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Housing bill that allows cities to increase density clears state Assembly

Marc Berman among 44 members of the Assembly who supported Senate Bill 10

Arbor Real homes in Palo Alto, which is among the cities that have opposed SB 10. Embarcadero Media file photo by Olivia Treynor.

A contentious bill that allows cities to enact zoning changes to enable construction of 10-unit housing developments in transit-rich and urban-infill areas cleared a critical hurdle Monday afternoon, when the state Assembly voted to approve it.

With a 44-12 vote, the Assembly gave a significant boost to Senate Bill 10, which was authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and which had already cleared the state Senate. The Monday vote allows for a final "concurrence" vote by the Senate before the legislation heads to the governor.

The bill needed 41 votes to get through the Assembly. Assembly member Marc Berman, D-Menlo Park, was among the 44 legislators who voted in favor of the bill.

Along with SB 9, which would allow subdivisions in single-family zones, SB 10 has generated heated debate over the course of the legislative season. Housing advocates have characterized it as a critical step toward combatting "exclusionary zoning" and making it easier for cities to build much needed housing. Assembly member David Chiu, D-San Francisco, who introduced the bill on the Assembly floor, noted that the legislation allows cities to simply ignore it.

"If a city chooses to implement SB 10, this bill will provide that city with an inexpensive and effective tool to rezone parcels of up to 10 units," Chiu said. "If they choose not to implement SB 10, nothing will change."

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Opponents of the bill, including citizen groups such as United Neighbors and Livable California, have criticized it as a major legislative overreach, particularly insomuch as it allows city councils to overrule zoning restrictions that had been enacted through citizen initiatives. Numerous cities, including Palo Alto, also have taken a position against the bill. Palo Alto's letter of opposition argued that the provision of the bill that allows governments to overrule citizen initiatives is one that "no Legislative branch of government should have, and which we — a City Council, and therefore such a branch — do not want."

"Such legislation echoes more of Russia than of California," the letter read.

While the majority of the Democrats in the Assembly voted in favor of the bill, opposition transcended party lines. Ten of the 12 Assembly members who voted against the bill — Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, Richard Bloom, Tasha Boerner Horva, Jim Frazier, Al Muratsuchi, Patrick O'Donnell, Adrin Nazarian, Cottie Petrie-Norris, Rudy Salas, and Mark Stone — are Democrats (Republicans Kelly Seyarto and Randy Voepel joined them in opposition).

In a statement immediately after the Assembly vote, Wiener called the bill "a step in the right direction."

"This voluntary tool will help local governments throughout California fundamentally reshape their zoning in infill areas, and help our state climb out of the housing crisis we face. Today is a step in the right direction, and we must continue to build on this victory to end California's housing crisis," Wiener said.

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Editor's note: The story was updated to reflect the changing vote total.

Gennady Sheyner
 
Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

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.

Housing bill that allows cities to increase density clears state Assembly

Marc Berman among 44 members of the Assembly who supported Senate Bill 10

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Mon, Aug 23, 2021, 4:54 pm

A contentious bill that allows cities to enact zoning changes to enable construction of 10-unit housing developments in transit-rich and urban-infill areas cleared a critical hurdle Monday afternoon, when the state Assembly voted to approve it.

With a 44-12 vote, the Assembly gave a significant boost to Senate Bill 10, which was authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and which had already cleared the state Senate. The Monday vote allows for a final "concurrence" vote by the Senate before the legislation heads to the governor.

The bill needed 41 votes to get through the Assembly. Assembly member Marc Berman, D-Menlo Park, was among the 44 legislators who voted in favor of the bill.

Along with SB 9, which would allow subdivisions in single-family zones, SB 10 has generated heated debate over the course of the legislative season. Housing advocates have characterized it as a critical step toward combatting "exclusionary zoning" and making it easier for cities to build much needed housing. Assembly member David Chiu, D-San Francisco, who introduced the bill on the Assembly floor, noted that the legislation allows cities to simply ignore it.

"If a city chooses to implement SB 10, this bill will provide that city with an inexpensive and effective tool to rezone parcels of up to 10 units," Chiu said. "If they choose not to implement SB 10, nothing will change."

