Many State Bills Will Override San Francisco Planning Codes & Regs

Here’s a round-up on housing legislation in our state legislature. In May SB 50 was postponed until the 2020 session (though it may come back through last-minute, back-room deals and maneuvers that involve a “gut and amend” of another bill and waiver of rules – stay tuned!). Many housing bills that are still on the docket seek to usurp San Francisco’s policies, ordinances, and planning codes by passing statewide laws. These are only the tip of the iceberg. In 2019 our state legislators introduced 200 bills to replace local planning laws and process with state-mandated standards and processes.SB 330 and SB 592 were heard this week before the Assembly Appropriations Committee. SB 330 mandates that all cities follow its prescribed timelines and review process for approval of housing projects. SB 592 sponsored by Senator Wiener originally governed beauticians and barbers. However, Senator Scott Wiener used a backroom “gut and amend” maneuver to re-write SB 592 making it a vehicle for more state mandates under the Housing Accountability Act. These changes further override the San Francisco’s control over planning and zoning. These bills are being pushed under the battle cry of “the housing crisis.”

A plethora of bills governing Accessory Dwelling Units. The worst of the group are: AB 68, AB 69, AB 881 and SB 13. For context, San Francisco has its own Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance which allowed for legalizing existing ADUs and for permitting of new ones. AB 68 will in effect legalize multiple dwellings on all single family lots statewide. Under AB 68 an ADU “within the buildable area” can be approved without any City review or any appeal by adjacent neighbors. AB 69 instructs the state Housing Department to develop ADU construction standards by 2021. AB 881 provides for ministerial and not discretionary approvals of ADUs and invalidates provisions of local ADU ordinances that restrict ADUs in a variety of ways. SB 13 limits what local law can require of an ADU and like AB 881, requires a “by-right” ministerial process and shortens the approval time from 120 to 60 days. SB 13 also deletes the current enforcement procedure which included mediation.

AB 1487 creates a “housing finance authority” governed by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission board and staffed by MTC employees. This bill is an overreach and expands the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s charter without any voter approval. It gives the MTC the ability to hand-pick a small group of representatives. The bill also gives this entity the ability to propose taxes and to impose its measures on local governmental ballots.

If your head is spinning, here’s a data-driven analysis  written by an Albany elected official arguing that California’s housing crisis is simply one of affordability. Using data from California state agencies, it refutes the narrative that we need to incentivize more market-rate housing. And it illustrates how the jobs/housing imbalance has increased the cost of market-rate housing beyond what median (and lower) earners can afford.

If you oppose these bills, please write to your assemblyperson and to Governor Newsom. DHIC advocates for policies and laws at the City and state level that fund and incentivize more affordable housing, that balance the needs of existing neighborhoods and their built environment with future growth, and that allow all stakeholders (especially local residents) to have a voice in the process. How do these bills solve San Francisco’s need for below-market rate affordable housing or address the decreasing quality of life from poorly planned growth?

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