Contentious housing bill SB 50 dies on the Senate floor | News | Palo Alto Online |

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Contentious housing bill SB 50 dies on the Senate floor

Sen. Scott Wiener's bill falls 3 votes shy of approval, fails to advance

A last-gasp attempt to resurrect Senate Bill 50, a divisive housing bill that would have required cities to relax zoning standards for residential developments, fizzled on the Senate floor on Thursday morning.

The state Senate voted 18-15 in favor of Sen. Scott Wiener's bill, leaving it three votes shy of the 21 it needed to advance. The vote means that the legislation will not move ahead in the current legislative session.

The bill was facing an uphill climb after the Senate similarly voted 18-15 in favor of the bill on Wednesday afternoon, leaving it three votes shy of advancing to the Assembly and, ultimately, to Gov. Gavin Newsom. The Wednesday vote was immediately followed by a "motion to reconsideration," making it eligible for another vote before the Jan. 31 deadline.

But any hopes that housing advocates had that the new vote would change the bill's fate faded on Thursday morning. Unlike the Wednesday hearing, which featured two hours of debate, the Thursday proceedings were brief, with Wiener making a statement imploring his colleagues to support the bill, followed by the vote.

"We have the opportunity today to take a step forward, to reform our broken zoning system, our broken housing status quo and, in conjunction with other policies that have been passed in the last few years and that will move forward this year, I think we can create a very strong foundation for a brighter housing future for the state of California," Wiener said moments before the vote.

Immediately after his speech, the bill received 17 votes. After a brief recess, it gained one more, still leaving it short of the threshold needed for passage.

The debate over SB 50 transcended the Senate's partisan divide, with numerous Republicans offering their support to Wiener, D-San Francisco, while various Democrats voted against the bill. Those who supported it underscored the severity of California's housing crisis and the role that zoning has played in preventing new housing.

"You can have the most streamlined process in the world. You can have enough funding for affordable housing, but if the zoning says you can't build something, that's the end of the process," Wiener said during Wednesday's hearing. "Restrictive zoning puts a hard cap — full stop — on our ability to get out of the crisis."

If approved, SB 50 would have loosened height and density requirements for housing developments in transit-rich and jobs-rich areas, respectively. It would have allowed housing developments of up to four stories (45 feet tall) within a half mile of transit hubs while eliminating limits on density for housing developments in "jobs rich" areas, including single-family neighborhoods.

And under amendments that Wiener made earlier this year, the bill would have given cities the option of adopting their own zone changes that would produce as much — or more — housing as they would under SB 50. Those that fail to do so within two years would have been required to comply with the bill's provisions.

In introducing the legislation Wednesday, Wiener emphasized that the intent of SB 50 was to address "real people and the pain that millions of Californians are suffering right now throughout the state." This, he said, includes children who go away to college and cannot go back to the community where they grew up, residents who are forced to live in cars and families who have to leave the state because of housing costs.

"When it comes to housing in California, we can no longer afford our broken status quo," Wiener said.

Some senators, including those from Los Angeles, lauded Wiener's efforts to address the housing crisis but said they cannot support the bill because it does not do enough to address housing affordability or protect their communities from gentrification.

Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, criticized the bill for the provision that created a two-year implementation delay and argued that getting the bill "right" is just as urgent as passing it.

"If I'm a developer contemplating a project, this bill gives me a huge incentive not to build now but to sit on my hands for three years," Hertzberg said. "Why build two stories when you can build five stories later? And in LA, you cannot pick a worse time to inadvertently put sand in the gears."

Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, voted against the bill. He did not speak during the Wednesday debate but said in a statement after the vote that he does not believe SB 50 addresses California's crucial need for affordable housing.

He also said he hopes the bill can "undergo a full legislative process this year and be positioned to obtain broader support from our colleagues and our community.

"We need clearer parameters on the housing creation required for local governments and our communities, and on the flexibility allowed to local governments to locate housing where it works best for our communities," Hill said in a statement. "We also need a realistic view of the parking needs created by new housing. To require none ignores reality and worsens existing parking shortfalls in the very transit corridors where the legislation seeks to foster new housing."

"I could not in good conscience vote in favor of this bill as presented today," he added.

In Palo Alto, SB 50 has spurred a polarizing debate about how to address the housing shortage and whether the state should be allowed to mandate what cities do. The Palo Alto City Council last April took a stance against any legislation that proposed a "one-size-fits-all" approach to land use decision-making, endorsing a position paper adopted by the Cities Association of Santa Clara County.