Opponents of the bill, including citizen groups such as United Neighbors and Livable California, have criticized it as a major legislative overreach, particularly insomuch as it allows city councils to overrule zoning restrictions that had been enacted through citizen initiatives. Numerous cities, including Palo Alto, also have taken a position against the bill. Palo Alto's letter of opposition argued that the provision of the bill that allows governments to overrule citizen initiatives is one that "no Legislative branch of government should have, and which we — a City Council, and therefore such a branch — do not want."

"Such legislation echoes more of Russia than of California," the letter read.

While the majority of the Democrats in the Assembly voted in favor of the bill, opposition transcended party lines. Ten of the 12 Assembly members who voted against the bill — Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, Richard Bloom, Tasha Boerner Horva, Jim Frazier, Al Muratsuchi, Patrick O'Donnell, Adrin Nazarian, Cottie Petrie-Norris, Rudy Salas, and Mark Stone — are Democrats (Republicans Kelly Seyarto and Randy Voepel joined them in opposition).

In a statement immediately after the Assembly vote, Wiener called the bill "a step in the right direction."

"This voluntary tool will help local governments throughout California fundamentally reshape their zoning in infill areas, and help our state climb out of the housing crisis we face. Today is a step in the right direction, and we must continue to build on this victory to end California's housing crisis," Wiener said.

Editor's note: The story was updated to reflect the changing vote total.

Comments

felix
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2021 at 9:00 pm
felix, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 23, 2021 at 9:00 pm

SB 10 has no built-in affordability. It’s just a giant film flam giveaway to market-rate developers.

Just because you say “affordable housing” over and over to convince the voters you are doing something worthy, doesn’t make it so.

If Wiener or Berman really wanted affordable housing, they would fund it and those that have the knowledge and experience to build it - non-profit developers.


Eric Filseth
Registered user
Downtown North
on Aug 23, 2021 at 10:13 pm
Eric Filseth, Downtown North
Registered user
on Aug 23, 2021 at 10:13 pm

The notion that SB10 provides City Councils with a new “tool to rezone parcels up to 10 units” is a straight-up, cynical falsehood. We City Councils already have that power, which Assemblyman Chiu knows perfectly well.

In fact, the “10-unit zoning” is a distraction from the real intent of SB10, which is the voter-override provision. By passing it, the State Legislature has shot a significant hole in the California initiative process, one of the last voter checks-and-balances against special interests and out of-touchness in the State Legislature; and long a thorn in the side of would-be dirigistes in Sacramento and frankly many red states as well.

What SB10 has done is to establish a precedent that voter initiatives in California can be discretionarily overturned by elected officials, even if they pass at the ballot box. This goes far beyond turf-fights over zoning. Voter initiatives are elections; SB10 establishes a way to suppress them. It is a major step towards taking away the power of citizens to rein in their legislature when it drifts away from serving voter interests, especially relevant in what’s effectively a one-party state.

Forced to choose between party leaders with power over their political careers, against the constituents who elected them, 43 assembly members cynically chose the former and threw the latter under a bus. It’s an inexplicable, anti-voter action for any of those 43 who purports to work on behalf of voters, and voters should not forget that next year.


anon1234
Registered user
College Terrace
on Aug 23, 2021 at 11:14 pm
anon1234, College Terrace
Registered user
on Aug 23, 2021 at 11:14 pm

What a terrible thing for most non wealthy people in california.
This bill increases the cost of housing and disadvantages people of color and lower income folks, and hurts the environment.
Shame on the state legislature


chris
Registered user
University South
on Aug 24, 2021 at 12:21 am
chris, University South
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 12:21 am

I guess when you graduate from PACC, you see the light. PACC writes a whiny letter, to which Eric's former colleague Marc Berman paid no attention.

Those still mired in the provincial politics of Palo Alto have continued to be stuck in the muck. In the last 10 years, the ruling party in Palo Alto has ground housing construction to a halt. In previous decades, there was much more progress (Stanford West, University Park, 800 High, Arbor Real, the Vi). How many of those projects would have been approved by the current City Council? Even 801 Alma was approved in 2009. Many people did not like that project but I suspect that the people who are able to live in affordable housing like it.


