A proposal by Governor Jerry Brown to pass sweeping legislation that would speed up residential development across the state by bypassing various local review processes has lost all momentum and appears fully dead, according to the Associated Press. The compromise with legislators which would have freed up $400 million for affordable housing development was set to allow developers to build "as of right," so long as they produced a minimum amount of below-market-rate units, without having to go through the usual design review and public approvals process. The only problem, of course, is that places like San Francisco have a long and strong tradition of community involvement in every stage of development, which may be a hindrance at times but also serves as a check against development that alters the character of neighborhoods against the neighbors' will.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon told the Sacramento Bee last week that the proposal was dead for at least the coming year, saying, "I don’t think there’s any support in our caucus for the proposal as the architecture was rendered by the governor."
Housing advocates are calling for the release of the $400 million regardless of Brown's contingency about "by right" development, but that seems unlikely to occur before the legislative session ends on August 31.
Brown's proposal felt like a "nuclear option" to many politicians, tenant advocates, and neighborhood activists, handing developers a blank check to build whatever they liked so long as it fit zoning requirements, and contained 20 percent affordable units, or 10 percent if it was next to transit. As Curbed SF puts it, "While the city would have retained some leverage over developers, this would have been the equivalent of replacing the city’s construction pipeline with a firehose."
Also, given that much of the city could be considered transit-adjacent, the proposal could have potentially bypassed local ordinances that have raised affordable housing inclusion well above 20 percent in some cases.
In June, a group of 80 business and tech industry leaders including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, prominent investor Ron Conway, and Lyft CEO Logan Green all signed an open letter in support of Brown's proposal. It said, in part, "This idea respects local control and community values while cutting the 'excess process' that creates lots of controversy but too little housing too late at too high a price."
The move by Brown came five years after he decimated one of California's primary tools for affordable development, known as redevelopment, in which local agencies were able to fund construction bonds on the basis of future tax revenue from the improved properties. As a result, affordable development has slowed statewide.
Rendon now says he will push to get at least $150 million for affordable housing in the state's $122 billion budget, while Brown continues to tighten the belt in preparation for a recession that he promises is coming.