Immediately after the Thursday vote, Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, a supporter of SB 50, assured her colleagues and state residents that the debate over increasing California's housing supply isn't over and that the Senate will pass a bill to alleviate the state's housing shortage this year.

"To those of you who have concerns about SB 50, you have effectively shared how it will impact local communities and I thank you for that, but now it is time for all sides to step up," Atkins said. "SB 50 might not be coming forward right now, but the status quo cannot stand."

Wiener said Thursday after meeting that while he is very disappointed at the result of the vote, he will keep moving forward on finding ways to increase California's housing stock. He noted that both Newsom and Atkins have been "crystal clear that there must be a very strong, real housing-production bill this year."

"I am committed to working with my colleagues, with the leadership, with the governor, with our supporters and our constructive critics, and with colleagues who didn't support SB 50," Wiener said at a news conference after the vote. "We have to move forward because this isn't about any one of us, it's about the future of the state of California."

He also said in a statement that the fight for more housing will continue.

"We will not give up until we have put California on a positive and sustainable path to a better housing future," Wiener said. "I will soon be announcing new housing production legislation."

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Comments

5 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 29, 2020 at 7:20 pm

So very disappointed in this result, especially in Senator Hill for voting against this. The number of absentee senators is also embarrassing. Affordable housing starts with increasing the supply of housing.


112 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 29, 2020 at 8:11 pm

Good for Senator Hill!

The bill provides no affordable or BMR housing in small complexes under 11 units. In the very largest (351+ units, it only provides for 25% "affordable" OR 15% OR 10% BMR units depending on income. The mid-sized complezes are around 15% "adfordable" which is people making $115,000 -- nothing for seniors etc.

So you're only going to have under-parked MARKET RATE housing and more congestion!


94 people like this
Posted by Bingo
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 29, 2020 at 8:16 pm

Read Senator Hill’s comments. He got it exactly right.


67 people like this
Posted by Support a Better Bill
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 29, 2020 at 9:00 pm

I agree that Senator Hill's statement is superb. SB 50 was designed to make wealthy developers happy. We need a different bill that goes much further to protect existing renters and communities, requires full parking, and incentivizes developers by preventing any more offices and upscale housing from being built until a city's below-market housing targets are met.

Such a bill would get support from many more people than SB 50.


99 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jan 29, 2020 at 9:20 pm

No on SB 50. Building market rate housing does not provide affordable housing. It simply profits developers, construction trade unions, Realtors, and the campaign coffers of politicians who support those groups and the bill.

Villifying single family home owners is wrong too.


111 people like this
Posted by Fingers crossed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2020 at 9:25 pm

Hoping this bill dies for good forever. As an affordable housing advocate, I know that this cynical wolf in sheep’s clothing only fools people into thinking its passing will help with affordability- but it won’t!
That our Mayor supports it should put us on alert to guard against what he will try to do to our city this year.


98 people like this
Posted by Lydia Kou
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 30, 2020 at 5:50 am

*Writing in my individual capacity*

THANK YOU SENATOR JERRY HILL.
Thanks to Senators Portantino, Hertzberg, Bates, Allen, Durazo, Mitchell, Rubio, Stern, Wilk, Glazer, Hill, Dodd, Jackson, Jones and Borgeas...also were no votes.

To the remaining Senators who haven’t cast their votes, please say NO. SB 50 Is a statewide bill and attacks cities and will devastate some. #NO to SB50!

Plan Bay Area 2050 is based on job growth and the Regional Housing allocations to cities will be huge. An example I heard today is what is expected for LA; in the current cycle, LA was allocated 85,000 housing units, in the upcoming cycle, it is expected they will be allocated 435,000 housing units.

Also, expect last year’s proposed ballot measure to lower voter threshold from 67% to 55% for taxes; ACA 1 (Aguilar-Curry)

AB 1279 (Bloom) has similar features to SB 50, it has passed Assembly and is in Weiner’s committee.



81 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 30, 2020 at 5:57 am

This awful bill is actually anti affordable housing and pro enriching greedy developers in return for political contribution. It is really a subsidy for well paid workers willing to live like sardines in market rate dense housing. It would have devastated cities and neighborhoods. We need to thank Sen Hill for not falling for this BS bill.


48 people like this
Posted by Humper Biden
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 30, 2020 at 8:20 am


I’d love to see the demise of SB50.


