Lawmakers Block California bill to Add Housing in Neighborhoods With Single-Family Homes
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A high-profile bill that would have increased home building near mass transit and in single-family neighborhoods across California has been killed for the year, ending a major battle over how to address the state’s housing affordability crisis that has attracted attention nationwide.
Senate Bill 50 by Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco would have required cities to allow four- to-five-story apartment complexes near rail stations and four or more homes on land now zoned for only single-family homes across much of California.
The measure would have radically altered the state’s growth patterns to direct significant new development toward urban areas, something the bill’s backers said was necessary to make housing more affordable and to meet the state’s goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But opponents of the legislation argued that the changes anticipated under SB 50 would have unalterably diminished the quality of life in many California neighborhoods dominated by single-family home development. Others against the bill worried that its efforts to spur building would displace low-income residents already threatened by the state’s high housing costs.
Democratic state Sen. Anthony Portantino of La Canada Flintridge, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced at the beginning of the committee hearing Thursday that Senate Bill 50 would not advance this year, meaning the bill would not be debated again until 2020.
That decision upset Gov. Gavin Newsom, who made addressing the state’s housing affordability crisis one of the centerpieces of his campaign last year. Newsom has called for a building boom in the state, including the construction of 3.5 million new homes by 2025, a pace that would more than quadruple California’s current output.
In a statement, Newsom said he was “disappointed” by the decision to shelve the bill.
“California must address the housing supply shortage head on, and we need to be able to use every tool in the toolkit to address this systemic crisis,” Newsom said. “In our proposed budget, we put forth a series to intensive solutions to jump-start production and incentivize cities to do the right thing. But developing housing around transit must also be part of the solution, and today’s developments can’t end or stall that critical conversation.”
Wiener also said he was “deeply disappointed” in the decision, which he attributed to Portantino. Legislators can hold bills in appropriations committees without a public vote memorializing the decision.
“We need to do things differently when it comes to housing,” Wiener said in a statement following the decision. “We’re either serious about solving this crisis, or we aren’t. At some point, we will need to make the hard political choices necessary for California to have a bright housing future.”
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