Sen. Scott Wiener’s Legislation to Increase Density is Gathering Support

Senator Scott Wiener (second from left) at a panel discussion on SB 827 (the precursor to SB 50), which was hosted by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (far right)  last March.

In December, California State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced a new housing bill, SB 50 (a.k.a. the More HOMES Act), which would, as summarized by the San Francisco Chronicle,  prevent “cities from restricting density within a half mile of a major job center or transit hub” (including LA Metro stations), and would raise height limits to 55 feet (or about five stories) within a quarter mile of those stations, and to 45 feet (about four stories), within a half-mile radius.  It would also eliminate minimum parking requirements in the affected areas.

SB 50 follows a similar proposal from Weiner last year, in a bill known as SB 827, which would have drastically restructured zoning limitations within half a mile of major transit (train and bus) lines, throughout the state, to make it easier to build more and denser housing in those areas (which would have included almost all of urban Los Angeles).  SB 827 would also have overriden most local zoning efforts and designations, and would not have allowed for as much input from neighbors and other local groups when new developments are proposed.  It also did not include any requirements for low income or rent-stabilized housing. But backlash to SB 827 was swift, and after much opposition from local cities, low income housing developers and residents, the bill died in committee before any major votes.

This time, to make his new bill more palatable to housing advocates, Weiner has added an economic benefit component to the bill and some measure of protection for rent stabilized housing. His efforts have earned him the support of a number of groups, including the California League of Conservation Voters, which announced it was signing on to SB 50 as a conditional supporter.  Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco also signed on as a full supporter, according to California YIMBY,

“The heart of the bill is really the same,” Wiener said of SB50 to the LA Times  “We have a 3.5-million-home deficit in California. It’s undermining our economy. It’s undermining our climate goals. We have to be bold in solving this problem.”

Last year, LA City officials objected to SB 827 because it would have removed control of local zoning, including the ability to preserve historic  neighborhoods, from local authorities.  So when SB 50 was introduced In December, LA City Council Members Paul Koretz and David Ryu introduced a motion “instructing the Department of City Planning, with the assistance of the City Attorney, to prepare a report-back with analysis on Senate Bill 50 detailing its potential impacts to the City’s land use regulatory process and zoning including but not limited to potential impacts to Historic Preservation Overlay Zones, affordable housing incentive programs such as Transit Oriented Communities (TOC), and Community Plan Updates. The report should also include background information on SB 50’s proposed concepts of major transit stops and job-rich areas.”

“Councilmember Ryu understands the concerns raised by residents of Council District Four about the housing crisis our City is facing,” Mark Pampanin, Ryu’s Communications Deputy, said in a statement to the Buzz. “However, the efforts to address the crisis need to take into consideration the unique character of Los Angeles neighborhoods and the voices of those who live there. Councilmember Ryu supports the motion introduced by Councilmember Koretz instructing the City Planning Department to report to the City Council on the bill’s impacts locally so we can better understand its impacts. The legislative process on SB 50 has just begun, and questions remain unanswered about how SB 50 would affect our City and local communities. The housing crisis is one that we need to face head-on and together. The Office of Councilmember Ryu looks forward to engaging with City staff and the bill’s backers to help craft a solution that works for Los Angeles.” 

A vote on the motion has not yet been scheduled, according to Pampanin.

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About Patricia Lombard

Patricia Lombard is the co-editor and publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

One thought on “Sen. Scott Wiener’s Legislation to Increase Density is Gathering Support

  1. I have tried in vain and multiple times over a two week period to ask our new State Senator, Marie Elena Durazo, where she stands on SB50 . I’ve called the LA and Sacramento office, left messages, sent emails, messages on her (scanty) website and on Twitter. NOTHING.
    This legislation has a fine intent, like urban renewal, with no consideration of context, like urban renewal. The assumption that transit corridors are connected to jobs is not fact, just assumption. And will developers be able to add bus or other transit routes to add density where they might otherwise be constrained by current zoning?

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