9 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 30, 2020 at 10:47 am

As a Mountain View person, I remind Palo Altans that 85,000-population Mountain View has plans to go to roughly 120,000... we are doing our share, while you do bupkis to solve the housing crisis.

Palo Alto is not fooling anyone: Three hundred building permits per year in PA (most for remodels) does not solve or even show sincerity about the housing crisis. Shame on you.

Palo Alto could build out East Embarcadero and flip properties in the Stanford Industrial park to high density housing without hurting your existing neighborhoods one jot... yet the City lacks the leadership or integrity to even discuss the travesty PA inflicts on workers who have to commute two hours each way to jobs here! No compassion at all... but wait, now we find out it's our OWN KIDS we are hurting:

Without SB50, the kids we sacrificed so much to raise not only won't be able to afford San Jose or Fremont, they won't even be able to afford Antioch, Tracy, or Salinas. Selfish, selfish, selfish...

The root cause of the housing crisis is wilful failure to build housing near jobs. How hard is this to figure out... shame on all those who refuse to help our own kids!


53 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2020 at 11:22 am

Posted by Bill, a resident of Mountain View

>> As a Mountain View person, I remind Palo Altans that 85,000-population Mountain View has plans to go to roughly 120,000... we are doing our share

>> Without SB50, the kids we sacrificed so much to raise not only won't be able to afford San Jose or Fremont, they won't even be able to afford Antioch, Tracy, or Salinas. Selfish, selfish, selfish...

I hate to break it to you, but, SB50 will make it worse. It will enrich developers who will build office space and high-end housing, making housing less affordable than ever.


48 people like this
Posted by SB 50 is DEAD!
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 30, 2020 at 11:31 am


Good riddance.
Vote Weiner out.
Vote Skinner out.
Vote Toni Atkins out!
Vote Beall out.
Vote Roth out.
Vote Caballero out.
Vote Dahle out.
Vote Galgiani out.
Vote Gonzalez out.
Vote Hueso out.
Vote Hurtado out.
Vote Roth out.


11 people like this
Posted by Stu Berman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 30, 2020 at 11:40 am

One of our conscientious fellow citizens has posted to Next Door the following list of Senators who have not yet voted. Please contact all of them to encourage their vote against this ill-considered bill.

As stated in the article Senator Hill has already voted against this bill. But you can thank him through his website email:

Web Link

-------------------------------


LATEST on SB 50 –
SB50 went to the State Senate floor today as item 13. It did not pass today, but it is coming back to the Senate Floor tomorrow. The vote was 18 in favor and 15 against and you can bet Senator Wiener and his allies will be working overtime tonight to get the 3 additional votes he needs for passage.
BTW, Senator Jerry Hill came through for us, he voted NO. Please let him know you appreciate his representation and thank him.
The following Senators have not voted and need to hear from us, especially their constituents TONIGHT (leave voicemail and/or email):
Senator Bob Archuleta 916-651-4032; 562-406-1001, senator.archuleta@senate.ca.gov
Senator Steven Bradford 916-651-4035; 310-412-6120; 310-514-8573; senator.bradford@senate.ca.gov
Senator Ling Ling Chang 916-651-4029; 714-671-9471; senator.chang@senate.ca.gov
Senator Shannon Grove 916-651-4016; 661-323-0443; senator.grove@senate.ca.gov
Senator Mike Morrell 916-651-4023; 909-919-7731; senator.morrell@senate.ca.gov
Senator Thomas Umberg; 916-651-4034; 714-558-3785 senator.umberg@senate.ca.gov


41 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 30, 2020 at 11:53 am

It's dead at least for the rest of the year! Ding, dong most sincerely dead.


27 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 30, 2020 at 12:52 pm

I hoped for this outcome and am glad of it. But let's not kid ourselves: the big boot of the state will be back to stomp on our little city if we don't do what we can to address BMR and affordable housing. Market rate housing needs to be relegated to third place so that we address first the most critical needs. I figure the answer to the housing conundrum will be multi-faceted and probably include some things I don't much like. But after years of commercial development that made us more jobs rich than we can handle, we have a thorny problem to solve.

If only those on CC who helped shove us into this corner could be required to recuse themselves from decisions regarding the solution. Then we might start moving in the right direction. What we don't need is legislation at any level that promotes homelessness and gentrification.

I join those who are thanking Senator Jerry Hill today.


