A high-profile bill that would have allowed increased home building near mass transit stations and in single-family neighborhoods across California was defeated on Thursday.
Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) championed Senate Bill 50, which would have required California cities to allow multi-storied apartment complexes near rail stations and four or more homes on land currently zoned for only single-family homes.
The proposed measure would have likely spurred urban development in an effort to make housing more plentiful and affordable and to meet the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.
But SB 50’s opponents claimed the move would create denser housing in what are now single-family residential areas, thereby diminishing the quality of life in those areas. A different school of thought believed the bill likely would have displaced low-income residents.
The bill’s defeat came as a disappointment to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who ran his 2018 election campaign addressing California’s housing affordability crisis. Newsom wants to see a quadrupling of the current construction levels to 3.5 million new homes by 2025.
“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,” Newsom said in a statement. He said “today’s developments can’t end or stall that critical conversation.”
Valley Industry and Commerce Association President Stuart Waldman shares Gov. Newsom’s dismay.
“It’s a huge setback. We have a housing crisis and our elected officials don’t want to do anything to solve that problem,” Waldman told the Business Journal, adding that the passage of SB 50 “would have made it easier, would’ve made it quicker” to address the affordable housing shortage.
“They’re the people who don’t want senior housing, don’t want market rate housing, they don’t want any housing,” Waldman continued, referring to those opposed to the bill. “It’s a victory for the status quo and Nimbys and it’s sad.”
The bill, which had stirred up much conversation on how best to address the state’s housing affordability crisis, will not be debated again until 2020 although Waldman noted that the bill could come up again sooner as part of a larger package of legislation or could return in a ballot measure.