase on record for a California residence.

Atherton is hardly the only wealthy community to try to block cheap housing. Earlier this year, residents of another wealthy California suburb came under fire for an attempt to block efforts to boost the housing supply by claiming the area was a protected wildlife refuge for mountain lions.

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