News

Divisive state housing bill wins Santa Clara County support

SB 50 gains conditional backing of Board of Supervisors

The divisive California housing legislation Senate Bill 50 has won the tentative support of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, albeit with conditions.

In a 4-0 vote on Tuesday, the county supervisors endorsed state Sen. Scott Wiener's high-profile bill that would make local housing project approvals mandatory in areas near transit stops or large employers. The lone dissenter was North County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who pointedly abstained from the vote, saying he lacked confidence in the bill and how it could be rewritten as it returns to the state Legislature.

"Frankly, I'm skeptical of a top-down solution from the state," Simitian said. "Just because people are saying something has got to be done, that doesn't mean that something doesn't work, or that something that doesn't make sense should be done."

More than any other recent legislation, SB 50 has become a lightning rod of controversy, driving a wedge between the typical alliances of community and advocacy groups across California. The bill was first introduced nearly two years ago under a different name, but it faced mounting pressure from stakeholders as it worked through the state Legislature. In May, the bill was abruptly shelved before it could go to the state Senate for a full vote.

With the bill due to come back in 2020, Santa Clara County supervisors argued the time was right for them to demonstrate local support. By taking a side now, they said that Santa Clara County would get a seat at the table when it came to suggesting amendments to the bill.

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Supervisor Dave Cortese, who brought SB 50 to the county board for endorsement, said the legislation is a needed fix to state housing standards that lack any enforcement. Housing advocates have blamed this so-called "local control" for decades of stymied housing growth. While local cities are required to plan ahead for residential growth, they have no obligation to actually grant the building permits allowing it to happen.

While many details still need to be determined, SB 50 is the best solution to date for adding "teeth" to state housing requirements, Cortese said.

"The devil's in the details, but I want to be on board saying, 'Yes, continue to be bold,'" Cortese said. "The closer we get to introducing this bill and hitting the nail on the head, the better off we all are."

But even supporters acknowledged that the bill could be improved. County staff drafted a list of proposed amendments that would add flexibility to parking requirements and height limits on housing built near transit stops.

Also in the proposed changes, county staff urged stronger guidelines to track "jobs-rich" areas with high employment where housing would be nurtured by the bill. Prior versions of the bill left it unclear how job-rich areas would be defined, leaving it up to state officials to figure this out.

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Santa Clara County supervisors indicated they had plenty of misgivings about the bill, and they acknowledged concerns that circumventing local development review could result in gentrification. But given the depth of the housing crisis, they supported SB 50 as a general idea.

"The concept of the bill makes sense," said Supervisor Cindy Chavez. "We're not committing to a bill we haven't seen; we're committing to leadership that we can support."

The county supervisors' conditional support was a rare vote of confidence from a local municipality for the controversial housing bill.

In contrast, Wiener's bill received an icy reception in his home district earlier this week when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 to oppose it. It was the third time San Francisco elected leaders took a public vote to oppose the bill since it was introduced last year. Several other cities, including Los Angeles, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and Cupertino, have also come out against SB 50.

Related content:

Palo Alto aligns itself against 'one-size-fits-all' housing bills

Learn more about recent state bills by watching the April 5 episode of "Behind the Headlines," now available on our YouTube channel and podcast page.

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Mark Noack writes for the Mountain View Voice, the sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Divisive state housing bill wins Santa Clara County support

SB 50 gains conditional backing of Board of Supervisors

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Thu, Dec 19, 2019, 4:37 pm

The divisive California housing legislation Senate Bill 50 has won the tentative support of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, albeit with conditions.

In a 4-0 vote on Tuesday, the county supervisors endorsed state Sen. Scott Wiener's high-profile bill that would make local housing project approvals mandatory in areas near transit stops or large employers. The lone dissenter was North County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who pointedly abstained from the vote, saying he lacked confidence in the bill and how it could be rewritten as it returns to the state Legislature.

"Frankly, I'm skeptical of a top-down solution from the state," Simitian said. "Just because people are saying something has got to be done, that doesn't mean that something doesn't work, or that something that doesn't make sense should be done."

More than any other recent legislation, SB 50 has become a lightning rod of controversy, driving a wedge between the typical alliances of community and advocacy groups across California. The bill was first introduced nearly two years ago under a different name, but it faced mounting pressure from stakeholders as it worked through the state Legislature. In May, the bill was abruptly shelved before it could go to the state Senate for a full vote.

