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Bill To Increase Housing Density In California Stalled By Senate Appropriations Committee

 May 17, 2019 at 10:15 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 A proposal to increase housing density around public transit and in single family home neighborhoods won't be considered by California lawmakers. Senate bill 50 was shelled for this year and won't be debated again until 2020. The decision is a major blow to affordable housing advocates and to Governor Gavin Newsom who said he was disappointed by the decision and a group of housing advocates are rallying in support of SB 50 in San Diego next week. Joining me to explain what stopped SB 50 from moving forward is La Times reporter Liam Dillon and Lee. And welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. This measure would have really changed zoning in many areas of the state. Can you describe the kind of housing density it proposed? Speaker 2: 00:46 Sure. So, uh, around mass transit, so that would be around the try line. In San Diego for instance, it would have allowed for four to five story apartment complexes in near there. Uh, regardless of what the underlying zoning was. And so a single family properties, you know, around rail would have been allowed, a developers would have been allowed to build taller. And then similarly, I mentioned single family zoning. Um, that would have been pretty much done away with, um, across the state. And so that means that, uh, in many places you would have been allowed on vacant parcels to build, uh, fourplexes without any further government review and an even larger in some other places that were part of wealthier neighborhoods and communities across the state. And so as you noted this, this would have been a very large, very large change. Speaker 1: 01:29 And the goal of SB 50 put forward by state Senator Scott Wiener was to increase housing. But wasn't it also meant to change the growth pattern in the state? Speaker 2: 01:39 Exactly. So there were sort of two principal, um, arguments that proponents for this made, including the senator, uh, one being that we have a shortage of available homes in California. And that is one of, if not the primary drivers of why it's so expensive to live here. And the second is in order to meet the very ambitious climate change goals that California has a, we need to produce housing in a way that, uh, does not require a long super long commutes from a B to your job or to shopping or things like that. And so if you build an already urban areas, you make those trips shorter or not necessarily at all. Was there an estimate of how many new homes this measure might've helped create? Right. So it was hard to get something like that because the bill is changing a lot over time. Uh, and there are also a number of restrictions on where this would have been allowed to happen or not. For instance, some coastal areas, uh, you know, would not have really affected a wildfire areas, things like that. Uh, but there was one study done, uh, on one iteration of the bill, uh, and its effects in the bay area. It found on parcels that, uh, would have been allowed to have increased density in the bay area. The capacity would have increased four fold. So certainly potential for large changes there. Speaker 1: 02:49 Where did the opposition to SB 50 come from? Speaker 2: 02:53 So it came from sort of two principal areas, uh, one from I think strongest local governments, cities who are obviously not pleased about having their power being taken away, which they certainly would have done. Um, you know, there's a long standing history in California that local governments, so he's in counties are in charge of zoning in their communities and this would've been an incursion into that. Um, I think also, um, you know, not a lot of neighborhood groups, particularly those that represent a single family neighborhoods which could have undergone a lot of change. They were also very opposed. And then I think also there was some concern from a advocates, um, worried about gentrification and displacement in, in certain communities that if you allowed for, um, building or opened up restrictions on, on building consistent such an extent that building could ultimately end up pushing out a longtime residents from, from, um, from those communities. Speaker 1: 03:43 Now the decision not to even debate SB 50 is really kind of confusing considering the state's housing crisis. From your reporting on this issue, what message does that send about the future of this bill? Speaker 2: 03:55 Well, I mean, I think these are the bill is that it's going to be really hard to pass something like this. I mean, I think that that, that was always the case, but, um, I was surprised, especially given sort of more support this bill had this year than last year. There was a previous iteration that that died even earlier in the process last year. This said, you know, much more support including from us are powerful interest in construction workers union and things like that. Also some momentum. I'm from Governor Gavin Newsom, uh, the new governor this year, while he did not take a position on the bill, um, he, you know, has called for a significant increase in, in home building over the next seven years. And this was sort of seen as the primary vehicle to at least this year for that to happen. And so, uh, I don't know. I mean, you know, you have people who are very much opposed to it and, and when you have bills that could create such massive changes, they all are often hard, hard to get through. But I think supporters of this approach say, look, I mean the state's a housing crisis is such that we need to look at sort of more radical measures like this Speaker 1: 04:54 Ken Senate leader, Tony Atkins, resurrect this bill this year. Speaker 2: 04:58 Short answer is yes, longer answer is that it's extremely unlikely for that to happen. Um, you know, the appropriations committee is a very weird place. It's, it's very opaque. One of the most opaque and not transparent parts of the legislative process here where, I mean, this bill, you know, was held without even a formal public vote. It was just sort of announced, right? So we don't know for sure who was involved directly made the final decision for it, for it not to go forward. Uh, however, uh, certainly legislative leaders, Tony Atkins, um, uh, being the principle one in the Senate, of course, um, you know, uh, if she wanted this bill to move more likely, she would have done something to ensured that that happened before this decision was made. And so to expect that she's not going to do something afterwards, I think it is certainly a stretch. Speaker 1: 05:44 I've been speaking with La Times reporter Liam Dillon land. Thank you. Thank you. KPBS received a statement from state Senate President Toni Atkins in it. She says she will not bring back SB 50 this year. She, in part, quote, short of significantly amending the bill and limiting its applications in large swaths of the state. There was no path to move forward this year, but she adds quote, the bill is not dead. Speaker 3: 06:11 [inaudible] [inaudible].

SB-50 was shelved for this year, and won’t be debated again until 2020.
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