Wiener’s bill follows a similar attempt in the last legislative session that sparked fierce debate over how far the state should impinge on local authorityto shape community development amid a housing shortage that’s been estimated in the millions. The previous attempt died in a legislative committee after outcry from local governments, labor groups and advocates for low-income residents.
“The heart of the bill is really the same,” Wiener said of his new legislation, Senate Bill 50. “We have a 3.5-million-home deficit in California. It’s undermining our economy. It’s undermining our climate goals. We have to be bold in solving this problem.”
Having learned from last year’s failed attempt:
Wiener made three major changes to the bill that aim to soften opposition from tenant groups and their allies that helped torpedo the prior effort. The legislation blocks developers from using the bill if they planned to knock down properties that renters had occupied within at least the previous seven years. It also allows communities facing pressures from gentrification and displacement to propose alternative plans to boost homebuilding instead of using the system outlined in the bill. And it loosens local zoning restrictions in communities with high median incomes, quality schools and short commutes to jobs, even if there isn’t access to transit nearby — an effort to push development into wealthier areas that might have previously resisted it.
I think California Senate Bill 50 is an idea who time is long overdue. We have a huge housing shortage, and we already having increasing density. We just don’t have smart density. Putting new apartment developments near rail stops just makes common sense. There is no going back to the low density, sprawl of the 1970’s. We can only move forward. Let’s do so smartly.