41 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2020 at 12:53 pm

The bill was a mess, cynically marketed as help for affordability and homelessness, with a public campaign of one falsehood after another, and a private one of insider strong-arming and Sacramento quid pro pro (yes you, Mike McGuire of Marin).

The sad part is that there are some decent ideas in it, but Wiener couldn’t just stick to those. He had to throw in the immorality of single family homes, punishment for good school districts, shameless developer handouts like parking sops (thank you Jerry Hill for being the only man or woman in Sacramento willing to state the obvious), and vague measures like “job richness” and “alternative plans” that would allow Sacramento (who, Wiener himself?) to rule arbitrarily on local housing and zoning measures.

Wiener had a year to fix the flaws in his bill, but instead arrogantly doubled down on them. That it nearly worked in Sacramento again demonstrates the importance of local authority.


45 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2020 at 1:03 pm

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace

>> I hoped for this outcome and am glad of it. But let's not kid ourselves: the big boot of the state will be back to stomp on our little city if we don't do what we can to address BMR and affordable housing

There is something that PACC can do to help things, right here right now. Ban development of new office space, and, make it clear that there will be no planned communities, mixed-use communities, or public benefits that include office space, or, retail space that can somehow be converted to office space. If companies like Sobrato actually believe that they won't be able to build office space in the future, suddenly, normal housing will "pencil out". It won't be "affordable", but, it will be much more affordable than anything that will happen otherwise. It is the possibility of developing office space on existing land that is killing the possibility of normal multifamily housing. We need that to happen all up and down the Peninsula. Office development is killing all of us.

-No more office space!-

Or, more precisely, build office space where massive numbers of people are already commuting by car from-- the area around Tracy.


30 people like this
Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 30, 2020 at 1:28 pm

Also, no more Hotels!!


34 people like this
Posted by Blunt instrument
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2020 at 1:33 pm

Using an axe(SB50) where you need a scalpel is foolish. Zoning decisions are best made locally. We need to put pressure on local politicians to build more affordable housing and less office space.

Zoning changes help, but Palo Alto has done that and developers have not brought projects forward. I think they may have been waiting for a decision on SB50 which would have been a windfall for them.

It would help if we had a regional transit agency (VTA) that was capable of doing its job to support growth with transit.


20 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 30, 2020 at 2:24 pm

@Anon and Eileen - completely agree. And I think those of us who think as we do need to diligently watch CC and do what we can to make sure they don't continue to dig the hole deeper by consistently adding more jobs. Were that to happen we could well find ourselves yielding to the State. If our leaders have our best interests in mind, they will work hard to assure that does not happen. But that's a critical "if". Our mayor's comment about the "idolatry of local control" certainly gives me pause about him.

Even so, there's no arguing that critics of Palo Alto have a good point when they say we haven't done enough. I am not sure what the answer is given that we are pretty much built-out, but there have been some good suggestions in this forum and there are a few people in town (Allen Akin and Asher Waldfogel come immediately to mind) who should be consulted. Getting suggestions from the public regarding grade separation resulted in two ideas that are being studied further. I'll bet you informed stakeholders can also bring some good, workable ideas about housing to the table.


17 people like this
Posted by Just Say No To Wiener's Delusion
a resident of Atherton
on Jan 30, 2020 at 2:44 pm

OK for places (aka cities) like Palo Alto, Mountain View and others.

Not OK for Atherton, Hillsborough, Woodside, Los Altos Hills, Tiburon, Malibu, Pacific Palisades and other more exclusive neighborhoods.

Houses may cost $5M+ in Palo Alto but overpriced residencies does not make it an exclusive community...like Cupertino, it's just another area plagued by RE demands due to certain immigration factors.


28 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 30, 2020 at 4:16 pm

Fine. Give it a decent burial and move on with actually solving the problem. SB50 was a poorly conceived vanity action that did little to solve the housing issue, but guaranteed years of legal and cultural strife.


10 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 30, 2020 at 4:38 pm

@Lydia Kou - with regard to what you wrote about AB1279 - did Weiner and Bloom collaborate with Weiner agreeing to take the heat and divert attention away from 1279? Do we need to shift gears and focus on that bill? Or is 1279 reasonable?

@SB50 is dead - any particular reason Palo Alto's mayor is not on your list?


12 people like this
Posted by Cur Mudgeon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 30, 2020 at 5:18 pm

In total agreement with Senator Hill. Agree on the need for low income housing as well as adequate parking, and we've seen how well that works in Palo Alto (sarcasm) already. No easy answers here. Not the Palo Alto many of us knew when we moved here.


