Saturday, May 18, 2019

SB50 will be back


Please read the below Marin IJ piece but please note that part of the article's description of SB-50 gives an incorrect impression about the exemptions in the bill.
The article states; "The new merged bill gave special treatment to smaller cities and counties, and exempted small coastal cities, historic districts and fire-prone areas from zoning reforms."
First of all, the above listed exemptions only apply to the section of the bill that deals with "Equitable Communities Incentives", which would allow taller, denser residential developments near transit stops and within jobs-rich areas.  They do not apply to the section regarding "Neighborhood Multifamily Projects", which would allow the construction of fourplexes, by right, in all residential areas (including all single-family neighborhoods), provided the projects meet minimal criteria.
Secondly, the exemption from fire-prone areas is essentially ineffective because the bill's fine print states that this exemption will not apply if "a site has adopted fire hazard mitigation measures pursuant to existing building standards or state fire mitigation measures applicable to the development".  This would be easily accomplished by developers.
Per the article, SB-50 was moved to a "two-year bill".  That means SB-50 will be held for the rest of the year and come back for a vote in January 2020.  Please be ready to help defeat the bill again at this time.

Marin reaction mixed to failure of controversial housing bill to advance
By  | | Marin Independent Journal
State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, left, confers with State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, center, during a hearing on their housing bills April 24 in Sacramento. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

A controversial housing bill that called for sweeping changes to California’s zoning rules is dead for the year — a major setback for an ambitious legislative package that aimed to solve the housing crisis, but a triumph for residents worried the zoning overhaul would change their cities for the worse.

Senate Bill 50, which would have allowed fourplexes in neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes and forced cities to approve taller, denser residential buildings near transit stops, was one of the most-watched — and hotly debated — bills of the year. It also was the cornerstone of a group of bills seeking to reform everything from renter protections to residential development, part of an effort to ease the affordable housing shortage that for years has been driving Californians’ costs up and quality of life down. The effort has been taking place under a governor who has made housing a priority and specifically asked for housing bills to sign.

SB 50’s setback was received with mixed emotions by Marin officials. State Sen. Mike McGuire, whose district includes Marin, secured some special protections for Marin jurisdictions by agreeing to merge his affordable housing bill, SB 4, with SB 50.

“It is disappointing since we struck a balance between the need for workforce affordable housing and not adopting a policy that takes a one-size-fits-all approach,” McGuire, D-Healdsburg, said Friday.

The new merged bill gave special treatment to smaller cities and counties, and exempted small coastal cities, historic districts and fire-prone areas from zoning reforms. But the compromise also included an especially controversial new measure — cities would be required to approve fourplexes on vacant land in any residential neighborhood in California, a move critics decried as an attack on single-family zoning.

“I think the amendments made SB 50 stronger,” McGuire said.

McGuire said he expects state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, SB 50’s author, to advance an amended version of the bill when the next legislative session begins in January 2020.

“This provides an opportunity to continue to negotiate on the bill and work with all stakeholders,” McGuire said. “The bottom line is this: the affordable housing crisis is not going away here in California.”

Sausalito Councilwoman Joan Cox said, “I believe that senators Wiener and McGuire collaborated to accomplish some very good work on the updated version of SB 50 but I believe there remains additional work to do.

“It became clear that a majority of jurisdictions were not yet ready to support SB 50 without further amendments,” said Cox, who has served on an ad hoc committee advising the Metropolitan Transportation Commission on Marin’s response to various housing bills working their way through Sacramento.

Others in Marin, however, were not sorry to see SB 50’s momentum stall.

“Obviously we’re really pleased about the delay and think it’s a big success and victory for people who are really concerned about issues of affordable housing for low-income residents,” said Susan Kirsch of Mill Valley, founder of slow-growth group Livable California.

Richard Hall of San Rafael said, “SB 50 isn’t dead yet; advocates for the bill, the Yes in My Backyard YIMBYs, are pressing Toni Atkins, the president pro tempore of the state Senate, to put the bill to a floor vote as soon as possible.

“The most likely situation,” Hall said, “is SB 50 will be put to a vote in January 2020; 2020 is significant as not only is it a presidential election year, but also many state politicians will be up for re-election.”

SB 50 divided the state, pitting slow-growth groups against YIMBYs, developers against anti-gentrification advocates, and local mayors against state legislators.

It all came to a head Thursday. Moments before the bill was set to undergo a crucial vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee, the committee chair, Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La CaƱada Flintridge, announced SB 50 would join a handful of measures to become “two-year bills.” That means SB 50 will be held for the rest of the year and come back for a vote in January 2020.

“There were legitimate concerns expressed from both large and small cities about the scope of SB 50 as it pertained to bus corridors, historic preservation, the definition of ‘jobs rich’ neighborhoods and whether it would increase gentrification and discourage light rail expansion as unintended consequences; all of which justified the pause established today by the committee,” Portantino wrote in a statement.

But the fact that the committee held SB 50 this year, instead of killing it outright, is significant, said David Garcia, policy director for UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation.

“Bills get turned into two-year bills every now and then,” he said. “I think that signifies that the goals of the bills are worthy, but they simply couldn’t get the support in time for it to move further. But they want to continue the conversation into the next part of the legislative session.”

The bill was the second attempt by Wiener to pass sweeping zoning reform. His similar measure, SB 827, died last year in its first committee hearing.

“While I’m deeply disappointed that the Chair of the Appropriations Committee has decided to postpone SB 50 until 2020 — since we have a housing crisis right now — we are one hundred percent committed to moving the legislation forward,” Wiener wrote in an emailed statement. “We’re either serious about solving this crisis, or we aren’t. At some point, we will need to make the hard political choices necessary for California to have a bright housing future.”

Housing advocates still had reason to cheer Thursday, as several other housing bills made it out of the Appropriations Committee and will advance to the Senate floor. They include SB 329, which would prohibit landlords from discriminating against Section 8 tenants; SB 330, which would prevent cities and counties from imposing new parking requirements for housing developments; SB 5, which would fund affordable housing development at a cost of $200 million per year; and SB 6, which would create a database of local land suitable for residential development.

But none of those bills generated as much opposition as Wiener’s SB 50. City leaders fumed that it would strip their ability to control what gets built within their borders. And affordable housing advocates worried it would lead to more high-end development, which would displace low-income residents.

It may be more difficult for SB 50 to pass in 2020 because it’s an election year, Garcia said. Legislators up for re-election may be hesitant to cast a vote for such a controversial bill or may urge its author to soften its impact.

Newsom was disappointed.

“California must address the housing supply shortage head on, and we need to be able to use every tool in the toolkit to address this systemic crisis,” he wrote in a statement.

But Palo Alto Mayor Eric Filseth was relieved.

“It’s welcome to see cooler thinking starting to prevail in Sacramento,” Filseth wrote in an email. “Housing costs and also transportation remain really serious problems in the Bay Area, and I hope Sacramento will take this year to work with cities, instead of against them.”

Bay Area News Group reporters Marisa Kenda

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