With the bill due to come back in 2020, Santa Clara County supervisors argued the time was right for them to demonstrate local support. By taking a side now, they said that Santa Clara County would get a seat at the table when it came to suggesting amendments to the bill.

Supervisor Dave Cortese, who brought SB 50 to the county board for endorsement, said the legislation is a needed fix to state housing standards that lack any enforcement. Housing advocates have blamed this so-called "local control" for decades of stymied housing growth. While local cities are required to plan ahead for residential growth, they have no obligation to actually grant the building permits allowing it to happen.

While many details still need to be determined, SB 50 is the best solution to date for adding "teeth" to state housing requirements, Cortese said.

"The devil's in the details, but I want to be on board saying, 'Yes, continue to be bold,'" Cortese said. "The closer we get to introducing this bill and hitting the nail on the head, the better off we all are."

But even supporters acknowledged that the bill could be improved. County staff drafted a list of proposed amendments that would add flexibility to parking requirements and height limits on housing built near transit stops.

Also in the proposed changes, county staff urged stronger guidelines to track "jobs-rich" areas with high employment where housing would be nurtured by the bill. Prior versions of the bill left it unclear how job-rich areas would be defined, leaving it up to state officials to figure this out.

Santa Clara County supervisors indicated they had plenty of misgivings about the bill, and they acknowledged concerns that circumventing local development review could result in gentrification. But given the depth of the housing crisis, they supported SB 50 as a general idea.

"The concept of the bill makes sense," said Supervisor Cindy Chavez. "We're not committing to a bill we haven't seen; we're committing to leadership that we can support."

The county supervisors' conditional support was a rare vote of confidence from a local municipality for the controversial housing bill.

In contrast, Wiener's bill received an icy reception in his home district earlier this week when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 to oppose it. It was the third time San Francisco elected leaders took a public vote to oppose the bill since it was introduced last year. Several other cities, including Los Angeles, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and Cupertino, have also come out against SB 50.

Related content:

Palo Alto aligns itself against 'one-size-fits-all' housing bills

Learn more about recent state bills by watching the April 5 episode of "Behind the Headlines," now available on our YouTube channel and podcast page.

Mark Noack writes for the Mountain View Voice, the sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

Comments

Paul
College Terrace
on Dec 19, 2019 at 11:13 pm
Paul, College Terrace
on Dec 19, 2019 at 11:13 pm

Looks like 4 of 5 county supervisors are trying to get campaign money - if not employment - from the big corporations pushing SB 50. And we thought TRUMP was bad!


4 out of 5 Supervisors Agree
Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 20, 2019 at 8:44 pm
4 out of 5 Supervisors Agree, Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 20, 2019 at 8:44 pm

Great news! Too bad Simitian was brave enough to vote yes, opting to abstain instead. If "top-down" solutions aren't the answer, what is Supervisor? Does it look like solutions are coming out of Palo Alto, Los Altos, Cupertino, and Saratoga?


Anonymous
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 20, 2019 at 8:51 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 20, 2019 at 8:51 pm

Not the answer to housing shortages. Instead, it’s a complicated oddball bill that damages single family homeowners. It gives excessive control to state lawmakers. They have poorly described, shifting descriptive terms such as “transit rich” and “jobs rich” areas/cities that must be penalized! I get it, penalize success. It’s too complex to even summarize here, but Imfecommend reading up on it and letting your state assemblymember and state senator know how you feel.
Oh, except....if you’re Marin County, wherein you get a sweetheart exception.
How about no local zoning control or ability to make objections to dense building proposals and underparked scenes that benefit wealthy builders?!? This is outrageous.


SB 50 is a Sham
Crescent Park
on Dec 21, 2019 at 1:59 pm
SB 50 is a Sham, Crescent Park
on Dec 21, 2019 at 1:59 pm

SB 50 is aimed at building luxury condominium complexes in wealthy communities. Developers can buy up single family lots, tear down existing houses, build dozens of expensive units, and pocket huge profits.

It will make investors even richer. It will keep all construction workers busy on high-end projects. It will suck up labor, materials, land, and capital that could have been used for below-market rate housing. It will help no one of modest or low-income seeking affordable places to live.

