Sen. Scott Wiener's contentious Senate Bill 50, which is aimed at forcing denser zoning in larger California cities in neighborhoods near transit hubs, is now dead for the time being.
The state Senate's Appropriations Committee on Thursday made Wiener's bill ineligible for a vote until January 2020, which Wiener said in a statement was disappointing. Still, he said, he's "100 percent committed" to moving the bill forward, and he added, "We need to do things differently when it comes to housing. We’re either serious about solving this crisis, or we aren’t."
As Todd David, executive director of the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition tells the Examiner today, he believes the bill would have passed through the committee had it been brought to a vote. (And he suggests that lobbying out of Los Angeles succeeded in delaying the vote.)
The bill has been controversial largely because it is seen as a gift to developers, and because it could have negative effects on certain neighborhoods when it comes to gentrification and altering the physical character of an area. The way the bill is written, for instance, nearly all of San Francisco's neighborhoods would qualify for density increases up to four or five stories, because they are within a half mile of a BART or Caltrain station.
In a compromise with a fellow senator Mike McGuire from Healdsburg, Wiener amended the bill last month to exclude cities of 50,000 or fewer people, and counties of less than 600,000 people (which would mean Sonoma County would be exempt).
Gov. Gavin Newsom came out in favor of the bill, as the Chronicle reports, but it received significant pushback from local governments which did not want to lose control over their own cities' zoning.
The Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation circulated a flier in San Francisco last month that many found offensive, trying to link SB50 with the racially fraught "urban renewal" programs of the 1960s. AHF's executive director Michael Weinstein has had a long-term beef with Wiener on multiple topics, possibly beginning with a real estate fight over an AHF pharmacy in San Francisco several years ago.
Density advocates like David suggest that while local pushback is expected, state intervention is necessary to counter the anti-density and NIMBY forces that have created the current housing crisis.
Rendering via Perkins + Will