Last spring, we reported on Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 827, which proposed major increases in height and density for qualifying housing developments.  Battle lines quickly emerged, with supporters claiming that the legislation was a bold, necessary solution to the housing affordability and climate change crises, and opponents asserting that it was a threat to neighborhood stability and an invitation to gentrification.  The bill was ultimately killed in Committee.  On December 3, Senator Wiener introduced SB 50Like SB 827, SB 50 would constrain local agencies’ ability to impose height and density limits and minimum parking requirements on residential developments (projects with at least two-thirds of the square footage designated for residential use) that meet the legislation’s “transit rich” and/or “jobs rich” criteria.  SB 50 introduces the term “equitable communities incentives” to describe the bill’s various waivers, concessions and incentives.

Senator Wiener added new features, and modified others, to address criticisms of the prior bill.  Highlights include:

  • Expanding density incentives beyond “transit-rich” projects to “jobs-rich” projects (based on criteria such as proximity to jobs, area median income and quality of public schools) to capture more affluent areas outside major transit corridors.
  • Delaying implementation for designated “sensitive communities” (generally, those with a high risk of gentrification or displacement based on indicators such as percentage of tenant population living at or below the poverty line) to allow time for planning efforts directed at affordable multifamily housing.
  • Designating properties as ineligible if they have housed tenants in the past 7 years, or if the owner has evicted tenants under the Ellis Act in the past 15 years, prior to submittal of a development application; and
  • Providing that projects are generally subject to the more restrictive of SB 50’s affordable housing requirements, or local city inclusionary housing ordinances.

The legislation has a number of co-authors and several early supporters, including Mayors Breed and Schaaf and the State Building Trades Council.  It is expected to be opposed by many of the same local communities that resisted SB 827 based on concerns such as loss of local control and gentrification.  The bill is currently awaiting Committee referral.