Ten Strategies that Set Back SB-50
Members of Livable California were pleasantly surprised to learn on Thursday that legislation that would give developers greater rights over city planning than elected city councils was not getting out of the Appropriations Committee. Instead SB-50 turns into a two-year bill, coming back in 2020. Senator Scott Wiener has the winds taken out of his ambitious housing agenda sails.
Wiener's legislative colleagues seemed to heed the voice of their constituents who dislike his plans to eliminate zoning for single family homes, increase heights, density, displacement, and gentrification without solving the problem of affordable housing. This is a set-back, like the defeat of Wiener’s SB-827 in 2018.
It is also a setback for the heavily marketed CASA Compact, which sought to push through a package of 10 housing bills under the banner of Protection (rental assistance and eviction standards), Preservation, and Production. Production is the key element of a package that many say is created to benefit real estate investors, banks, and global markets far more than it solves the problem of affordable housing for low-income residents.
Livable California is one of many organizations that played a part in slowing down SB-50. Acknowledging there are more draconian housing bills winding their way through the legislative process, we spent time at the Livable California monthly meeting on May 18th, identifying activities that made a difference. As we improve our tools and tactics, we anticipate a growing list of successes when it comes to preserving local control of land use, zoning, and housing.
Ten Strategies that Set Back SB-50
- Convened elected officials and community leaders from throughout the nine-county Bay Area twice a month to learn about the bills, network, collaborate, and take action.
- Analyzed the bill and widely shared findings, with special acknowledgement to San Francisco Planning Commissioner Dennis Richards, 48 Hills journalist Zelda Bronstein, CVP President Bob Silvestri, and LA colleagues Jill Stewart and Hydee Feldstein.
- Community leaders in Palo Alto, Cupertino, Orinda and San Carlos organized Town Hall meetings that drew audiences of between 80-200 people.Each one featured a line-up of speakers that included mayors, city council members, planning commissioners, journalists, and Livable CA. Organizers arranged pre-event publicity and got post-event newspaper or tv coverage.
- Community groups used social media, flyers, posters, labels, signs, websites and meetings to educate about SB-50 and promote attendance at Town Halls, planning commission and city council meetings.
- Working with Coalition to Preserve LA, our colleagues in Southern California, we created and promoted an interactive map that enabled anyone to plug in their address and see what impact SB50 would have on them. Try it now. Please Share this Stop SB50 Link - Click Here
- Coalition to Preserve LA hosted a north/south Teleconference that explained the bill and provided opportunity for shared ideas to stop the bill.
- Promoted all the typical activities like making calls, sending emails, using the California Legislature Advocates Portal to send letters to committees. We encouraged meetings with city council, board of supervisor, and legislative representatives. The Livable California google sharing group generated a robust exchange of ideas and through the website, we provided links to lists and resources.
- Working with our lobbyist, arranged meetings and talking points for two Livable California Lobby Days. On March 26th, 18 of us divided into teams and had individual meetings with 13 Senators or their aides from the Senate Housing Committee. Another Lobby Day occurred on April 24th with the Senate Governance and Finance Committee.
- Videographer Ken Bukowski videotaped and posted dozens of city council meetings, county-wide meetings; ABAG, MTC, and CASA meetings. https://www.youtube.com/user/REGIONALLINKS/videos
- Promoted media outreach, including the first Press Conference on SB-50 on December 6, 2018, blogs like The Marin Post, newspaper opinion pieces, and Letters to the Editor, responded to reporters’ calls and emails, accepted invitations to be on KQED’s Forum (January 21st: Livable CA President Susan Kirsch on the CASA Compact) and (May 14th: San Francisco Planning Commissioner Dennis Richards on SB-50).
This list of Ten Strategies doesn’t capture the daily nitty-gritty discussions, monitoring and reporting, formal and informal meetings, late night phone calls, and tireless effort to preserve democracy and a community’s right to determine its own future.
As Gandhi said, ““First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” If we’re now at the point where they fight us, these Ten Strategies will serve us well going forward toward more wins for a livable California. The fight against SB 50 continues--now.
Susan Kirsch is founder and President of the Board of Livable California, a statewide agency with a mission to empower community stakeholders to maintain local community planning and decision-making.