Scott Wiener NEW

Scott Wiener

This year’s most controversial piece of housing legislation stalled in Sacramento, as lawmakers tabled state Sen. Scott Wiener’s proposal to solve California’s affordability crisis by building dense housing near job centers and transit hubs.

Senate Bill 50 was declared a two-year bill during the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on bills sent to the suspense file Thursday, May 16.

For the time being, the decision effectively kills the proposal by Wiener, D-San Francisco, to loosen zoning regulations and building policies in an effort to facilitate more housing construction.

Wiener expressed his frustration over the decision which was announced with little fanfare in the early moments of the day’s legislative session.

“While I’m deeply disappointed that the chair of the Appropriations Committee has decided to postpone SB 50 until 2020 — since we have a housing crisis right now — we are 100 percent committed to moving the legislation forward,” he said in a prepared statement.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, said in an email postponing the decision will grant lawmakers the additional time needed to analyze and refine the divisive proposal.

“Making SB 50 a two-year bill allows more time to develop this legislation so it better addresses California’s dire housing crisis and the concerns voiced by many communities throughout the state, who have said they want flexibility to achieve goals in ways that best suit their locales,” said Hill, who is a member of the Appropriations Committee.

An amended version of the bill advanced through the Senate Governance and Finance Committee last month, when Wiener reached a compromise with state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, to limit the scope of its impact.

Under the amendment, counties with fewer than 600,000 residents would be spared from the full brunt of development facilitated by the bill, as legislators sought to refine a proposal often criticized as too broad and inconsiderate of specific community character. Exclusions were also carved out for small, coastal areas and zones recognized to be threatened by wildfires. More broadly, the amended version also attempted to clear the path to build fourplexes in single-family neighborhoods.

In larger counties, of which there are 15 across California and including San Mateo, the bill aimed to upzone areas adjacent to train and ferry stops, allowing for taller and denser building with fewer parking requirements and more affordable housing. Furthermore, it removed density restrictions near frequent bus stops, and affluent communities with a high concentration of quality schools and jobs.

Millbrae Councilwoman Gina Papan lauded the lawmakers’ decision, claiming the bill was a poorly-crafted approach to resolving an issue better left to the decision of local officials.

“The SB 50 mandate is counterproductive. It is not going to enable communities to provide affordable housing. We’re doing that by our own local regulations,” said Papan, whose colleagues issued a letter raising concerns with the legislation Tuesday, May 14.

A variety of cities throughout San Mateo County have released similar statements, as the legislation seeking to sap local control is largely unpopular with officials along the Peninsula. Papan said she expects such an effort caught the attention of lawmakers.

“I believe the letters submitted by cities throughout San Mateo County have been impactful in expressing our concerns and problems with the proposed legislation,” said Papan, who was recently named to represent San Mateo County cities on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which is separately pushing a regional housing and financing package with the CASA Compact — The Committee to House the Bay Area.

Wiener’s proposal is not universally opposed by local officials though, as county Supervisor David Canepa said he is hopeful the conversation spurred by the legislation continues to compel more housing development discussions.

“We all want local control, but the issue is the demand for housing is out of control,” he said.

Canepa balanced that perspective by noting some local cities such as Belmont and Burlingame have recently approved more housing construction than years past — a decision he supports. But he said many other cities across the state have been less proactive, and the legislation could force those officials to take necessary action.

Looking ahead, Canepa suggested the months before the legislation is likely reintroduced could be spent looking to local officials who opposed SB 50 for possible alternative solutions.

“You are going to have to demonstrate to us that you are trying to at least solve this issue in some way, shape or form,” he said. “How are you doing it?”

Meanwhile, housing development advocates who believed the proposal was a viable effort to solve the state’s affordability crisis took an even firmer stance illustrating their disgust with the decision.

“The Senate Appropriations Committee just shafted lower and middle-income and younger Californians who are being crushed by our housing availability and affordability catastrophe in order to appease wealthy, incumbent, suburban homeowners. It’s a total embarrassment,” said Michael Lane, deputy director of affordable housing advocacy organization Silicon Valley at Home. Lane is also on the board of directors for the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County.

Amie Fishman, executive director of the Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California, expressed a mix of frustration and optimism with the decision.

