Dennis Richards’ Recap of SB 50 at our Spring Gathering

At our June 1 Spring Neighbors Gathering, Dennis Richards recapped Senator Scott Wiener‘s bill SB 50. That bill would sweepingly upzone (that is, change zoning to allow more density on each lot) most of the City (and indeed much of the State). It would incentivize more market-rate & luxury housing, but would not effectively promote more affordable housing which we so desperately need.

In addition to these general points, we should add that the bill in its current form would have significant impact on Dolores Heights:

  • Increase height limits within theDolores Heights Special Use District from 35′ to 55′ (in most cases; 45′ in a few locations) because of proximity to the J Church. It would do this without requiring that developers build multi-unit or affordable housing
  • Waive all maximum controls on density for all of Dolores Heights because of proximity to the J and the 24. So any lot can have any number of units, as long as the result complies with the Building Code.
  • Not increase the production of affordable housing in our area: Most lots are not large enough to hold more than 10 units legally. SB 50 only requires affordable or inclusionary requirements for projects with more than ten units.
  • Because of the increased density, a proposal that would demo a single family residence and replace it with multiple units on what is today an RH-1 lot could be approved “by right” without review by the City or appeal by adjacent neighbors.

SB 50 is officially on hold until next year. However, Senator Wiener may be able to use any number of legislative maneuvers to bring it back at least in part this year. As an example of a step he could take, Senator Wiener just resorted to a legislative trick called “gut and amend”. He’s taken a bill that originally dealt with licensing for barbers and cosmetologists – SB 592 – and amended it to create another housing bill which is different than SB 50 but in some ways might be even worse.

SB 592 is a very complex and detailed piece of housing legislation that would undermine a long list of local controls over residential developments by extending the scope of the Housing Accountability Act (HAA). The HAA was originally passed in the 1980s to protect communities from housing discrimination, but has been increasingly used to sue cities in order to force approval of development permits. SB 592 changes the HAA to an anti-local controls measure that appears to disallow Discretionary Review and appeals and protects proposed McMansions from neighborhood objections. We will write more about SB 592 as we understand it better.

What can you do? Call Assembly Housing Committee Chair (and our state assemblyman) David Chiu at (916) 319-2017. Urge him to oppose SB 592.

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