Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Marin’s state senator drafting ‘strategic’ housing bill

Sacramento Senators will be pushing new housing bills for the Housing Industry in 2019

Marin’s state senator drafting ‘strategic’ housing bill

State Sen. Mike McGuire, whose district includes Marin, and Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, plan to introduce a bill this month to address California’s critical shortage of workforce affordable housing while also differentiating between the needs of rural, suburban and urban communities.

“Senate Bill 4 will take a strategic approach to infill, workforce affordable housing throughout California without taking a one-size-fits-all approach,” McGuire said in an interview with the Independent Journal.

“In the past,” he added, “I have had serious concerns with housing bills that are taking a one-size-fits-all approach for urban, suburban and rural communities.”

One of the bills McGuire, D-Healdsburg, probably had in mind was SB 827, which was introduced by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, a year ago. That bill would have exempted all new housing built within half a mile of a train stop or within a quarter of a mile of a frequent bus stop from most local zoning rules. It would have permitted apartment buildings up to five stories tall and freed exempted housing projects from parking requirements.

“We also know we’re beyond the point where we can deny there is a workforce affordable housing crisis,” McGuire said. “It is boiling over and the strategy of ‘no’ no longer works, which means we need to advance a strategic approach.”

McGuire expects a number of competing housing bills to be introduced in the next legislative session, many of which won’t differentiate between communities of different population size. Wiener has already introduced SB 50, a scaled-back version of SB 827.

“If a workforce affordable housing bill is passed by the Legislature, it will most likely be signed by Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom,” McGuire said, “which means the North Bay must be at the table negotiating on workforce affordable housing that works for everyone.”

To some degree SB 4 is still a work in progress, since the final language of the bill is yet to be crafted, but McGuire was able to provide the legislation’s basic framework.

Like SB 827, SB 4 would facilitate denser development near mass transit; but there most of the similarities end.

“On land that is already zoned for housing, SB 4 will allow for strategic infill focused on workforce affordable housing,” McGuire said.

SB 4 will allow taller developments with reduced parking requirements; but only certain properties will be eligible for these incentives.

To qualify, the property will have to be located in a city with more than 50,000 residents within a half mile of a fixed passenger rail line or ferry terminal, and the city must have produced fewer housing units than jobs and failed to have met all of its Regional Housing Needs Allocation goals.

State law requires all Bay Area counties and municipalities to periodically update the housing elements of their general plans to demonstrate that there are sufficient sites available for the jurisdiction to provide its fair share of regional housing needs. The housing elements must identify sites with appropriate zoning densities to meet the needs of all income levels. The current planning period for housing elements ends in 2023.

Properties that meet all of these requirements would be entitled to build one story above what the current zoning allows.

In addition, projects built within a quarter mile of a passenger rail line or ferry stop in cities with a population of more than 100,000 would not be required to provide any parking — or .5 spaces per unit if between a quarter and half mile from an eligible transit stop. Projects within a half mile of a passenger rail line or ferry stop in a city under 100,000 would also be required to provide .5 spaces per unit.

In cities with a population of more than 50,000, ministerial permitting of residential buildings containing four separate units would be allowed as long as they meet other local requirements that applied to the parcel on Jan 1, 2018.

SB 4 would not, however, pave the way for projects larger than 20 units per acre, the state’s default density number for counties classified as suburban. There would also be exemptions for historic districts, coastal zones, high fire hazard zones and floodplains.

McGuire said the legislation will have language to prevent displacement of existing affordable workforce housing, and it will require that new housing meet 30 percent inclusionary requirements for affordability.

In early December, McGuire and Beall introduced SB 5, which would allow municipalities, counties, joint powers agencies and certain other entities to use some of the property tax revenue they currently are required to send to the state to support education to build housing instead. That bill also has a 30 percent inclusionary requirement for projects funded through this means.

Contacted Monday, Wiener said, “Some people called me when Mike introduced SB 4 and said, ‘Oh McGuire is trying to compete with your bill.’ I said no that is the wrong attitude. My perspective is it’s great that Mike is also interested in this area. The more the merrier.”

Wiener said he didn’t know enough about SB 4 to comment on its specifics.

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