A California housing measure that would eliminate single-family only zoning across most of the state effectively died in a Senate budget hearing on Thursday, but the proposal will be held in committee until it is eligible for a vote again in January 2020 – the start of the next legislative session.
Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), the lead author of Senate Bill 50 (SB 50), said “this fight is far from over” and issued a statement vowing to persist. He has more than six months to make revisions and garner additional support for his plan to reshape local communities from the state Capitol.
“While I’m deeply disappointed that the Chair of the Appropriations Committee has decided to postpone SB 50 until 2020 – since we have a housing crisis right now – we are one hundred percent committed to moving the legislation forward,” his statement read.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the current language in SB 50 “would essentially eliminate single-family zoning in the state by allowing any home or vacant lot in a residential area to be converted to up to four units.” The Los Angeles Times reported that Wiener “intended for his bill to push high-income neighborhoods zoned only for single-family homes to make room for apartments as redress for historical wrongs.” The proposed law also promotes denser housing development near public transit and “job centers.” Wiener maintains such sweeping reforms are necessary to address several statewide problems associated with housing affordability.
“California faces a 3.5 million home shortage – equal to the combined housing shortage of the other 49 states – and the status quo isn’t working,” Wiener’s statement continued. “California’s failed housing policy is pushing people into homelessness, poverty, and two-hour commutes…”
Wiener said he believed he had enough support to advance the bill with a Senate floor vote but will still try to move it ahead this session despite the hold. However, the leader of the California Senate said she “will not circumvent the decision” to table the measure until 2020.
“To be clear, the bill is not dead,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) on Friday. “Short of significantly amending the bill and limiting its applications in large swaths of the state, there was no path to move forward this year.”
Some Sacramento-based reporters who have extensively covered the bill’s development seemed surprised by the committee’s decision, including a journalist for the L.A. Times who tweeted: “Holy shit. #SB50 appears to be held for the year.”
Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom had not taken a public stance on the bill but issued a statement indicating he was “disappointed by the committee’s decision” shortly after the news broke on Thursday.
On Friday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) said: “SB 50 wasn’t perfect, but we can’t wait another year to work out our differences. It’s past time for the state to break down barriers to creating the affordable housing production that Angelenos and all Californians need and deserve.”
Sen. Wiener took issue on social media with the word choice of a reporter who wrote about “the demise of” his proposal.
“For the record, there was no ‘demise’ of #SB50,” Wiener tweeted on Thursday afternoon. “It’s alive & well. It got nearly unanimous votes in each committee that was allowed to vote. At latest it’ll get a vote in January, but there are ways it could have a vote this year. This isn’t even close to over.”
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @JeffreyCawood.