SB 50, Sweeping Measure To Override Single Family Home Zoning Re Housing Density, Locations, Parking, Bldg Hts. Near Some Transit AND In Sac'to-Decided "Jobs Rich" Areas, Advances Alongside Similar But Less Sweeping SB 4; LB Mayor/Council Mum (Incl. State Senate Candidate Gonzalez)
Recently elected SE LB area State Senator Tom Umberg (Dem) voted "yes" to advance both measures
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(April 4, 2019, 4:30 a.m.) -- The state Senate's Housing Committee voted 9-1-1 on April 2 to advance SB 50 (Sen. Wiener) and voted 8-1-2 to advance a similar but somewhat less expansive measure, SB 4 (Sen. McGuire) to the state Senate's Government and Finance Committee (chaired by Sen. McGuire.)
The two bills differ in some respects but both would make a profound change impacting neighborhoods and residential property owners statewide. SB 50 and SB 4 would end the long-held right of locally-elected City Councils to decide and apply with local discretion locally-enacted zoning on housing density, location, parking and building heights. Instead, both bills would in all or nearly all CA cities -- and clearly including the City of Long Beach -- impose Sacramento standards that would override locally-decided zoning on housing density, location, parking and building heights. The bills' Sacramento standards would become matters of right for housing developers to use in Long Beach whether Long Beach residents and elected officials like it or not.
The two bills' authors indicated at the April 2 hearing that they hope to reach agreement on a single bill by the time both bills reach the state Senate Government and Finance Committee for an April 24 hearing. At the April 2 Committee meeting, recently-elected SE LB-area state Senator Tom Umberg (D, SE LB-west OC) asked about SB 50's effects if bus routes or transit stops were changed; Sen. Wiener replied that they aren't often changed and SB 50 only applies along bus routes with very robust service levels. Sen. Umberg ultimately voted "yes" to advance SB 50 along with SB 4.
Both bills presumably should have triggered opposition by the City of Long Beach consistent with the City's 2019 state legislative agenda, a list of general policies that LB's policy-setting City Council voted to approve late last year. Those policies explicitly include "Oppose legislation that would reduce the City's local land use authority" and "Oppose legislation that preempts the City's existing control over local matters."
But that hasn't happened. LBREPORT.com has learned that to date, Long Beach city staff hasn't applied the Council-directed state legislative agenda policies to oppose SB 50 or SB 4.
And to our knowledge, neither Mayor Robert Garcia nor any LB Councilmember(s) (including the Council's "state legislation committee" comprised of Councilmembers Austin, Gonzalez, Mungo) have agendized an item to oppose SB 50 and SB 4 (which any Councilmember could do.)
Last year, the Council voted (March 2018) to oppose SB 827, a previous bill by Senator Wiener basically similar (and in some respects less expansive) than his SB 50 this year. So what's changed since last year?
[Scroll down for further.]
CA has a new Governor who has aggressively moved to assert Sacramento control over housing-related land use planning by some cities (including nearby Huntington Beach.) Newsom's stance has been applauded by LB Mayor Garcia (who doesn't set City policy; the Council does.) Last year at this time, four of LB's policy-setting Council incumbents (Price, Mungo, Uranga and Richardson) were seeking re-election; this year they're now safely re-elected and Council incumbent Lena Gonzalez (who faced no 2018 ballot opposition) is now running for a LB-S.E. L.A. County state Senate with the endorsement of SB 50 author, state Senator Wiener.
And the upcoming April 9, 2019 LB City Council agenda includes an item agendized by Councilwoman Gonzalez to support SB 54 (Allen)/AB 1080 (Gonzalez) regarding Sac'to efforts to phase out sale and distribution of single-use plastics in California by 2030. Perhaps not coincidentally, the agenda item comes as the Gonzalez campaign has cited her support banning Styrofoam materials locally to fend off criticism that she's benefiting from over $1 million in campaign spending by oil-industry interest through a PAC running an independent campaign to install her in Sacramento. At the same time, Gonzalez has declined to publicly state her position, pro or con, on SB 246. that would enact a CA oil severance tax (LBREPORT.com coverage here) that could generate millions of dollars for the state of CA but (like previous efforts to enact an oil severance tax here) is opposed by oil industry interests.