Developers are all behind it. True advocates for those with lower incomes are against it.

It is a vile hoax.


SB 50 Is Authoritarianism at Home
another community
on Dec 22, 2019 at 8:35 am
SB 50 Is Authoritarianism at Home, another community
on Dec 22, 2019 at 8:35 am

>”While local cities are required to plan ahead for residential growth, they have no obligation to actually grant the building permits allowing it to happen.”

This statement misleads by omission.

Cities approve projects but have no authority to force property owners to request permits to build.

How many “ungranted” building permits are permits that were never submitted by the property owner?

If SB 50 were about building the affordable housing that communities need, it would be a funding measure to acquire land and build non-profit housing. SB 50 would NOT be the land grab we have here that further separates middle and working classes from single family home ownership and will come roaring back to bite communities in January 2020.

Too bad Joe Simitian won’t stand firm against SB 50. He’s certainly seen enough in his career to understand the intent of SB 50 is to add value to modest residential parcels that can only be accessed by the wealthiest of investors who can afford to build up and up.

Now that AB 68 has passed and nearly every single family home parcel becomes a triplex, SB 50 intends to accelerates the transfer of wealth from the middle and working classes to the investor class through forced upzoning.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 24, 2019 at 7:11 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 24, 2019 at 7:11 pm

SB 50 was generated by a SF legislative member. However the SF Board of Supervisors is not on board with compliance. If Mr. Weiner cannot get his own congressional district to comply then quit running down the peninsula to get everyone else stirred up. I think this means that Mr. Weiner will not progress further up the ladder of political success if his programs have no support from his own city.


MS Karan
another community
on Dec 26, 2019 at 10:04 am
MS Karan, another community
on Dec 26, 2019 at 10:04 am

I am very disappointed to see these lobby controlled politicians giving free run to destroy communities without solving the real problem. We need bills that strike balance between housing & jobs and address transit to facilitate transport between home and office. Unfortunately politicians like Scott Wiener dole out half-baked solutions that further aggravate jobs to housing balance. These so called housing bills by Wiener don't restrict the office component; a good example is his disastrous SB35 bill that went into effect last year. Allowing uncontrolled growth of jobs for lobbyist campaign money without addressing housing and transit is the root of housing crisis and homelessness we are experiencing. This is the failure of current politicians in power. I hope California voters take note of this and vote for change. We need to send shock waves through California political system so that they don't take us for granted anymore.


Common sense
Registered user
another community
on Dec 26, 2019 at 10:53 am
Common sense, another community
Registered user
on Dec 26, 2019 at 10:53 am

MS Karan wrote: "I hope California voters take note of this and vote for change. We need to send shock waves through California political system so that they don't take us for granted anymore."

As we California voters did in 1978 with the Jarvis-Gann-initiative "tax revolt," addressing many outrages then occurring (not only what get mentioned after-the-fact -- the cruel effect of runaway property taxes on retirees -- but other outrages: the ways those same taxes were used for the traditional crony payoffs of California state government's permanent, corrupt political class).

Of course today, people who weren't voting or born then (or hadn't yet moved to California as millions do), who now see only a little part of that picture and do not bother to learn more of its background, merely envy those who pay "lower property taxes" today. They don't understand what the rest of the alternative was, and they are easy marks for demagogues whipping up envy today for cynical agendas of their own. Then again, the special features of commercial property (less owner turnover) gave commercial owners an unadvertised windfall, as gradually the total burden of property tax shifted toward residences; similarly, passing of residential property to later generations without sale creates unearned windfalls for children who never bought the property and were never the intended beneficiaries of Prop 13.

Upshots of that historical example, MS Karan, are that voter revolts can have side effects little perceived at the time of passage; also, later generations, far from learning about the motivation and thoroughly needed reform, will contrive a simpler, more emotional response such as envy, and reduce a complex real-world situation to bumper-sticker superficialities.


Another Giveaway
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 26, 2019 at 1:06 pm
Another Giveaway, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 26, 2019 at 1:06 pm

SB 50 is just a thinly disguised giveaway to greedy real-estate developers who don't give a damn about the communities in which they operate.

Unfortunately this corrupt relationship between real-estate developers and local politicians seems to have become standard operating procedure for any ambitious politician seeking advancement in the Party.

Silicon Valley's Largest Landowners: Web Link


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