“While we’re extremely disappointed by today’s decision to turn SB 50 into a two-year bill, delaying solutions while families suffer, [the Nonprofit Housing Association] is determined to keep working to make SB 50 a reality,” she said in a prepared statement.

Canepa too said he hopes the spirit of the legislation prevails over the coming months as local officials continue to seek other ways to make the Peninsula more affordable.

“Cities need to stay motivated to build more housing. And if they think that SB 50 is going to go away, that shouldn’t deter them from the responsibility of building housing and we have a beautiful opportunity to do that in our county,” he said.

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(13) comments


You know you're dealing with a SAMCAR shill when you see a commenter like Perry Rivera repeat the SAMCAR lie that "ReNt CoNtRoL iS pRoPeRtY cOnTrOl!"

No it's not, Perry. It's greedy, crooked landlord control.

Sorry if the human rights of tenants prevents some bottom-feeding realtors from being able to squeaze every last drop out of their victims.


Why are concerned residents described as foes?
Speaking of residents, it is evidently also residents who are 'powerful forces, ' according to the very angry CEO and co-founder of California Yimby. Brian Hanlon writes, in part, "I'm angry. Senator Portantino abused his power in the Senate Appropriations Committee today. This is an abuse of the process, and while the senator is within his rights as chair to deny a vote, we're within our rights to let the senator know how we feel. California Yimby is just getting started and we're not going to be dissuaded by a few dirty tricks from politicians who think they can get away with this. We always knew the powerful forces opposed to letting more neighbors live in our communities were aligned against us. We're here to tell them we're not going anywhere. We didn't lose today, we were cheated by a process that is designed to protect the powerful."
If anyone knows about dirty tricks, it's California Yimby. And they also know about power since it was exposed last year that they are funded with millions by tech companies. Let's face it, this bill had huge implications and ramifications. It would have been extremely irresponsible to push it through on the fast track that Mr. Hanlon hoped for. It serves no one to make this a black and white case. Concerned residents should not be painted as foes or the bad guys when they are merely asking for things to be well thought out. After all, this bill would be riding on the backs of the taxpaying residents, who would be taxed in numerous different ways to generate income just to begin to get the infrastructure in place.


It's hilarious that you think the word "foes" means "bad guys." It doesn't mean anything of the kind. So your entire rant was unnecessary.

Lisa V

Wow, interesting choice of headline. Foes of SB50 equal bad guys. Advocates for SB50 equal good guys. Biased much SMDJ??!


Sounds like you need to crack open your dictionary and learn what the word "foes" actually means.

Seasoned Observer

Very good news but those of us opposed to this pernicious legislation need to be vigilant and keep up the pressure on our elected officials to continue to fight this bill. We can not rest until this bill is finally dead. I applaud the bi-partisan efforts in Sacramento who understand the awful impact that this bill would have on the quality of our lives.


Every single city in San Mateo County has proved again and again it cannot be trusted with local control.

Christopher Conway

Not trusted by whom? I trust them and so do many others. That is why we vote for our local council members. You know like we have been doing since our cities were created.


Scott Weiner's major campaign contributors will not be pleased.

The real estate lobbyists demand a return on their investments.

Christopher Conway

What a great victory yesterday. Weiner, Canepa and all the liberal politicians who wanted to take local control away on housing issues got thumped. Congratulations to all the Californians who let their officials know that we would not sit by and let the state takeover local housing issues. You know they will be back, but so will we. Enjoy the victory and the news that people and voters can still call the shots in Sacramento.


Aren't you the the same guy I always see posting comments against rent control? It is amazingly hypocritical that you would oppose rent control, while also opposing legislation that would solve our housing scarcity problem.

Perry Rivera

It is not a choice of development or rent control. Those ideas work in opposite ways. Rent control is property control. Property control tells owners to take their units off of the market. That means less housing, especially less low income and moderate housing. Development tends to be aimed at creating mostly high income housing. You want more housing ? Encourage inclusionary housing but do not lobby for draconian regulations on existing housing.

Christopher Conway

Yes, I am the same guy who opposes rent control and state control. I believe in the free market and local control. They go hand in hand. What is your point.

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