OPINION: SB-50's Last Chance

By Dany Jarjoura | NextGen Marin

San Francisco Senator Scott Wiener has been pushing for SB-50 since its introduction in late 2018. The bill would help developers build more affordable housing near transit by eliminating density restrictions and reducing parking requirements for housing in “job rich areas” that are 1⁄2 mile from major transit stops or 1⁄4 mile away from a bus stop. The bills journey through state legislature has been a controversial one, with a history of being shelved only to be brought back and revised. On January 7th, Senator Wiener introduced the new revision at a news conference in Oakland.

In order to counter complaints that SB-50 removes control from local governments, the revised bill now gives cities 2 years to come up with their own plans for new housing that would match the same amount of units that SB-50 would provide. If the cities are unable to reach a consensus, housing would be developed under SB-50’s specifications. This would add a much-needed sense of urgency to local governments who chafe at state-level housing legislation while simultaneously failing to take appropriate action to deal with the growing crisis.

Unfortunately, this might be SB-50's last shot at aiding California’s housing glut. As of now, the bill has until the end of January (the 31st) to pass through the Senate. If passed, SB-50 has serious potential to help alleviate the housing crisis in a significant way.

For years, California has been starving its population of homes, with just 358 homes per every 1000 people. Homelessness has become an epidemic, and even those who aren’t homeless are forced to share living space at an increasing rate. A growing mass of commuters plagues the Bay Area, with 12% of commuters spending up to an hour in traffic. And the worst part is the problem only seems set to worsen without immediate action.

SB-50 seeks to kill two birds with one stone; by building housing built near transit stops, the logic goes, residents would be incentivized to start taking transit as an alternative to their cars. This may help ease the long commute times many Bay Area workers have become so used to. With over 150 cities in California that would be affected by SB-50, this bill has genuine potential to finally help ease our states’ housing crisis.

It just needs to survive past January 31st.


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