It's not unusual for the LB City Council to take explicit positions on Sacramento legislation. In Feb. 2017, in an action supported by Councilwoman Gonzalez, the Council voted to support the Sac'to "sanctuary state" bills SB 54 and SB 31 (7-0 vote, Andrews and Mungo both in the Council Chamber earlier, were absent on the vote with Mungo resurfacing after the vote.)
Meanwhile, Gonzalez endorser Senator Wiener attacked single family home zoning practices for a litany of CA housing ills. In the April 2 state Senate Housing Committee hearing, he labeled single family home zoning as "hyper low density zoning," called it a major obstacle to housing production, said it bans apartments and affordable housing, perpetuates segregation, pushes working families out of communities, encourages "sprawl," requires "super commutes" that worsen greenhouse gases and overall makes housing too expensive.
Sen. Wiener said SB 50 still allows cities local control over some approval matters, including CEQA review, discretionary approval on demolitions, the ability to create and impose impact fees, set-back requirements and design elements...but regarding density near public transportation and jobs, said SB 50 sets what he called a "basic standard" statewide. He denied that his bill is an attack on single family housing, noting that nothing in SB 50 prevents building or living in a single family home but acknowledged that it would move CA away from allowing zoning that mandates only single family homes in certain areas...and added that near transit or jobs, developers should be able to build multi-family units.
Senator Wiener said SB 50 makes "adjustments" to the current state/local decisionmaking balance, which he likened to education. He said local control isn't biblical, and local control is a good thing when it delivers good results, but said that's not always the case when it comes to housing. He said the current system of almost purely local control hasn't worked and said SB 50 isn't trying to do away with the current system but to reform it.
Sen. Wiener's bill is endorsed by labor groups, the CA Chamber of Commerce, building and trade unions, non-profit affordable housing builders and environmental groups and has 16 co-authors ranging from progressive Democrats to conservative Republicans (one of its co-authors include OC Republican John Moorlach.)
Against this onslaught, the City of Long Beach has been conspicuous by its absence. In contrast, the League of CA Cities, an advocacy group speaking for cities statewide in which the City of LB is a dues-paying member, has taken the position of "oppose unless amended" on SB 50. In a written position to the Committee, the League wrote in pertinent part:
...SB 50 as presently drafted lacks the flexibility needed to meet the State's housing goals...
SB 50 would greatly undermine locally adopted General Plans, Housing Elements (which are certified by the Department of Housing and Community Development), and Sustainable Community Strategies (SCS). By allowing developers to override state approved housing plans, SB 50 seriously calls to question the need for cities to develop these community based plans in the first place.
Housing developers and transit agencies would have the power to determine housing densities, heights up to 55 feet, parking requirements, and design review standards for "transit-rich housing projects" within one-half mile of a major transit stop. For those "transit-rich housing projects" within one quarter mile radius of a stop on a high-quality bus corridor, developers would
be able to determine housing density, and parking requirements above .5 spots per unit.
What is the full scope of SB 50? As presently drafted, it is very difficult to determine what constitutes a “jobs-rich area” since the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Office of Planning and Research are largely tasked with making that determination.
Greater density but no public transit? SB 50 would require cities to allow greater density in communities that are high opportunity and jobs rich, but lack access to public transit. This seems at odds with many state policies that encourage and incentivize more dense housing near transit so that individuals may become less dependent on automobiles.
SB 50 allows some communities to be exempt if they develop their own plan that is consistent with the objectives of the bill. Why not all communities? Shouldn't all jurisdictions have the ability to have a community-led planning process that takes into account local needs and input as long as state objectives are still met?
