Senate kills controversial legislation affecting local zoning restrictions

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The California State Senate on Jan. 30 killed SB 50, legislation that would have overruled local zoning restrictions to allow high-density housing development near transit lines and other city amenities.

Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who worked for two years on the legislation that failed on reconsideration, says the bill would have improved California’s housing shortage.

“Dramatically, dramatically increasing supply of housing in California must happen,” Wiener said at a press conference on Jan. 30. “As we build those millions of new homes, we must stop building sprawl, we can’t just keep going further and further out.”

Wiener says California’s housing shortage of more than 3 million homes affects climate goals, clogs freeways, creates longer commutes, shutters small businesses, limits the workforce talent pool and destroys farmland.

“We need to concentrate the new housing near jobs and near transit,” he said.

Opponents, however, argued the law would take away local control.

A coalition of groups including the Alliance for Community Transit-Los Angeles, PolicyLink, Western Center on Law and Poverty, Public Advocates and the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation opposed the bill.

Housing Is A Human Right (HHR) proclaimed that the defeat paves the way for more meaningful action on the state’s housing and homeless crisis as well as crafting new legislation to create truly affordable housing.

“We thank the State Senate for its foresight today rejecting SB 50 and looking out, first and foremost, for hard-working and vulnerable Californians across the state,” said René Christian Moya, director of HHR.

“The defeat of SB 50 really is a victory for affordable housing, one that also offers opportunity for more meaningful and effective action on California’s homelessness crisis. We and other tenant rights and community groups also recognize the crisis—which is not simply a housing crisis, but a housing affordability and gentrification crisis—and expect a seat at the table to ensure an effective, community-based strategy to produce truly affordable housing is enacted.”

Lawmakers and supporters, including AARP, the League of Women Voters, NRDC, the California Labor Federation, the California Chamber of Commerce, the Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California and the California Association of Realtors, have said they will continue pushing for legislation that allows more housing development.

“We had a path to pass #SB50 but the votes didn’t go as anticipated, given the brass knuckle politics at play,” Weiner said.

“It’s disappointing but a temporary setback. We’ll be back & fast. Because we must. Because we’re in crisis & have no choice but to take bold action.”

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