Allen Akin
Registered user
Professorville
on Aug 24, 2021 at 9:29 am
Allen Akin, Professorville
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 9:29 am

The voter-override provision seems like it might be unconstitutional, but I wonder if anyone has standing to challenge it in court if it hasn't been used yet.

The zoning provision seems really odd. I've read the bill twice, and I still don't think I understand it completely. It doesn't offer much in the way of more housing or more-affordable housing. Maybe it's just another tool to apply political pressure within city governments, rather than an end in itself.

I can't wait to see what Governor Newsom does with this (and SB9, if it progresses). Can he sit on it until after the recall election?


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 24, 2021 at 10:44 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 10:44 am

Thank you, Eric.

I -- like many -- sat in on Berman's Zoom meeting where he claimed that with so many bills before him he just couldn't read all of them. As if all the bills were of equal importance. His staff was totally impervious to logical arguments, rejecting poll results.

Subsequent calls and letters to his staff found them saying he "had no position" on the bills. Until of course he didn't when he voted/

High time to vote him out in the next election since he's just too too busy to do his homework and/or tell the truth about his positions.


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 24, 2021 at 11:16 am
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 11:16 am

"With a 41-9 vote, the Assembly gave a significant boost to Senate Bill 10" is hardly contentious . A bill that promotes "Russia rather than California"? Since when was the name of a Country or a US State a political ideology?? Ignorant. GS your article opening sentence starts NIMBY fires rather than educates...Most of your published reporting are editorially slanted toward an anti housing bias.


Eric Filseth
Registered user
Downtown North
on Aug 24, 2021 at 11:16 am
Eric Filseth, Downtown North
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 11:16 am

@Allen Akin - Newsom has been mum. All the major Republican recall candidates have pledged to veto it.


Allen Akin
Registered user
Professorville
on Aug 24, 2021 at 3:45 pm
Allen Akin, Professorville
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 3:45 pm

I just read that Newsom has until October 10 to sign or veto, so he'll probably continue to keep quiet on this subject. It'll be interesting to see whether it's used against him in the recall.


scott
Registered user
Meadow Park
on Aug 24, 2021 at 5:39 pm
scott, Meadow Park
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 5:39 pm

Obviously if a council abuses SB10, they are subject to being voted out. That's how representative democracy works. That having been said: we have precious little danger of a Palo Alto council ever opting to use SB10, so Filseth's rage over this law is hilarious. It's as if a Fresno councilmember were incensed at a beach access measure.

The political forces behind that have a lot to do with why so many Palo Altans need plane tickets to see their grandchildren. But maybe if Sacramento keeps its eye on the housing crisis the next generation will age less isolated and lonely, even in the face of councilmembers like Filseth pushing in the wrong direction.


chris
Registered user
University South
on Aug 24, 2021 at 11:18 pm
chris, University South
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 11:18 pm

I still waiting to see a specific negative impact of SB10 in Palo Alto. What will it cause PACC to do that it doesn't want to do.

The City Council seems to make up fanciful theories that have no basis in fact.

Where is the real coercion on Palo Alto? Marc Berman is most likely right not to take PACC seriously. Most people in his district can probably see through PACC's arguments. After all, the other similar cities in his district don't seem to have the same uptightness about housing bills that characterize PACC.


tmp
Registered user
Downtown North
on Aug 24, 2021 at 11:37 pm
tmp, Downtown North
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 11:37 pm

Representative Berman sold out those who elected him with his support of this outrageous power grab by the state. I will not vote for unprincipled state representatives who opt to support developers and builders over residents and what is good for the environment. And if Newsom supports bills to overbuild in a state with awful pollution, little water and massive overpopulation I will vote to oust him also.


Lori H.
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Aug 25, 2021 at 9:12 am
Lori H., Menlo Park
Registered user
on Aug 25, 2021 at 9:12 am

If you increase the supply of housing, it helps alleviate pressure on prices. That is true whether or not the housing is "affordable" as long as there is more of it. (i.e., as long as you are not replacing an apartment building with a single family compound.) Local governments may or may not exercise their rights under this bill. The housing that gets built may or may not be "affordable." But if it keeps a middle class individual or family from driving out someone from existing housing, then it helps at some level to maintain the community. Given local governments still have control, I understand Marc Berman's position and vote.