SB 50 goes beyond what SB 827 proposed last year. As the state Senate Housing Committee's legislative analysis of SB 50 stated: "This bill is different from SB 827 in several ways. First, unlike SB 827, this bill is not limited in application to proximity near transit; this bill provides reduced zoning requirements for specified projects in "jobs-rich areas" that are traditionally "high-opportunity" and will result in more housing across the state." Specifically, "This bill provides that in areas that are "jobs-rich" -- the goal of which is to increase housing in traditionally "high opportunity areas" -- a specified project is not subject to density controls, parking, and may receive up to three concessions and incentives under DBL [Density Bonus Law]. Housing projects near transit, as specified, receive additional benefits of having minimum height requirements and minimum floor area ratios. Under the requirements of this bill, affordable housing requirements depend on the size of the project and increase with the number of units in a housing project."
The Committee's Legislative Analysis summary of SB 50 speaks for itself. LBREPORT.com urges our readers to plow through the wonky details below to understanding exactly what SB 50 would do. Do you think LB Councilmembers -- including your own Council representative -- should continue to remain silent as this bill advances?
[Senate Housing Committee Legislative Analysis text]...This bill requires a local government to grant an equitable communities incentive, which reduces specified local zoning standards in "jobs-rich" and "transit rich areas," as defined, when a development proponent meets specified requirements...
1) Defines "high quality bus corridor" as a corridor with fixed bus route service that meets specified average service intervals...
2) Defines "jobs-rich area" as an area identified by the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), in consultation with the Office of Planning and Research (OPR), that both meets "high opportunity" and "jobs-rich," based on whether, in a regional analysis, the tract meets (a) and (b) below. HCD shall, beginning January 1, 2020 publish and update a map of the state showing areas identified as "jobs-rich areas" every five years.
a) The tract is "higher opportunity" and its characteristics are associated with positive educational and economic outcomes of all income levels residing in the tract.
b) The tract meets either of the following:
i. New housing sited in the tract would enable residents to live in or near the jobs-rich area, as measured by employment density and job totals.
ii. New housing sited in the tract would enable shorter commute distances for residents compared to existing commute levels.
3) "Jobs-rich housing project" means a residential development within an area identified as a "jobs-rich area" by HCD and OPR, based on indicators such as proximity to jobs, high median income relative to the relevant region, and high-quality public schools, as an area of high opportunity close to jobs.
4) Defines "major transit stop" as a rail transit station or a ferry terminal as defined.
5) Defines "residential development" as a project with at least two-thirds of the square footage of the development designated for residential use.
8) Defines "transit-rich housing project" as a residential development in which the parcels are all within ½ mile radius of a major transit stop or ¼ mile radius of a stop on a high-quality bus corridor.
9) Requires a local government to grant an equitable communities incentive when a development proponent seeks and agrees to construct a residential development that meets the following requirements:
a) The residential development is either a jobs-rich housing project or transit-rich housing project.
b) The residential development is located on a site that, at the time of application, is zoned to allow "housing as an underlying use" in the zone.
c) Prohibits the site from containing either of the following:
i. Housing occupied by tenants within the seven years preceding the date of the application.
ii. A parcel or parcels on which an owner of residential real property has exercised their rights to withdraw accommodations from rent or lease within 15 years prior to the date that the development proponent submits an application under this bill.
d) The residential development complies with all applicable labor, construction, employment, and wage standards otherwise required by law, and any other generally applicable requirement regarding the approval of a development project.
e) The residential development complies with all relevant standards, requirements, and prohibitions imposed by the local government regarding architectural design, restrictions on or oversight of demolition, impact fees, and community benefit agreements.
f) Affordable housing requirements, required to remain affordable for 55 years for rental units and 45 years for units offered for sale, as specified:
i. If the local government has adopted an inclusionary housing ordinance and that ordinance requires that a new development include levels of
affordability in excess of what is required in this bill, the requirements in that ordinance shall apply.
ii. If (i) does not apply, the following shall apply:
Inclusionary Housing Requirement
No affordability requirement.
