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Take Poll & Call Senators To Help Defeat High Density Housing Bill (SB-50)

Do you support or oppose increasing housing in California by revoking planning and zoning control from locally elected government, as included in Senate Bill 50?

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE DAILY JOURNAL POLL

Please scroll down to "TAKE ACTION" to help defeat Senate Bill 50.

Senate Bill 50 (Wiener), a high-density housing bill, was defeated last year but now a revised version of the bill is back before the State Senate Appropriations Committee.

ABOUT SENATE BILL 50

Single family zoning has already been eliminated by Assembly Bill 68, which passed last year and allows a developer to build three units on any single-family zoned lot, by right, and disregard local parking, height, density, and setback restrictions.

Now supporters of SB-50 want to change our previous single family zoning into fourplex zoning and allow even greater densification in job-rich and transit-rich areas. In addition, the bill greatly reduces parking requirements. We defeated SB-50 last year but now a revised version of the bill is back before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

If you wish to better understand the bill, then please click HERE to read a CalMatters article by Matt Levin entitled; "Last year's hottest housing fight, SB 50, just got resurrected - here's what to know". It was written on January 7, 2020 and describes the most recent amended version of SB-50.

In a nut shell, Senate Bill 50 is based on the unrealistic premise that there is a shortage of 3.5 million homes in California. (This number has been proven false by the Embarcadero Institute. Click HERE to read the Institute's report.). The bill dramatically increases allowable housing density and buildout in every jurisdiction throughout the state.

This year's (2020) version of the bill gives cities and counties the option to develop their own housing plans that increase growth around transit and jobs provided they boost allowable housing density to the level required under SB 50. Given the robust requirements of SB-50, this option gives little leeway for jurisdictions to truly design plans that are appropriate for their community's specific needs. These plans must be submitted to the state housing department within 2 years. If local governments don't submit an acceptable alternative within the time frame, then they must follow SB-50's default zoning program.

Untouched from last year’s (2019) bill is a provision that would let California homeowners convert an existing single-family home to a fourplex, regardless of where they live. This provision allowing fouplexes on single-family parcels would apply without exception, even if a jurisdiction develops its own housing plan. If a single-family neighborhood (within a County with a population greater than 600,000) is dubbed “transit rich” or “jobs-rich”, then multi-story multifamily buildings are allowed in that neighborhood. The bill also greatly reduces parking requirements.

The default zoning program of this year's (2020) SB-50 includes most aspects of last year's (2019) version of SB-50. For an in depth analysis of how the 2019 version of SB-50 would impact Marin County, please click HERE to read my article entitled; "You may say goodbye to your single family neighborhood if Senate Bill 50 passes".

OPPOSITION TO SB-50

Below are a few of the many reasons to oppose SB-50:

- Senate Bill 50 is the wrong solution to meet our affordable housing needs. California law already requires jurisdictions to plan for enough housing to accommodate population growth (in each income category) and other development drivers. SB-50 would be a second unnecessary and excessive mandate if it becomes law.

When discussing the need for housing, it is important to recognize that California’s population growth rate is at a record low and predicted to remain low. Estimates released on December 20, 2019 by the California Department of Finance show that, for the 12 month period ending July 1, 2019, California lost 39,500 people due to a sharp decline in births, an increase in deaths, a slowdown in immigration, and more people leaving the state.

Therefore, California, as a whole, only needs a modest increase in housing every year. We do not need to significantly up-zone vast areas of the state to accomplish this. There is plenty of potential housing buildout already allowed by the General Plans and zoning of jurisdictions throughout the state. And this potential housing buildout will grow each time jurisdictions update their Housing Elements to meet new Regional Housing Need Allocations.

So, vast up-zoning by the State for mostly market rate housing, which SB-50 mandates, is not the answer. This strategy primarily benefits real estate investors, developers, and large corporations. Instead, we need to provide the correct amount of affordable housing and prevent the loss of existing affordable housing.

To accomplish this, we need funding and subsidies for local solutions to affordable housing. Such solutions could include building new affordable housing where it is already allowed as well as providing other affordable housing programs (housing vouchers, conversions of market rate housing to affordable housing, encouraging living wages, maintaining existing affordable housing, etc.). In addition, we need funding and subsidies for the adverse impacts that the increased housing would create.

In regard to the jobs/housing imbalance created by large corporations, the State should provide incentives to Corporations for them to open offices in the less populated areas of the State that are jobs poor and housing rich, where the cost of land and housing are much less expensive. In addition, require “Full Mitigation”, which makes commercial development approval contingent on adequate housing. (Click HERE to read Palo Alto Mayor Filseth’s article about "Full Mitigation".)

- Senate Bill 50 would pose a significant threat to local control, democracy, and public engagement. The bill would override local land use plans and regulations and eviscerate decades of careful planning. The option for local jurisdictions to develop their own housing plans within 2 years is virtually meaningless due to the fact that such local plans must boost allowable housing density to the dramatic level required under SB-50.