22 people like this
Posted by Asher Waldfogel
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 30, 2020 at 5:57 pm

Now is the chance to start working on ideas that work. We can build the 2030 Comprehensive Plan goal of 3000+ housing unit.

We need to stop the name calling and blaming. Not all developers are evil and not all homeowners resist change out of fear.

We need frameworks to evaluate what's good change and what's bad change, who the winners and losers are, and over what time frame.

We need to start with some ground rules, like "Build more housing than office", "Identify impacts and plan for mitigation", and "Build for current transportation capacity and trends while planning for change".

We need to think big.

We need to identify districts where property owners and developers are ready, willing and able to proceed.

We need flexibility on all sides

We may need more height and more density in some districts to reach our goals.

We may need to further limit office development so housing competes financially with office.

We may need to modify the "detached house and yard" model for new development.

We will need developers to own parking risks, not adjacent neighborhoods.

We will need big tech to step up and pay substantially more for transportation and affordable housing.

Most of all we must start working together to identify and solve problems.


3 people like this
Posted by Excited by the news
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 30, 2020 at 6:05 pm

[Post removed.]


18 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 30, 2020 at 8:07 pm

Thanks to Asher for offering a framework for going forward. We need a setting for thoughtful and fact based problem solving.


28 people like this
Posted by The fundamentals
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 30, 2020 at 8:10 pm

@excited

Lydia, like most rational people, understands that Sb-50 automatically would have made land more valuable and thereby made housing more expensive. Any realtor wanted sb50 to pass to INCREASE the cost of housing and thereby INCREASE their commissions

You have it 100percent backwards


15 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 30, 2020 at 8:48 pm

I read that Wiener is already planning new similar bills.
A challenge is CA residents don’t have time to follow the Sacramento politicians’ continual outrageous game playing, their cynical ploys to control this state.
SB 50 was poorly written and cunning.
Surface-y, cursory takes like “are you for more housing or not?”
Or do you care for the poor, etc.?
Are schemes to fool the general public.
Always find out the full specifics. California is in the control of power-mad state politicians so I urge voters to investigate details and thoughtfully evaluate proposed bills in our state legislature. The repercussions may be very serious.
Disappointed radio journalists did sympathetic, tongue clicking interviews with Wiener today. One-sides, brief, misleading about SB 50 AND what the options are to increase housing in this state (if you pretend that’s what that bill was about....)


21 people like this
Posted by wontbefooledagain
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 30, 2020 at 9:30 pm

good. no more trickle down housing by flooding the market with unaffordable luxury units... its not working. we need affordable public housing. housing for people not investors. housing is a human right and a housing market that forces people to live on the street is criminal.


15 people like this
Posted by not over
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2020 at 10:13 pm

Weiner stated on his Twitter feed today "Today I introduced two housing placeholder bills. Stay tuned!"


41 people like this
Posted by Giveaway
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2020 at 10:38 pm

SB50 is going to have more lives than Freddie Kruger.

The real-estate industry desperately needs a better way to corrupt the political system. Having to corrupt every candidate for office from your local city council candidates, all the way up through candidates for governor, is just way too inefficient.


31 people like this
Posted by SB50 was a trojan horse for developers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2020 at 2:35 am

Here is an article that includes several California localities that have been losing people. Average cost of a home around $160,000. Finding ways to improve the places of lower demand now so that companies want to move there, and helping them move through a combination of incentives to go and increased taxes here is ultimately the only way to provide both large-scale affordable housing for a lot of people, and upward mobility for people across the entire economic spectrum. The only way.

Democrats need to stop putting forward developer trojan horses or people will still trusting them. Notice how Republicans crossed over to vote for SB50 and Democrats cross over to not? You know it's for the rich and a screw to the poor, with a lying veneer of doing the opposite, if the Republicans wanted it. (Never trust a Republican. I say this as someone who once voted for both.)

Web Link


We need to:

Tax ghost houses (that are truly ghost houses)

Convert office space to housing.

Find a way to prioritize safety, health, infrastructure capacity, global warming and fire danger, drought resilience, disaster resilience, environment (not the fake trojan horse claims of SB50 but actually caring for the environment above overdevelopment), greenspace, civic responsibility to and resources for residents (including those South of Oregon).

Find a way to support cities being able to own their retail areas so that they can leverage living wages for traditionally lower-wage workers, without it costing the city anything more later.