Development proponent may pay an in lieu fee, where feasible, toward housing offsite affordable to lower income households.
15% low income OR
8% very low income OR
6% extremely low income OR
Comparable affordability contribution toward housing offsite affordable to lower income households.
201 - 350 units
17% low income OR
10% very low income OR
8% extremely low income OR
Comparable affordability contribution toward housing offsite affordable to lower income households
351 units or more
25% low income OR
15% very low income OR
11% extremely low income OR
Comparable affordability contribution toward housing offsite affordable to lower income households
iii. If a development proponent makes a comparable affordability contribution toward housing offsite, the local government collecting the in-lieu payment shall make every effort to ensure that future affordable housing will be sited within ½ mile of the original project location within the boundaries of the local government by designating the existing housing opportunity site within a ½ mile radius of the project site for affordable housing. To the extent practical, local housing funding shall be prioritized at the first opportunity to build affordable housing on that site.
iv. If no housing sites are available, the local government shall designate a site for affordable housing within the boundaries its jurisdiction and make findings that the site affirmatively furthers fair housing, as specified.
10) Prohibits the equitable communities incentive from being used to undermine the economic feasibility of delivering low-income housing under specified state and local housing programs, including the state or a local implementation of the state density bonus program.
11) Requires a transit-rich or jobs-rich housing project to receive an equitable communities incentive, as follows:
a) A waiver from maximum controls on density.
b) A waiver from minimum parking requirements greater than .5 parking spaces per unit.
c) Up to three incentives and concessions under density bonus law.
12) Requires projects up to ¼ mile radius of a major transit stop, in addition to the benefits identified in (11), to receive waivers from all of the following:
a) Maximum height requirements less than 55 feet. b) Maximum floor area ratio requirements less than 3.25. c) Any minimum parking requirement.
13) Requires projects between ¼ and ½ mile of a major transit stop, in addition to the benefits identified in (11), to receive waivers from all of the following:
a) Maximum height requirements less than 45 feet. b) Maximum floor area ratio requirements less than 2.5. c) Any maximum parking requirement.
14) Requires, for purposes of calculating any additional incentives and concessions under density bonus law, to use the number of units after applying the increased density permitted under this bill as the base density.
15) Permits a development receiving an equitable communities incentive to also be eligible for streamlined, ministerial approval under existing law.
16) Requires the implementation of this bill to be delayed in sensitive communities until July 1, 2020. Between January 1, 2020 and an unspecified date, a local government, in lieu of the requirements in this bill, may opt for a community-led planning process in sensitive communities aimed toward increasing residential density and multifamily housing choices near transit stops, as follows:
a) Sensitive communities that pursue a community-led planning process at the neighborhood level shall, on or before January 1, 2025, produce a community plan that may include zoning and any other policies that encourage multifamily housing development at a range of income levels to meet unmet needs, protect vulnerable residents from displacement, and address other locally identified priorities.
b) Community plans shall, at a minimum, be consistent with the overall residential development capacity and the minimum affordability standards set forth in this chapter within the boundaries of the community plan.
c) The provisions of this bill shall apply on January 1, 2025, to sensitive communities that have not adopted community plans that meet the minimum standards described in paragraph (16)(b).
17) States that the receipt of an equitable communities incentive shall not constitute a valid basis to find a proposed housing development project inconsistent, not in compliance, or in conformity with an applicable plan, program, policy, ordinance, standard, requirement or other similar provision under the Housing Accountability Act.
Support really independent news in Long Beach. No one in LBREPORT.com's ownership, reporting or editorial decision-making has ties to development interests, advocacy groups or other special interests; or is seeking or receiving benefits of City development-related decisions; or holds a City Hall appointive position; or has contributed sums to political campaigns for Long Beach incumbents or challengers. LBREPORT.com isn't part of an out of town corporate cluster and no one its ownership, editorial or publishing decisionmaking has been part of the governing board of any City government body or other entity on whose policies we report. LBREPORT.com is reader and advertiser supported. You can help keep really independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.