Thursday, January 11, 2018

SB 827 will destroy local land use control


SB 827 (Skinner, D-Berkeley) will destroy local land use control

Becky O'Malley
Saturday January 06, 2018 - 02:12:00 PM

The purple areas in Berkeley will be upzoned if the Skinner-Wiener SB827 passes and is signed by Governor Brown.

State Senators Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) are again lusting after our remaining affordable neighborhoods on behalf of their developer patrons, who are fronted by the astroturf YIMBYs:

As reported by Liam Dillon in the L.A. Times:

“A dramatic increase in new housing near transit stations could be on its way across California under new legislation proposed by a Bay Area legislator. Subject to some limitations, the measure would eliminate restrictions on the number of houses allowed to be built within a half-mile of train, light-rail, major bus routes and other transit stations, and block cities from imposing parking requirements. Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), the bill’s author, said the state needs the housing to address affordability problems, maximize recent multi-billion-dollar transit investments and help the state meet its climate change goals.’Here’s a link to the bill, authored by Scott Wiener and co-authored by our own State Senator Nancy Skinner:

SB 827, as introduced, Wiener. Planning and zoning: transit-rich housing bonus.

Transit-rich is the new buzz word in the title, and how ironically apt it is. This bill effectively removes all local planning controls in areas served by transit, opening up enormous swaths of our historically low-income urban neighborhoods (think southwest Berkeley) to gentrifying market rate development.

And no, it won’t make the current residents, especially renters, rich—but it will certainly make rich developers richer. That's who get the housing bonus.

This plan doesn’t seem to have been reported in the Bay Area press as yet, but Damien Goodmon, founder and Executive Director of Los Angeles’ nonprofit Crenshaw Subway Coalition, already has their number. He’s posted a stinging denunciation of the bill’s backers and its effect on low-income residents on the organization’s web site. I was intending just to link to it, but so much of the analysis also applies to the urban East Bay that I’ll quote most of it:

“Like the Colonizers before them, YIMBYs claim the 'Hood as Theirs!

“The bill is backed by group that calls themselves YIMBYs, which stands for "Yes in my backyard." Like the colonizers whose agenda they seek to replicate, it takes a certain entitlement/supremacist mindset to call a community they didn't grow up in, don't live in or are new to as "theirs." It's NOT their backyard - it's ours. And we're not about to give it up. WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED!

“YIMBY groups are the very definition of "astroturf" - fake grassroots organizations backed by a corporate industry. The overwhelming white 30s-somethings-led groups push to remake our community of established institutions and organizations led by people of color. They aren't long-time residents of places like our South Central.

“That's why they could care less about the predatory lending that led to the greatest evisceration of Black wealth in decades - it wasn't their grandma whose mortgage became unaffordable overnight.

“They don't talk about or prioritize legislation to address modern-day redlining (Blacks are being denied home loans and refinancing in our community that are being granted to Whites with the same credit score and incomes), because they're not the ones being discriminated against.

“They never discuss the role of foreign money, Wall Street investors and rampant speculation in driving up land values that has made the communities our parents bought into completely unaffordable to even working middle-class Black people today.

“They never propose solutions to fight the expansion and rise of Wall Street landlords like Blackstone, the largest private equity firm in the world, which in one day bought up 1,400 homes in Atlanta, because YIMBYs are largely funded and supported by the real estate investor industry.

“YIMBYs are completely indifferent and nowhere to be seen on the strategies of protection and preservation of our dwindling affordable housing stock, because they're not being asked to move-in their cousin who makes less than $30K a year and was harassed out of their $850/month two-bedroom in Baldwin Village by the new corporate landlord who can now collect $2,200/month for the unit.

‘As just one example, not a single major YIMBY group has expressed strong support for what will be the biggest mobilization of housing justice groups in Sacramento this year - next week's Assembly Housing Committee hearing on AB 1506 - the bill to repeal the horrible Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which all housing justice groups in the state consider the top legislative goal for 2018.

“Scott Wiener's SB 827 is a declaration of war on every urban community in California - and especially our urban communities of color.

“It is time that we put our war paint on, soldiers. SB 827 is a bill that must be killed.”

I couldn’t have expressed it better myself.

What in the name of heaven is Berkeley’s state senate representative Nancy Skinner’s name doing on this horrendous bill along with Wiener’s? We haven’t done the same research on her contributors that Damien Goodmon’s group did on Scott Wiener’s backers, so we don’t know if developers are funding her the same way they are him, but it’s time to find out.

And what does all this mean for Berkeley? Thanks to Berkeley Housing Advisory Commissioner Thomas Lord for spelling it out for us on the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition list-serv:

“Scott Wiener has proposed SB827 which I am guessing will sail through both houses and get an easy signature from the governor. You must see the attached map to really appreciate it.

