The California State Senate failed to pass the controversial housing bill SB 50 today, by just two votes.
Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) held the vote open, waiting for absent members to return to the chamber. After some time, the vote was finally called, with 18 in favor and 15 opposed. The bill needed 21 votes to pass. Following the vote, Atkins urged her colleagues to bring their ideas and suggestions, and to come together and collaborate, because a “housing production bill would be passed this session.”
Following the vote, Senator Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco), author of the bill, told reporters at a press conference that he was deeply disappointed the bill fell short of getting the the 21 votes needed. For him, Weiner said, the defeat of the bill exposes the challenge of addressing the state’s housing crisis. Weiner said the bill called for impactful change, which drew a strong reaction, but he is confident there was a commitment from the Governor and the Senate leadership to pass a housing production bill that would make significant changes and address the state’s critical shortage of housing in this legislative session. Weiner also promised he would “pivot quickly, and pass something this year.”
Weiner said he’d made significant changes to the legislation and would continue to work with constructive critics knowing that it takes three, four or five years to pass legislation that “actually makes significant change.” He also noted the opposition among senators from Los Angeles, saying the situation in LA is not yet as severe as it has become in the Bay Area.
Weiner cited his progress on renter protections and protections for low-income or “sensitive” communities, but despite his efforts, the bill was still widely opposed by homeowners and rentersl groups, preservationists, and cities objecting to a one-size-fits-all approach, which argued that local government should have control over housing and land use planning. Yesterday, in a first round of voting, the bill failed to gather enough support to pass, and failed by three votes.
Last week, a coalition of groups representing low income communities announced its opposition to the legislation.
“The bill “fails to address our most serious concerns and will exacerbate the housing challenges experienced by low-income people, people of color and other vulnerable people, the very populations being hit hardest by California’s affordability crisis,” the groups wrote in a letter to state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), SB 50’s author. “It fails to meet these communities’ housing affordability needs and has the potential to create new pressure and incentives for displacement.”
Proponents say the bill will increase density near transit and job rich neighborhoods, addressing the homeless crisis and the climate crisis at the same time. In an effort to gain support, Weiner recently revised the bill to give cities a two-year period to develop their own density plans before SB 50 would apply.
“As it stands now, SB 50 would require housing projects larger than 10 units to contribute funding or space for low-income housing. Developers who hope to take advantage of SB 50 also would be prohibited from demolishing homes on properties where tenants have lived for at least seven years. It also gives low-income residents living in neighborhoods near developments built under SB 50 a preference in moving into the new units. In addition, communities at risk of gentrification would have five years to create their own blueprints for growth — compared to a two-year delay everywhere else, ” reported the Los Angeles Times.
CalMatters.org., a nonpartisan political website, also reported yesterday:
“Gov. Gavin Newsom, while not endorsing Wiener’s legislation, told reporters on Wednesday:
“We are going to get something big done on production this year and we’ve been working very hard to make sure that we can get the requisite votes. And if this falls short, we are not giving up. We are going to continue to work aggressively to address production in this state.”
Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, plans to take the bill up again today, although it was not clear what would change the minds of opponents.
This story was updated to correct the number of votes needed.