Local planning efforts (general plans and zoning ordinances) encourage public engagement and are much better than the State at determining where and how much housing growth should occur. Local planning efforts are also better at anticipating necessary government services such as water, sewer, utilities, schools and traffic flow.

- SB-50 does virtually nothing to solve affordable housing needs and would actually decrease opportunities for affordable housing. If a project has 10 or less units, no affordability contribution is imposed. If a project has 11 to 20 units, the developer may pay an in-lieu fee instead of building any affordable units. If the project has more than 20 residential units, the developer may make a comparable affordability contribution toward housing offsite and not provide any affordable units on-site.

- SB-50 would eliminate Single Family Zoning, even though most homebuyers/sellers prefer single-family homes. A 2019 Redfin survey found that regardless of where people live within the US, more than 85% of home buyers and sellers (including millennials) prefer single-family homes with more space, privacy, and gardens over a unit in a triplex that has a shorter commute. (Click HERE to see Redfin's report.)

Exemptions from low-density zoning standards such as those proposed in the bill would greatly increase land values near transit and jobs as up-zoning confers a monetary benefit to property owners and developers. Therefore, the bill would decrease opportunities for the development of affordable housing because the increased value of land would exacerbate the challenges affordable housing developers have in competing for expensive parcels;

- The bill would increase traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. For “job-rich housing projects”, the bill allows developers to build much denser, taller housing, while lowering parking requirements, within high-income areas that are close to jobs and schools but may not be near any public transportation. For "Neighborhood Multifamily Projects", the bill also allows fourplexes with reduced parking requirements to be built in areas that may not be near any public transportation. Without public transportation, tenants would be forced to drive vehicles to get to destinations and would have to park on the street due to insufficient off-street parking spaces. Due to more cars on the road plus more circulation of those cars, as residents search for vacant on-street parking spaces, traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions would rise.

- SB-50 would jeopardize high fire hazard areas. According to the bill, if a development adopts existing building standards or state fire mitigation measures, which any new development would have to do, then it would still be eligible for an equities communities incentive, regardless of being in a high fire hazard severity zone. A development that meets fire mitigation measures does nothing to help residents evacuate during a fire.

There are many communities in high fire hazard zones that have narrow windy streets and one or two roads out to safety. The bill allows a dramatic increase in population in these hazardous communities while reducing parking requirements, which will lead to streets being overcrowded with parked cars. Dire consequences could result during an emergency when residents are unable to evacuate and fire trucks are unable to reach their destinations.

- 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;

- The bill would create unfunded mandates. There is no funding for dealing with the above listed impacts and the bill provides an official sidestep of addressing this issue. The bill states; “No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII-B of the California Constitution because a local agency or school district has the authority to levy services, charges, fees or assessments sufficient to pay for the programs or level of service mandates by this act within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code.” Moreover, there are no subsidies provided for affordable housing programs.

TAKE ACTION TO DEFEAT SENATE BILL 50:

- Please click on the below link and take the quick, one question, Daily Journal poll about Senate Bill 50:

Do you support state Sen. Scott Wiener's SB 50 to increase housing production?

- Please call the following State Senators, who are members of the State Senate Appropriations Committee, and urge them to vote "NO" on SB-50:

Sample Script: "Hi. My name is __. I'm calling to express my opposition to SB 50, which will soon be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee. This top-down bill will have statewide adverse impacts without solving the housing problem. I urge the Senator to oppose it."

Anthony Portantino (D) (Chair) La Cañada Flintridge, Burbank, Glendale, So. Pasadena (916) 651-4025

Patricia Bates (R) (Vice-Chair) Orange County (916) 651-4036

Steven Bradford (D) Gardena, Compton, Inglewood, Harbor City (916) 651-4035

Jerry Hill (D) San Mateo, So. San Francisco, Palo Alto, Mountain View (916) 651-4013 (He opposes SB 50)

Brian Jones (R) Southeast of San Diego, San Marcos, Escondido (916) 651-4038

Bob Wieckowski (D) Fremont (916) 651-4010

- In addition, please contact your State representatives and urge them to oppose SB-50. Below is contact information for Marin County's representatives:

Call Gov. Gavin Newsom during office hours only, at: (916) 445-2841

Email Gov. Gavin Newsom: https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail/

Call Senator Mike McGuire at: (916) 651-4002

Email Senator Mike Mcguire: senator.mcguire@senate.ca.gov

Call Assemblymember Marc Levine: (916) 319-2010

Email Assemblymember Marc Levine: assemblymember.levine@assembly.ca.gov

- Please share this article with your network.

Thank you in advance for taking action. Together we can save our communities!

Sharon Rushton