Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

It’s Back! SB 50 Garners Support from State Leaders

Anti-SB 50 lawn signs distributed by the Windsor Square Association, which actively opposes the measure.

Just because we haven’t heard much about SB50 lately (it’s the California legislative bill that would end single-family zoning in transit- and jobs-rich areas, allow much greater density in many areas within half a mile of busy transit lines, and reduce or eliminate parking requirements for new developments) doesn’t mean it has gone away.  Today, California State Senator Scott Weiner, the bill’s sponsor, issued a press release saying SB50 has now received endorsements from California’s Lieutenant Governor (Eleni Kounalakis), Controller (Betty Yee), Treasurer (Fiona Ma), and Insurance Commissioner (Ricado Lara).

In the release, the four statewide elected officials – and Sen. Weiner – explained their support:

“As someone who spent 18 years in the housing industry, I saw this crisis coming for a long time,” said Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis. “This bill is the most impactful attempt to date to deliver more homes to Californians while ensuring that every jurisdiction across the state absorbs a fair share of the burden.”

“If policymakers do not act in a stable economy to address our housing challenges, housing costs could continue to rise even amidst lay-offs and furloughs. With less revenue to spend on important state programs, policymakers will be confronted with difficult choices between housing assistance and other critical social safety net services,” said Controller Yee, the state’s chief fiscal officer. “SB 50 recognizes the critical fact that, to have any chance at meeting more ambitious housing targets, significant zoning changes must be made.”

“California’s severe housing crisis is harming our economy, pushing families into homelessness, and threatening the future of our young people and our state,” said Treasurer Ma. “We must take action today. SB 50 is a meaningful piece of legislation that will help address a problem in need of bold solutions.”

“The devastating wildfires that have decimated communities living in high risk fire areas the past few years is a clear sign that we as a state need to be looking at where and how we build homes,” said Insurance Commissioner Lara. “The fact is, California is reaching crisis level on affordable housing options which pushes people to increasingly rural areas where they face higher risks. SB 50 is one step we need to take to protect the people of California.”

“California’s severe housing shortage is harming millions of Californians, and it’s time to act with bold and decisive pro-housing steps,” said Senator Wiener. “It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road and instead do what Californians want us to do: address our housing crisis now. As we build the millions of new homes we know we need, we need to ensure that we avoid endless and environmentally destructive sprawl. We should focus new housing near jobs and transit.”

The release goes on to say:

“SB 50 has now been endorsed by a broad coalition of labor, environmental, affordable housing, senior, student, and business organizations, including the California Labor Federation, the California Chamber of Commerce, the State Building and Construction Trades Council, the California League of Conservation Voters, AARP California, the UC Student Association, the California Building Industry Association, the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council, the Natural Resources Defense Council, CALPIRG, Environment California, Habitat for Humanity, the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, the California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund (CaRLA), the California Apartment Association, and a host of other renter, business, and labor organizations. It is sponsored by California YIMBY, the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, and the California Association of Realtors.

It also enjoys bi-partisan support from members of the Legislature and support from numerous mayors and city council members from around the state including San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, and Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs.”

While the new endorsements don’t move the bill forward, legislatively, in any way, they do indicatethat the political process is playing out behind the scenes, and they are a good reminder to people on all sides of the issue that the discussion in Sacramento (and elsewhere) is very much alive and continuing, both pro and con.

“What is astonishing and very troubling is everyone in Sacramento jumping on the SB50 one-size-fits-all solution on how to address the entire state of CA housing need!,” said Hancock Park Homeowners’ Association president Cindy Chvatal today. “CA has approximately 40 million people, 58 counties, approximately 500 cities, and more than 100 additional towns or incorporated areas. California cities and towns range in size from 4 million in Los Angeles to 112 in Vernon…clearly one-size zoning [as proposed in SB 50] cannot fit or fix all. The biggest housing crisis we are facing in LA is not the number of available places to live, but the number of places that people can afford!”

Eliminating single family residential zones could result in a huge transfer of wealth to developers without giving any guarantees of affordable housing worries Caroline Labiner Moser, an architect and Windsor Square resident who currently serves as President of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.

Moser told the Buzz that R-1 zoning keeps a lower value on the property for the benefit of the entire community. Undoing the single family zoning hands the developers tons of value for which they have no obligations to the City and the community loses the value, explained Moser. And, SB50 offers virtually no low income housing, no incentives for adaptive reuse, putting back warehoused residential into the market, open space or civc amenities. She’s also concerned about the totally unsustainable practice of demolition of perfectly good structures which could be adapted rather than razed.
It seems to Moser the implications of SB50 haven’t been thought through enough. She’s worried we could end up with bifurcated populations: smaller units, less affluent cities surrounded by job- and transit-light suburbs, and she’s not alone. Other architects and urban planners we have talked to have expressed similar concerns. They suggest there are better solutions to increasing housing – like incentivizing affordable units or letting the city build those units and building multi-family and commercial projects as infill around existing neighborhoods – that adds density with less need for people to commute.

So stay tuned in, everyone – the one thing we can count on, at some point, is further action on SB 50 by our state legislators.

[Note:  this story was updated after publication to add the comments from HPHOA president Cindy Chvatal and GWNC president Caroline Labiner Moser.]

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