Allen Akin
Registered user
Professorville
on Aug 25, 2021 at 9:44 am
Allen Akin, Professorville
Registered user
on Aug 25, 2021 at 9:44 am

The oddity of SB 10 is that it doesn't increase the supply of housing. It merely allows city councils to rezone to increase density. They already had that power -- and in fact, the RHNA process already *requires* them to use it when needed to meet housing targets.

So what's the point of SB 10? Well, it also includes a provision that allows councils to override voter initiatives, and that's a genuinely new power. Perhaps that's its true purpose.

In both respects, I see good reasons to question Berman's knowledge and/or motivations.

NB: SB 10 also has language concerning where CEQA is applied in response to council actions. This language is so convoluted that it's not clear to me exactly what it means.


Steve Dabrowski
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 25, 2021 at 3:38 pm
Steve Dabrowski, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Aug 25, 2021 at 3:38 pm

We all knew what Berman was about since he was on the council-the developers inside tool, why expect anything different now. Anyone who thought he would do anything but vote yes on this and on SB9 should be out looking for a bridge to buy.

Vote to recall Newsom and make clear the reason is that he will surly sign SB10 and SB9. We can live with any Republican for a year or two and they might even take on ABAG. The existing legislature will act as a check and we might see an end for awhile on some other nutty legislation in the works.


Sunshine
Registered user
Barron Park
on Aug 27, 2021 at 3:39 pm
Sunshine, Barron Park
Registered user
on Aug 27, 2021 at 3:39 pm

This bill is one of the worst ever. It removes all local control over zoning. Next thing you know someone will propose a sewage treatment plant in the middle of a residential neighborhood and Berman and his ilk will vote "yes".
Both SB 9 and 10 are a disaster looking for a place to happen and both will ruin neighborhoods everywhere. Zoning must be a local control item; it must never be controlled by the state or county.
I think it is time to return Berman to the pasture. Clearly he is not doing any good as an elected official.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Aug 27, 2021 at 11:14 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Aug 27, 2021 at 11:14 pm

Berman was part of the Palo Alto City Council majority that helped grow the jobs:housing imbalance. Now he pretends to be a housing advocate. It's no surprise that he voted as he did; he is probably one of the most obedient legislators we've ever had. As the saying goes: follow the money (developers, including Stanford, must be very pleased at this).

I think it short sighted for proponents of SB10 to be delighted, because if it becomes law, a seriously detrimental precedent will have been set. Voters throughout blue California understandably went nuts over Trump's efforts to reverse the will of the voters. Weiner's SB10 is essentially the same sort of effort. Different party; same nonsense.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 29, 2021 at 8:01 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Aug 29, 2021 at 8:01 pm

Every photo of Newsome of late you can see Weiner standing behind him. So who is running this show? Is the CA legislators calling the shots to keep him alive? A lot of smarmy activity going on. How many concessions are being made to float his boat?


community member
Registered user
University South
on Aug 30, 2021 at 12:14 am
community member, University South
Registered user
on Aug 30, 2021 at 12:14 am

Marc Berman was sometimes referred to as Mr. Real Estate.
His family is deeply involved in the industry, for example,
his mother, Lucy Berman is (or was) a well-known real estate agent
with Dreyfus Realty. (also, Lucy Berman & Sons LLC)

When he ran for City Council he was strongly supported by the development
advocates in Palo Alto Forward, for example, Elaine Yuang contributed $1,000 to his campaign. Nancy Shepherd was his campaign chair.

Not much doubt where his interests are.


Andy
Registered user
Stanford
on Aug 31, 2021 at 3:38 pm
Andy, Stanford
Registered user
on Aug 31, 2021 at 3:38 pm

1. Recall Gavin Newsom
2. Throw out NIMBYS from elected office
3. Build more housing
4. Build more housing
5. Build more housing


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