Zoning and development are hot button issues locally — Katella Avenue defines the front line of trench warfare between Los Alamitos and Cypress.
Regardless of where you stand on whether drivers should be allowed to drive south across Katella Ave. on Lexington Drive, or whether the signal at Cottonwood Way stay where it is or move east to Enterprise Drive, you should be aware of California State Senate Bill 50, introduced by State Senator Scott Wiener (D-CA11).
If passed and signed into law by Governor Newsom, it would yank control of (some) zoning from cities:
Senate Bill 50—modeled on SB 827 of the last legislative session—legalizes more housing near job centers and public transportation by overriding hyper-restrictive low-density zoning, while protecting against displacement of renters and vulnerable communities.
Katella Avenue likely qualifies as a “job center” with “public transportation.”
And what about Los Alamitos Boulevard? Would the City of Los Alamitos lose control of its three corners of the intersection of the Boulevard with the Avenue? Would Rossmoor have to petition the State of California to protect zoning on the so-called Fourth Corner?
Also, you can bet that Rossmoor, Los Alamitos, and Cypress won’t qualify as “vulnerable communities.”
One thing surprises me: John Moorlach is listed as one of the measure&rsquos supporters. I would like to hear his reasons for supporting it.
Something to watch closely as Democrats consolidate their control and agenda in the coming legislative session in Sacramento. Democrats regained a supermajority in the Senate, and have a solid majority in the Assembly. This bill requires only a majority vote in the Senate and Assembly to be sent to the governor for his signature.
For more on legislation to watch. check OCB’s California Legislation to Watch page.
Text of news release about SB 50 from State Senator Wiener
Today, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) announced the introduction of Senate Bill 50: the More HOMES Act (Housing, Opportunity, Mobility, Equity, and Stability). SB 50 creates new zoning standards for the construction of housing near job centers and public transportation, while protecting against the displacement of renters and vulnerable communities living in those areas. SB 50 eliminates hyper-low-density zoning near transit and job centers, thus legalizing apartment buildings in these locations so that more people can live near transit and near where they work. It also reduces or eliminates minimum parking requirements for new developments.
SB 50 will help relieve California’s acute housing shortage (currently a deficit of 3.5 million homes), make housing more affordable, increase the supply of low-income housing, and reduce pressure to create more sprawl and build in wildfire zones. The bill will also reduce carbon emissions by allowing more people to live near transit and near where they work.
SB 50 is modeled on SB 827, which Senator Wiener introduced earlier this year and which did not advance. Since SB 827’s demise, Senator Wiener has worked with a broad coalition of stakeholders to recraft the bill, in order to protect vulnerable communities.
“We must take bold steps now to address our severe housing crisis and reduce our carbon footprint,” said Senator Wiener. “California’s housing shortage hurts our most vulnerable communities, working families, young people, our environment, and our economy. It also increases homelessness. For too long we have created sprawl by artificially limiting the number of homes that are built near transit and job centers. As a result of this restrictive zoning in urbanized areas, people are forced into crushing commutes, which undermines our climate goals, and more and more Californians are living in wildfire zones. As educational and economic opportunities become increasingly concentrated in and near urban areas, we must ensure all of our residents are able to access these opportunities. I am excited to work with a diverse coalition to spur the development of more housing for all income levels while protecting vulnerable communities and ensuring we do more to address climate change.”
SB 50 is supported by San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Emeryville Mayor John Bauters, and El Cerrito Mayor Gabriel Quinto, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has made positive statements regarding the direction of the bill. SB 50 is also supported by the State Building and Construction Trades Council (which opposed SB 827) and the California Apartment Association and is sponsored by California YIMBY (please see bottom of release for statements from mayors and organizations).
In addition to Senator Wiener, SB 50 is co-authored by a diverse and bi-partisan array of legislators, including: Senators Anna Caballero (D- Salinas), Ben Hueso (D- San Diego), John Moorlach (R- Costa Mesa), and Nancy Skinner (D- Berkeley), and Assemblymembers Autumn Burke (D- Inglewood), Ash Kalra (D- San Jose), Kevin Kiley (R- Rocklin), Evan Low (D- Campbell), Robert Rivas (D- Hollister), Phil Ting (D- San Francisco), and Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland).
California is experiencing an unprecedented housing shortage and affordability crisis. According to the California Housing and Community Development Department, the lack of new housing construction in California has compounded over the last several decades into a shortage of 3.5 million homes. This shortage harms California’s workers and families. They feel the results of this shortage in the form of exorbitant rents and the highest home purchase prices in the nation. Excessive competition for limited housing supply is also driving a statewide epidemic of displacement, evictions, and homelessness.
California’s failure to allow for enough housing near job centers and public transportation is undermining the state’s climate goals and increasing wildfire risk. By not increasing density around public transportation and near jobs, local governments push residents into longer commutes, leading to greater air pollution. A November report from the California Air Resources Board explains that “while positive gains have been made to improve the alignment of transportation, land use, and housing policies with state goals, the data suggest that more and accelerated action is critical for public health, equity, economic, and climate success.” Additionally, a recent federal report indicates that governments are not doing nearly enough to mitigate the effects of climate change and especially greenhouse gas emissions. As we look at the biggest contributors of greenhouses gases in California, private vehicles remain at the top. Already we are seeing the economic, environmental, and human health impacts that climate change is inflicting on California. The recent wildfires have claimed thousands of homes, displaced thousands of families, and reduced air quality throughout the state.
Current state law leaves most zoning and land use decisions to local governments, and includes no density standards around public transportation and job centers. Due to a lack of adequate and enforceable statewide standards, most California cities are still operating under outdated and highly restrictive zoning ordinances—frequently banning apartment buildings entirely—that make it difficult or impossible to build multi-family dwellings.
The More HOMES Act eliminates density restrictions for housing near high quality transit and in job-rich areas, in order to ensure that the benefits of public investments in transit are accessible to Californians of all incomes and to enable people to live near where they work. It applies these standards to sites within ½ mile of fixed rail and ¼ mile of high-frequency bus stops and in job-rich areas. Within these geographies, a city may not limit density (e.g., banning apartment buildings). Within ½ mile of fixed rail, a city may not impose maximum height limits lower than either 55 feet or 45 feet. (Bus stops and job-rich areas will not trigger height increases; rather local height limits will apply.)
SB 50 defers to local design standards, inclusionary housing requirements, setback rules, demolition standards (unless they are too weak), and height limits (except near fixed rail stops).
SB 50 also includes the following provisions to protect renters and low-income communities and create more access to publicly funded services:
- Tenant Protections: Establishes strict tenant protections to ensure long-time residents will not be displaced from their communities, including a prohibition on demolishing buildings currently or recently occupied by renters or where Ellis Act evictions have occurred.
- Affordable Housing: Establishes affordability standards to ensure that projects are mixed income.
- Sensitive Communities: Allows for delayed implementation in sensitive communities at risk of gentrification and displacement, in order to allow for local planning to reduce displacement.
- Job-Rich Communities: Proposes a new “job-rich housing project” incentive to ensure that communities with easy access to jobs and in neighborhoods with high-performing public schools allow a broader range of housing choices for people of all income levels, even in the absence of high-quality transit.
The More HOMES Act was officially introduced on December 3rd when the Legislature reconvened for the 2019-2020 legislative session. It will be set for a committee hearing in the coming months. For the full text of SB 50 please click here.