"Light Touch" SB 50 Returns
Sen. Scott Wiener has unveiled a new version of his SB 50 in a new bill, SB 902. The new bill would permit duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes by right in most residential neighborhoods in California, depending on the size of the jurisdiction. The bill would also permit local governments to override voter-approved initiatives to permit projects of 10 units or more. Wiener called the new bill "baseline zoning for the state." The Los Angeles Times account of SB 902 can be found here while the bill's text can be found here.
League of Cities Proposes Housing Plan Based on Local Control
Meanwhile, the League of California Cities unveiled a production proposal that, if fully implemented, would lay the foundation for the immediate production of much needed housing. With broad support from the board, which consists of mayors, council members and appointed officials, the proposal has a better chance at implementation than previous proposals that "missed the mark," League President John Dunbar said in a statement The proposal emphasizes the need to secure long-term funding, pointing to SB 795, a property tax levy, and ACA 1, a bill that lowers voter threshold for affordable housing funding approval, as two currently pending bills that could create a long-term funding pool. The proposal also includes a menu of immediate actions cities would be required to choose from and adopt spur housing production. Cities may, for example, adopt an accessory dwelling unit ordinance, an inclusionary housing ordinance, or a transit-oriented development (TOD). Or cities may approach the program from a cost standpoint: reduce development fees, develop objective design review standards, and streamline housing approval processes. The proposal, which has been shared with Gov. Gavin Newsom's office and legislative leaders, will be a key topic during the League's Legislative Action Day, April 22.
Thousands of Affordable Units at Risk in Bay Area
An annual report from California Housing Partnership, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, warns that while the Bay Area didn't lose affordable apartments due to conversions to market-rate housing last year, low-income residents are more at risk than ever. As outlined in the report, since 1997, the Bay Area lost over 2,000 subsidized, rent-restricted apartments. Another 5,300 are at risk of disappearing as tax credits and subsides from federal and state agencies are set to expire. Los Angles County has the largest concentration of at-risk homes, with more than 5,000 subsidized affordable units converted to market-rate units since 1997, but counties all over California have lost affordable housing stock, including Alameda County (683), Contra Costa County (410), San Francisco County (115), San Mateo County (201), and Santa Clara County (719). Statewide, over 15,000 affordable units have been lost; another 31,800 are considered at risk. "We could actually see a situation where instead of increasing the stock of affordable housing, we're falling further behind," said Jeffrey Buchanan, director of public policy for Working Partnerships USA, a San Jose nonprofit that advocates on behalf of renters.
Survey Details Automobile Use In Los Angeles
Concerns over safety and convenience are keeping Los Angeles drivers in cars and out of public transit, according to the new USC Dornslife/Union Bank LABarometer mobility survey. Personal vehicles are overwhelmingly Los Angeleno's preferred method of transportation, with 89 percent of respondents saying they use cars to travel in or around Los Angeles County. Ride-hailing services like Lyft and Uber were used by 44 percent of respondents, though infrequently. Only 35 percent say they used public transportation last year. Safety concerns are overblown, experts say. "It's fascinating that people believe they are safer in cars than in public transit. That's simply false," said a USC Professor of Psychology and Business, noting 40,000 highway deaths per year. That doesn't mean riders are imagining hazards. Walking is by far the most common way people get to public transit, and the LABarometer shows that harassment and assault are more common on sidewalks than anywhere else, particularly for women. Long transit times was the top concern for bus riders (46 percent), followed by behavior of other riders (45 percent), lack of cleanliness (37 percent), and safely getting to and waiting for the bus (36 percent). For metro users, distance to stops and behavior of other riders were top concerns (nearly tied at 39 and 38 percent), safety on the metro and on the way to the metro were concerns for 30 percent and 29 percent of riders, respectively. "Our findings suggest that safety improvements could get more people on the Metro," said Kyla Thomas, director of the LABarometer and a sociologist with CESR. "but improving convenience for daily activity is likely to get people to use the Metro more frequently, as a real substitute for the car.”
Quick Hits & Updates
Following the failure of SB 50, State Sen. Scott Wiener has introduced a bill that would allow faith institutions and nonprofit hospitals to build 100 percent affordable housing on their property by right, even if local zoning would have prohibited that type of housing. If SB 899 passes, churches, faith institutions and nonprofit hospitals will be able to build up to 150 units of affordable housing without having to go through rezoning and discretionary approval processes.
California Office of Emergency Services is updating the California Adaptation Planning Guide. The second Public Review Draft is now live for review and comment through March 31. Anyone who has a stake in climate adaptation planning is encouraged to provide comments and feedback.
A proposed measure, "Limitations on Navigation Centers," may appear on the November 2020 San Francisco ballot. The initiative would put a two-year cap and 100-bed limit on navigation centers, and require that "any new navigation center must open in the census tract with the largest number of unsheltered homeless" people in the city.
Los Angeles legislators are considering a change to the Rent Stabilization Ordinance that would protect tenants from rent hikes that outpace inflation rates, essentially removing the floor and capping annual increases at 60 percent of the consumer price index. The rule change would affect tenants in roughly 600,000 apartments covered by the ordinance, which generally applies to buildings constructed on before Oct. 1978.
A San Diego developer is attempting to establish a clear delineation between market rate tenants and affordable housing tenants, going so far as to have two separate entrances and block low-income tenants from using luxury amenities like the building's rooftop deck. Housing advocates are pushing back, saying the separation amounts to segregation, but the development is allowed under city rules.
Newly released passenger data shows that ridership on the new Sonoma-Marin Rail Transit Line is slowly starting to recover after a 2.2 percent drop in its second year of service from 721,600 to 706,000. Commuters, who are driving the rebound, are increasingly using SMART as an alternative to driving to work on Highway 101. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)
A year after the state sued Huntington Beach "for willingly refusing to comply with state housing law," Huntington Beach City Council voted to approve the acquisition of a vacant parcel intended for an affordable housing project, which will span the neighboring property as well. The city will use $3 million from a low-moderate income housing asset fund reserved for the development of affordable housing.