Marin Voice: Wiener bills take away local land use control
By Sharon Rushton
On behalf of a coalition of community groups, Sustainable TamAlmonte created an online petition titled: “No to SB-827 & SB-828! Stop Top-Down Planning, Unsustainable High-Density Housing Growth, and Unfunded Mandates!” The petition is taking off.
Over 2,800 supporters have already signed it and more are signing every day. Please sign the petition, too — http://www.tinyurl.com/No-to-
The petition was created in response to many residents who are up in arms about Senate bills 827 and 828, which were introduced by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco.
At a recent community hearing, Wiener promoted the bills with the argument that the state ought to address the housing crisis by facilitating greater density in cities throughout California.
Opponents see the bills as a blunt overreach of state power that would take away local control of land use and eviscerate decades of careful planning.
SB 827 would allow developers to build much denser, taller housing within a half-mile radius of “major transit stops” and within a quarter-mile radius of “high-quality transit corridors” by exempting “transit-rich housing projects” from local regulations concerning zoning, density, floor area ratio, setbacks, design guidelines and parking requirements.
The bill would also mandate that minimum height limits of such housing range from 45 to 85 feet (five to eight stories) or from 65 to 105 feet (seven to 10 stories) if the state’s housing-density bonus is applied.
“Major transit stops” would include the Sausalito, Tiburon and Larkspur Ferry terminals and every SMART depot. The definition of a “high-quality transit corridor” is every bus line that runs at least once every 15 minutes during morning and evening rush hours.
SB 827 would pose a significant threat to local control, democracy and public engagement. Immense developments could be approved with hardly any public input. Five- to 10-story multifamily apartment buildings could be built in single-family neighborhoods.
The bill would benefit developers who profit from unlimited high-end housing production, without solving the need for affordable housing. Furthermore, it would foster displacement of existing residents.
SB 828 would change state housing element law and especially target communities with high rates of income growth (and/or) high rental and home prices. The bill would dramatically raise each jurisdiction’s state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Allocation, which is the number of housing units that a city or county must plan for.
It would do this by:
• Changing the methodology that assesses a community’s housing need.
• Requiring a jurisdiction to automatically plan for 200 percent more housing units than its assigned housing allocation.
• Rolling over a previous unmet housing allocation and adding it to the current allocation; among other methods.
The subsequent housing densification and population growth would increase the risk of adverse impacts on the environment, public health and safety, traffic congestion, infrastructure, utilities (water supply), public services (schools), views, sunlight, privacy, neighborhood character and quality of life.
Moreover, there is no funding for dealing with these impacts and SB 827 provides an official sidestep of addressing this issue.
Urge members of the state Legislature to vote against SB 827 and SB 828 and, instead, support locally-grown sustainable strategies that enable our communities to meet all housing needs.
Sharon Rushton is the chairperson for Sustainable TamAlmonte, a local organization involved in land use issues.