Sac'to's SB 50 Could Override Local Zoning, Give Developers Incentive To Put Multi-Unit/Multi-Story Housing In Single Family Home Neighborhoods...And LB's Mayor/Councilmembers Are Quietly Letting It Happen
|(April 22, 2019, 5:25 p.m.) -- SB 50, a bill by state Senator Scott Wiener (D, SF) that would override local zoning by allowing and incentivizing developers to build multi-story multi-unit housing within quarter-mile or half-mile distances of certain rail transit routes, increase density (not height) within a quarter mile of high frequency bus routes and eliminates local parking requirements in neighborhoods that Sacramento deems "jobs rich" (details below) is approaching its second Committee hearing on April 24.
As previously detailed by LBREPORT.com, SB 50 would provide an incentive for developers to build multi-unit housing in what it deems "transit rich" and "jobs rich" areas. Sacramento's Dept. of Housing and Community and Office of Planning and Research would decide which areas are "jobs rich" based on factors such as proximity to jobs, high median income relative to the region and high quality public schools. Simply put, SB 50 would effectively up-zone neighborhoods statewide for increased housing density, overriding locally-decided single-family-zoning in neighborhoods with short commutes to jobs, high regional median incomes and superior schools.
In addition, SB 50 would override local zoning to allow multi-family housing in areas either (a) within a half mile of a rail transit station or (b) within a quarter-mile of a high-frequency bus stop. LBTransit is currently in the process of implementing a plan that over time will increase bus frequencies along a number of routes, including some through parts of low-density ELB (which is also likely an area Sacramento would classify as "jobs rich" under SB 50)
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|In areas within a quarter mile or half mile of certain rail transit, SB 50 would allow developers to build multi-unit housing buildings of at least 45 or 55 feet (four to five stories.) [Some of SB 50's opponents contend those building heights could go higher if combined with already-allowed "density bonus" incentives, which Sen. Wiener's office hasn't acknowledged.) SB 50 would also reduce currently required parking for new housing.
In exchange for SB 50's new incentives, developers would be required to allocate some currently unspecified portion of new units for "affordable" (subsidized/below market rate) housing.
Together, these two mechanisms would arguably give developers incentives to buy and tear down single family homes and use the properties to build apartments. It's a process eerily similar to LB's now-discredited developer-driven "crackerbox" upzoning that a former LB City Council allowed in the 1980s that left formerly stable single-family-home neighborhoods surrounding LB's downtown with chronic parking issues and multi-faceted density issues. The present-day impacts of those past actions helped fuel 2017-2018 push-back to city staff-proposed land use element revisions that proposed increased density in areas beyond downtown.
Despite LB's experience, and a City Council adopted policy to oppose state legislation that would reduce local control (including on land uses), LB's Mayor and Council haven't publicly taken any publicly voted action to oppose SB 50 since its introduction in December 2018. That's in contrast to March 2018, when LB's Council (without Mayor Garcia's objection) voted to oppose SB 827, a narrower bill by state Senator Wiener (that didn't include "jobs rich" areas) but failed to advance from a state Senate Committee.
So what's changed since 2018? CA's new Governor prioritizes housing and supports state litigation against cities (like Huntington Beach) that it contends aren't complying with state planning law to enable sufficient areas for housing and LB Mayor Garcia (who doesn't set City policy) has applauded Governor Newsom's locally preemptive stance on housing. The City Council sets City policy...and five Council incumbents who faced re-election in 2018 are all safely re-elected in 2019. One of them, Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez (re-elected with no 2018 ballot challenger) is now running for a state Senate seat with the endorsement of SB 50's author, state Senator Wiener.
[Councilwoman Gonzalez hasn't to date responded to LBREPORT.com's invitation (Feb. 28) to respond in writing for her position on SB 50 (a measure on which she might vote if elected.) A competing publication had an opportunity to ask her that question in-person prior to the March 26 initial election but didn't do so.]
To date, the Council's "State Legislation Committee" (with Gonzalez as vice-chair, along with chair Austin and Committee member Mungo) hasn't chosen to discuss SB 50 or send a recommended position to the City Council (which isn't required for the Council to take voted action.) However, as it has for several years, the State Legislation Committee did advance to the Council -- and the Council voted without dissent to approve -- a "2019 State Legislative Agenda" listing general policies that the City would supposedly apply to proposed state legislation. Those policies 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."
City staff traditionally prepares letters for the Mayor and/or City Manager to take positions on state legislation consistent with the Council-approved "State Legislative Agenda." That hasn't happened to date with SB 50.
In addition, any individual City Councilmember(s) could "on any Tuesday" separately agendize a Council item to take a recorded Council vote to support or oppose SB 50 (or any specific bill, which the Council has done on a number of other measures.) That hasn't happened with SB 50 either.
On April 16, 2019, the Los Angeles City Council voted (12-0) to oppose SB 50 (unless amended to exclude L.A.) A few days earlier, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (SF's Council in Sen. Wiener's hometown) cast a super-majority vote to reverse the SF Mayor's endorsement of SB 50.
The League of CA Cities (statewide City-advocacy group in which the City of LB pays dues) opposes SB 50 unless amended (specific grounds cited here). And the California Chapter of the American Planning Association also opposes SB 50 unless amended, detailed in its letter at this link.
For a lengthy list of SB 50's supporters, opponents and those voicing concerns, see the portion of LBREPORT.com's detailed prior coverage of SB 50 linked here.
As previously reported by LBREPORT.com, SB 50 may be amended/combined with SB 4, a more modest bill by Senator Mike McGuire (D, Marin County/No. Cal coast) that would also override certain local zoning to promote housing. That may not be known until the two bills reach the state Senate's Governance and Finance Committee on April 24. The Committee is chaired by SB 4's author who hasn't supported SB 50 beyond advancing it to his Committee, and another Committee member, Senator Jim Beall (D, Santa Clara county) didn't support SB 827 and has co-authored SB 4. However the Committee's Vice Chair, state Senator John Moorlach (R, OC), is a named
The Committee could advance SB 50, amend (or combine it) with SB 4, or block SB 50. If SB 50 advances in some form, it will first go to the Senate Appropriations Committee (for a hearing on its state budget impacts), then to the state Senate floor. If it clears the Senate, the process repeats in the Assembly. If the Assembly makes changes, those would return to the state Senate. By that time, it could be voted on by a new state Senator -- either LB Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez or Cudahy Councilman Jack Guerrero -- a decision coming to voters in over half of Long Beach with vote by mail ballots flying starting May 6 for a June 4 runoff.
LBREPORT.com plans to provide a live webstream link on our front page (www.LBREPORT.com) to that Committee hearing, scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday April 24. Developing.
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