“Odds are, your street - your block - will be upzoned. Every place with purple shading on the map. “

“Oh, and, by the way -- the areas on the map that are not shaded? AC Transit will have land use authority over those. For example, all they have to do is decrease the peak commute schedule for the 88 bus from 15 minutes to 5 minutes and then all along Sacramento street will be upzoned.

“What do I mean by upzoned? I'll quote this bill which puts every low income household on the chopping block:

(b) Notwithstanding any local ordinance, general plan element, specific plan, charter, or other local law, policy, resolution, or regulation, a transit-rich housing project shall receive a transit-rich housing bonus which shall exempt the project from all of the following:

(1) Maximum controls on residential density or floor area ratio.

(2) Minimum automobile parking requirements.

(3) Any design standard that restricts the applicant’s ability to construct the maximum number of units consistent with any applicable building code.

(4) (A) If the transit-rich housing project is within either a one-quarter mile radius of a high-quality transit corridor or within one block of a major transit stop, any maximum height limitation that is less than 85 feet, except in cases where a parcel facing a street that is less than 45 feet wide from curb to curb, in which case the maximum height shall not be less than 55 feet. If the project is exempted from the local maximum height limitation, the governing height limitation for a transit-rich housing project shall be 85 feet or 55 feet, as provided in this subparagraph.

(B) If the transit-rich housing project is within one-half mile of a major transit stop, but does not meet the criteria specified in subparagraph (A), any maximum height limitation that is less than 55 feet, except in cases where a parcel facing a street that is less than 45 feet wide from curb to curb, in which case the maximum height shall not be less than 45 feet. If the project is exempted from the local maximum height limitation, the governing height limitation for a transit-rich housing project shall be 55 feet or 45 feet, as provided in this subparagraph.

(C) For purposes of this paragraph, if a parcel has street frontage on two or more different streets, the height maximum pursuant to this paragraph shall be based on the widest street.

“ Another aspect of this: it creates a much greater incentive than ever before to empty and demolish rent controlled buildings in Berkeley. Berkeley charges some fees for this but they are peanuts compared to the potential windfalls.

“Why will a bus service [AC Transit] have land use control over land use?”

A good question, and it sheds light on something I’ve been wondering about.

Within the last year, two new bus lines, 80 and 81, have been added to Ashby Avenue, with a stop right in front of our house. When our kids were at Berkeley High, we much appreciated the old 65, which took them from home to school in 15 minutes, but that’s been long gone. These new lines are part of a circuit which seems to go to the El Cerrito Plaza mall and the pricey 4th Street shopping area, neither one of which appeals much to me.

Evidently, these lines are not filling any huge demand for others either.

Since the service started, we’ve observed that very often there’s not a single passenger on these buses, and we have literally never seen more than two on any bus, day or night, since we’ve starting watching for them.

AC Transit does not publish figures on operating costs per passenger mile, but the cost of transporting these few passengers in lonely splendor on huge gas guzzlers must be astronomical. We've been wondering why these lines keep on going.

However, though I don’t want to go all conspiracy theory on you, it’s not hard to conjecture that the mere existence of these two routes in the next five or ten years, if SB827 passes, will dramatically increase the land values on Ashby for the benefit of speculative developers. The west end in particular, now devoted to nice well-maintained small single family homes, many minority owned, and small rental apartment buildings, will certainly be targeted for Build It Bigger market-rate projects as bad as the one on the corner of Ashby and San Pablo (which by the way was originally promoted as affordable housing, though it's now rented at market rates. )

A little history: The old “red-line” in southwest Berkeley used to be Grove Street, now re-named Martin Luther King Way. Minority residents had a mighty hard time buying or renting homes east of Grove, with the collusion of development and real estate interests, so as a result they clustered on the city’s west side.

The area was home to Berkeley’s substantial Japanese-American population until they were interned during World War II, when African-Americans who migrated to the Bay Area to work in defense manufacturing bought or rented there. As a result Berkeley’s vaunted diversity tends to be concentrated in the southwest quadrant of the city, along with a substantial percentage of our rent-controlled units.

If Berkeley’s control over its zoning is lost through the passage of the Skinner-Wiener SB827 bill, it’s highly probable that well-paid commuters to San Francisco jobs will soon gentrify southwest Berkeley, which is tantalizingly convenient to the Ashby freeway entrance. This will have the effect of forcing current residents to move to distant places like Antioch, Pittsburg and even Tracy, from which they will need to drive long distances to reach poorly paid service jobs in the urban core.

At the very least, passage of this bill could motivate residents in all kinds of areas, including the rest of Berkeley, to oppose the extension of rapid transit to their neighborhoods, which in the long term would have detrimental consequences for those who already live there and do need right-scale bus service.

This is a knotty topic which deserves a book of its own, for which we don’t have time or space here. Better to just reprise Damien Goodmon’s call to arms:

“Scott Wiener's SB 827 is a declaration of war on every urban community in California - and especially our urban communities of color.

“It is time that we put our war paint on, soldiers. SB 827 is a bill that must be killed.”

No comments:

Post a Comment