The California State Senate could soon field a new weapon in the ongoing battle against homelessness and high rent. State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, has introduced a bill that would overhaul land use controls in California. Some have called it “the most radical attack on California’s affordability crisis you could imagine.”
SB-827 would make all new housing within a half-mile of a train station or a quarter-mile of a frequent bus route exempt from local regulations concerning size, height, number of apartments, restrictive design standards, or the provision of parking spaces. Not only would this permit larger buildings, but it also allow developers to build high-density residential buildings faster.
“Mandating low-density housing around transit makes no sense,” Wiener wrote on a Medium post announcing the bill. “We must build more housing near transit so that we can reduce reliance on cars and so that more people can access the benefits of transit.”
SB-827 is part of a three-bill housing crisis package. Another bill, SB-828, will overhaul the Regional Housing Needs Assessment to improve the role of data in its methodology, while SB-829 is meant to allow farm owners to build worker housing on agricultural land.
But while Wiener said his bills are meant to solve housing shortages, some see the upzoning as a precursor to gentrification. The Crenshaw Subway Coalition said that since most of the affected properties wore in South LA, entire neighborhoods could be razed to make way for high-rise, high price developments.
“[SB-827] will undoubtedly lead to the massive demolition of the limited affordable housing stock we still have in LA,” Damien Goodmon with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation wrote for the Crenshaw Subway Coalition.
Other groups, such as pro-housing group California YIMBY, said that zoning laws actually contribute to gentrification.
“The goal of SB 827 is to create a vibrant and inclusive California for everyone,” Brian Hanlon with California YIMBY said. “Gentrification will continue to ravage communities throughout the state until we build enough homes to house everyone.”