SB 50 Shelved for the Year
An effort to dramatically expand home building across California is dead for the year, closing a major front in the war over housing affordability in California.
SB 50 was scheduled to go before the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday. But before it could be heard, Committee Chair Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada Flintridge) hit the brakes and shelved the bill until 2020. The decision came as a surprise to most observers.
“SB 50 is a well-intentioned effort to help solve our state’s housing crisis and it highlights two valid ways to affect land use decisions across the state: providing incentives or legislating mandates,” Portantino said in a statement. However, “my preference has always fallen on the side of incentives for local governments to accomplish goals. There were legitimate concerns expressed from both large and small cities about the scope of SB 50 as it pertained to bus corridors, historic preservation, the definition of ‘jobs rich’ neighborhoods and whether it would increase gentrification and discourage light rail expansion as unintended consequences; all of which justified the pause established today by the committee.”
SB 50 would have forced cities to allow multi-family units of four to five stories near rail stations, bus stations, and job centers. It would have virtually eliminated single-family zoning by allowing the development of fourplexes in many single-family neighborhoods throughout the state.
Affordable housing advocates viewed SB 50 as a revolutionary attempt to spur home construction and drive down prices. Opponents — including a number of cities and counties — said the plan was far too radical, usurping local governments’ land use control and threatening to upend suburban culture in many areas of the state.
Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, a high profile opponent of the bill, praised its defeat.
“This bill is intended to destroy single-family home neighborhoods in the state,” he said. “I believe a majority of Californians do not share in that goal. We will be vigilant to fight SB 50 when it rears its ugly head again in 2020.”
Culver City Councilman Alex Fisch, who supported the effort, summed up the displeasure from SB 50 advocates in a tweet.
I’m livid. As a local elected who wants to solve the housing problem, I can guarantee you that California cities will not do a damn thing without state intervention. What a spectacular act of political cowardice and climate denial.— Alex Fisch (@AlexFischCC) May 16, 2019
As did Mayors London Breed and Libby Schaaf of San Francisco and Oakland.
Nothing will ever change around housing if we keep putting off solutions like #SB50. We can’t keep saying no to everything if we want SF to be a place where people can afford to live. I know @Scott_Wiener will continue his work on this important policy and he has my support. https://t.co/Mr39GvplfI— London Breed (@LondonBreed) May 16, 2019
No more delays! We need more housing now. Our crisis is only deepened when bills like @Scott_Wiener's #SB50 get stalled, and that hurts our residents, our families, our community. #Oakland https://t.co/NGCgaaDWww— Libby Schaaf (@LibbySchaaf) May 16, 2019
Gov. Gavin Newsom also expressed disappointment, despite a tepid reaction towards the bill up until Thursday.
SB 50 was the second attempt in two years to increase home building near transit by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). Despite its failure, he remains undaunted.
“We’re either serious about solving this crisis, or we aren’t,” Wiener said. “At some point, we will need to make the hard political choices necessary for California to have a bright housing future.”
Read more about SB 50’s fate at the Los Angeles Times.