Housing Density Bill Fails Again in California
SB 50 would have allowed high density development near transit
The California State Senate on Jan. 30 killed SB 50, controversial legislation that would have overruled local zoning restrictions to allow high-density housing development near transit lines and other city amenities.
Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), the bill’s author who worked for two years on the legislation that failed on reconsideration, says the bill aimed to address California’s housing shortage.
“Dramatically, dramatically increasing supply of housing in California must happen,” Wiener said at a press conference Jan. 30. “As we build those millions of new homes, we must stop building sprawl, we can’t just keep going further and further out.”
Wiener says California’s housing shortage of more than 3 million homes tanks climate goals, clogs freeways, creates longer commutes, shutters small businesses, limits the workforce talent pool and destroys farmland.
“We need to concentrate the new housing near jobs and near transit,” Wiener said.
Bill opponents argued the law would take away local control and that the measure didn’t do enough to help the affordable housing crisis.
Among others, a coalition of groups including the Alliance for Community Transit-Los Angeles, PolicyLink, Western Center on Law and Poverty, Public Advocates and the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation opposed the bill.
“We took this position only after 15 months of discussion to resolve our concerns,” the coalition said. “Despite important improvements to the bill, SB 50 was not bold enough or targeted enough to address the affordable housing needs of low-income Californians and did not include meaningful protections for communities most sensitive to displacement.”
AGC of California said it didn’t take a formal position on SB 50, but that it “looks forward to continuing discussions and engaging with local government to aid in a resolution to California’s housing situation,” says Robert Dugan, the contractor group's vice president of advocacy and public affairs.
According to California YIMBY, (Yes In My Back Yard) a three-year old organization with 75,000 members, 66% of California voters supported SB 50. YIMBY spokesman Matthew Lewis says political impediments to SB 50 included a disconnect between California residents and developers.
“I don’t think Californians understand who builds homes – there is not a lot of talk about drywallers and carpenters – and that’s a mistake on the industry side,” Lewis says. “The construction industry should put a face on its own workers and not let them be defined as greedy Wall Street developer types and use them as a foil to prevent construction of new housing.”
Lawmakers and bill supporters, including AARP, the League of Women Voters, NRDC, the California Labor Federation, the California Chamber of Commerce, the Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California and the California Association of Realtors, vow to continue pushing for legislation that allows more housing development.
“California’s housing affordability crisis demands our state pass a historic housing production bill. I applaud Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins for vowing to continue this fight and working to pass a major housing production bill by year’s end,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said in a statement to ENR.