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Atkins Will Be ‘Really Involved’ In Resurrection Of Housing Density Bill

State Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, calls on lawmakers t...

Photo by Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Above: State Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, calls on lawmakers to approve the state budget bill, in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, June 13, 2019.

California Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) said Monday she would take a more active role in reviving one of the most closely watched and controversial housing bills that stalled earlier this year.

Senate Bill 50, authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would require cities and counties to allow denser and taller apartment buildings in areas with access to good public transit, jobs and schools. It was shelved in May by Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), who chairs a key committee that the bill had to pass through.

Listen to this story by Andrew Bowen.

Atkins faced criticism at the time for not attempting to resurrect the bill in 2019, as housing advocates feared it would be more difficult to pass in 2020 as legislators face reelection.

"There will be changes to (SB 50), obviously, and I'll be really involved in helping make that happen," Atkins said in an interview with KPBS. "This is a key issue, but we've got to do it right and we've got to have people who support us moving forward."

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Atkins said she agrees California has failed to effectively plan for enough new home construction to meet population growth, and that she had met with constituents in smaller cities including Del Mar and Solana Beach to talk about how the state is trying to rectify that.

"We ignored it for a very long time because it was a contentious issue between small communities and large cities," she said. "Now it is time to pay the piper. We have to address it."

SB 50 won endorsements from some of the most powerful interest groups in Sacramento, including those representing realtors, developers, landlords, construction worker unions, environmentalists, students and the elderly. But opposition in suburban areas ensured the bill would not face easy passage.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has pledged to facilitate the construction of 3.5 million new homes in California by 2025, and many supporters saw SB 50 as a means of accomplishing that goal. But Newsom never endorsed the bill and made no public effort to keep it alive this year.

Home construction, meanwhile, is experiencing a slump. The Real Estate Research Council of Southern California recently found home building in San Diego County was down 43%in the first half of 2019 compared to the same time period in 2018.

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Aired: September 24, 2019 | Transcript

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