We must get the tech whales stop being so selfish and to make commitments about capping their growth and moving segments of their workforces to places, like Stockton, that would welcome the investments and new civic assets (hopefully both public and private). Ordinary people in conomic monocultures suffer the worst when things turn down.

Ensure that housing development is for the least among us only while we address the demand side, which is THE cause of displacements and affordability problems. Here, whenever there have been displaced low-to-moderate-income people, it has been BECAUSE developers thought they could take advantage of the next state dictate (that only makes the problem worse, not better).

There is simply NO GOOD REASON we should continue to plan to crowd all the tech companies in here like some kind of super expensive clown car and LOTS OF SERIOUS BAD THINGS that will happen if we do, especially with this disregard for safety, drought, and all the problems politicians talk about out of the other side of their faces.

SB50 was always a trojan horse that would only make developers richer and deepen the affordability problems and displacements of ordinary people (including those at risk who finally got into the housing market)


38 people like this
Posted by Chacha Domingo
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 31, 2020 at 2:43 am


Palo Alto: your Mayor, yes, yes, Adrian Fine has signaled the real estate organizations and special interests for their campaign contributions for his reelection campaign and to ready the independent expenditures to market or attack opponents on his behalf.

Follow the money.


4 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 31, 2020 at 12:55 pm

Again, I told you so. SB50 was doomed. The big event is Super Tuesday in Mountain View's rent control battle. I wish the Mountain View voice would stop censoring my inputs, they're biased against social studies teacher's inputs about the sheer destructiveness of rent controls.

George Drysdale social studies teacher and initiator


20 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2020 at 3:02 pm

Posted by Asher Waldfogel, a resident of Old Palo Alto

>> We need to stop the name calling and blaming. Not all developers are evil and not all homeowners resist change out of fear.

OK, sure, not all developers are evil. Like Diogenes, I'm looking for an honest developer ;-). Seriously, where are the for-profit developers who want to develop affordable housing? Not on the Peninsula, that's for sure. The for-profit developers around here all want to build office space. They throw in a little housing and retail just to confuse us, but, they are actually selling cubicle space, and, they don't care about existing residents. Please publish the names of companies that are actually trying to develop affordable housing -- ? I mean that seriously.

>> We need frameworks to evaluate what's good change and what's bad change, who the winners and losers are, and over what time frame.

>> We need to start with some ground rules, like "Build more housing than office", "Identify impacts and plan for mitigation", and "Build for current transportation capacity and trends while planning for change".

We won't need *any* more office space for a long time here on the Peninsula. Let's build 100% housing for a while. But, beyond that, be afraid of the incredible shrinking cubicle. I actually remember when "everybody" got 80 square feet and "anybody" could get 160 square feet of private office space. Including halls and entryways, restrooms and conference rooms, they figured 250 square feet minimum per employee. Then, it went to 125 square feet. But now, everyone is sharing bedbugs and head lice. And, all the people who work from home consume almost zero space-- a chair in a conference room for a weekly face-to-face. They keep adding employees with no office space added. So, let's just build housing. No new office space at all required. Zero. Not needed.


1 person likes this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2020 at 3:39 pm

Why not scale down SB 50 to something most people can get behind - say increased height and density within 1/4 mile of major transit stops, with 25% affordable housing, and one parking spot per bedroom.

Skip trying to turn all of Palo Alto into R4 housing.

How about rezoning along Alma Street to R10 instead of R2 up to 50 tall feet with one parking space per bedroom, of which 2 apartments need to be affordable - thus not replacing semi-affordable housing with unaffordable housing. I'd even go to 60 feet where the lots behind Alma are multi-family not R-1.

I can't believe these changes wouldn't pencil out. If you looked at recent sales, you would find investors are already assembling contiguous parcels of land in hopes of upzoning.

Incremental change works far better than revolutionary change.


21 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 31, 2020 at 8:06 pm

"Follow the money."

If it leads to Adrian Fine, no thank you


2 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 1, 2020 at 1:17 pm

Add Marie to the small group of people the City should consult on housing.

Mayor Fine and Manager Shikada: If you are sincere about moving the needle on housing, please reach out to Allen Akin, Asher Waldfogel, and Marie. A working group of stakeholders w/no political aspirations can likely develop workable solutions that will garner wide support. Political aspirations are an obstacle to progress; there are too many financial strings attached, causing people to serve their own interests rather than the community's. SB50 is a perfect example of this.


18 people like this
Posted by Another Giveaway
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2020 at 2:36 am

I strongly disagree with Marie and Annette. SB50 in all of its forms needs to die and we need to dance on its grave, not try to figure out how to resuscitate its corpse.

Some sort of SB50 "lite" is exactly what I am expecting the real-estate industry to roll out in response to this setback.

The fundamental flaw with SB50 is it transfers control of real-estate development from the local level to the state where it is much more easily corrupted by the real-estate industry. At the state level the real-estate industry only needs to corrupt a few hundred politicians instead of the thousands it needs to corrupt at the local level.

The real-estate industry's ruthless political strategy is managed at a level way above the local RE agent's pay grade. Weiner and Fine are just useful idiots.

From the San Francisco Business Times:

50 biggest developers in the Greater Bay Area Web Link




20 people like this
Posted by Another Giveaway
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2020 at 3:47 am

Report from the front lines in the war between progressive housing advocates and YIMBYs.

From Housing is a Human Right:

Selling Out California: Scott Wiener’s Money Ties to Big Real Estate Web Link

Inside Game: California YIMBY, Scott Wiener, and Big Tech’s Troubling Housing Push Web Link


6 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 2, 2020 at 8:38 am

@Another Giveaway - I think you may misunderstand me; I fully agree about SB50 and I am glad that thinking senators saw to it that it did not pass.

But something is coming b/c something has to be done to address the growing shortage. The actions that led us here center around job creation and promoting the development of commercial space that was not mitigated vis-a-vis housing. The solution is going to have to involve a moratorium on commercial development, allowing only housing-mitigated commercial development in the future, possibly converting some commercial space to housing, and creating new job centers in areas of the state that can support the influx of workers.

And the biggee: new people in leadership. The old expression "dance with them that brung you" does not apply here. We need a divorce from those that brought us to this dance so that we enter an era of smart planning and good decisions unfettered by political obligations.

Local election reform would help, but that will take too long to result in any immediate relief. But voters can take a close look at endorsers and donors to get a good idea about how someone will tilt on issues. Hint on the next election: we need to keep developer dollars out of the election so that they don't dominate dais decisions.


14 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 2, 2020 at 9:58 am

Speaking of local election reform, it would be nice if there were direct elections of the Planning & Transportation Commission as well as for mayor.

Right now, we have a self-perpetuating pro-development majority happily appointing more pro-development people while sidelining slow-growthers and no-growthers regardless of community sentiment. Lather, rinse, repeat.


12 people like this
Posted by Another Giveaway
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2020 at 12:41 pm

@Annette,

Thank you for clarifying your position, however you did endorse Marie who is straight up proposing SB50 "lite" which is surely the real-estate industry's plan B.

Most of the senators who voted against SB actually support it. The only thing most of those senators were "thinking" about was losing the next election. You stopped SB50, not Jerry Hill.

Negotiating with yourself is a losing strategy. It telegraphs weakness, a lack of clarity, and a lack of conviction.


20 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 2, 2020 at 4:16 pm

<<But something is coming b/c something has to be done to address the growing shortage>>
Sure, the need is to address the root of the demand:companies hiring more people and foreign investors being allowed to buy up real estate to use as offshore bank accounts. Make it impossible for companies to hire more employees into the area, so they expand and move elsewhere, and subject foreign investors to very heavy taxes.

Look at London and Hong Kong, two out of numerous examples of how creating more housing in desirable cities actually makes housing more expensive and helps only higher income people.


7 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 3, 2020 at 10:26 pm

Nothing like being lectured to by a Mountain View person. Please note that MV has a totally different tax base. It has Google consuming any open land. The degree to which it is built out is different than PA. We have all kinds of "experts" that only focus on one element but land usage has many different elements that need to be baked into the end result - city services available to support added growth and tax base to support services. Obvious difference from one city to another. MV has to deal with Google, MP has to deal with FB. PA has to deal with SU. But PA does not have the benefit of added tax base since SU is a non-profit organization. There is no one size fits all. MV should note that PA was built out ages ago due to proximity to SU. MV is just catching up now. You can't spread housing like chunky peanut butter so that each loses it's identity. If that is the plan then forget it.


15 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2020 at 12:19 pm

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace

>> But something is coming b/c something has to be done to address the growing shortage. The actions that led us here center around job creation and promoting the development of commercial space that was not mitigated vis-a-vis housing.

>> The solution is going to have to involve a moratorium on commercial development, allowing only housing-mitigated commercial development in the future, possibly converting some commercial space to housing, and creating new job centers in areas of the state that can support the influx of workers.

"They" keep *demanding* that we destroy the city to build the housing that "they" need. I think they have it backwards. We have seen a number of older buildings, recently some boring, aged, brutalist structures, get torn down and replaced with other office space. Why can't we *demand* that they replace those ugly, worn-out office buildings with *housing* until we achieve jobs/housing balance? Why does office space have to increase monotonically? Let's start tearing some down and replace it with housing?


4 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 7, 2020 at 8:21 am

In the SJM 02/07 on the opinion pages we are now lectured to by a NYT columnist - Farhad Manjoo who came to CA as a child from a different continent. We are being admonished for wanting a single family home with a backyard. And how the state of CA has to change up how we rack and stack people. The SJM must be owned by a greater corporation that is busy trying to change public opinion however someone from a different continent who came to CA as a child is not the way to do it.

The opinion directly below it is talking about how our water system is being ruined by multiple types of poison - both natural and man-made and are dumping into the bay. And the lack of ability to fix that problem. Our drinking water is affected by this.

The problem we have is single focus opinions with an agenda that they are paid to produce which ignores all of the other data which directly conflicts with the opinion.

People migrate to the US because their heritage country is unable to govern itself. Lack of skills in governance and planning produces predictably bad results. They then pop in to provide advice on what we should be doing with no background knowledge as to the other mitigating issues. Amazing how that happens.
There is a general lack of knowledge base in many countries as to how to govern with long term planning. Such a great lack of basic knowledge emboldens them to provide advice to us.
When such articles appear - check out the writers home country on Wikipedia - how is that country doing? what are they doing to resolve their issues? - They don't - they migrate to the US so they can lecture us.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 8, 2020 at 1:29 pm

The author of SB50 - Mr. Weiner of San Francisco is from New Jersey. He grew up in a east coast typical neighborhood with rack and stack housing. So now he migrates to SF and starts his blitz which is NOT appreciated by his SF congressional district. Since being a political figure requires an appreciative audience I can see how he ended up in SF - a so-called progressive city, but the same can be said for New Jersey.

I really question people in politics or opinion pieces in the paper that appear from other places then start their campaigns to "transform" the place. I hope that his position will come to an end due to term limits - then he will have to figure out where his "appreciation" group is. He has a lot of arrows now pointed at him.
They spell "no appreciation".


5 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 10, 2020 at 8:59 am

Lengthy article in SJM about the SOCAL effort to shut down SB50 since they have other programs to resolve their housing needs. It noted that Santa Monica and Pasadena were targets for SB50 - both higher end areas with value homes. Little mention of Palo Alto or other peninsula cities somehow implying that these cities are more compliant and accessible to developers.

A number of recent purchases by one developer on Embarcadero business area and now the former SSL site on Fabian suggests that there is a mega developer that is focusing on this city. Time to focus on our regional legislative and city leaders who are somehow not mentioned in these articles which directly affect how our land will be managed. The silence of our city and state leaders in these articles is troubling. The taxpayers need to be on top of what is happening and the position of our city and legislative leaders. And it is troubling that articles on SB50 focus on SOCAL as the location of people against it.

From where I am sitting - having grown up in SOCAL high end cities - there is no appreciation for the SF view of life - other than being a tourist. And I am not seeing a lot of local appreciation for the SF view of life relative to their political rants on housing. Yes - it is coming from Sacramento. It is political voting time - check out your candidates for both this and future periods who are not supporting the local city POV. Our leaders, as are most - envision a larger political career and are using city management as a stepping stone. So what stones are they stepping on. We need to "help" them understand the path that is the local taxpayers - not Sacramento where the Gov sees himself running for President and the locals are riding his coattails. It is windy out there.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 10, 2020 at 11:05 am

Your Governor just appeared on "The View". He crowed that the economy of CA is the 5th biggest "in the world". And one of the View participants suggested he should be the VP on this presidential election. Of course he demurred since he is "in charge" of the biggest economy in the US. When I see him crowing away about CA and all of the money we have then that raises the question as to why we have the type of issues noted in SB50 and why we have a requirement to raise taxes to pay for whatever shortfalls we have in addressing these issues. Sorry - the Gov says we do not need to create more ways to tax the people and we do not need bonds for school repairs since those are activities that should be baked into the long term budget requirements for the school systems. Thank you Gov - no need to approve more taxes and bonds.


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