A meeting was held last month on State Senator Scott Wiener’s bill, SB 827, that attempts to encourage housing along transit corridors throughout the state. The meeting was organized by Bay Area Forward, and Maya Perkins, the group’s executive director, was the host and moderator. (Maya Perkins is our Annual Meeting speaker)

Chris Lepe with Transform described the background, and the bill. One-third of California’s renters pay more than half of their wages to rent. To avoid that, many are now mega-commuters, spending more than one or two hours on the road each working day.  The carbon emissions from that commuting off-set all of the gains we have made with our energy efficiency efforts. We need more housing but there are many reasons why this has not happened, and a major one is local reaction that kills projects. SB 827 attempts to change that. Take a look at transitrichhousing.org for some details and a very helpful map.

SB 827 calls for higher density, for example for areas within 1/4 mile of major transit stops, building height limits are raised to 55 ft. on narrow streets and 85 ft. on wide streets. There are also changes to parking minimums, density maximums and arbitrary design requirements.

The bill applies to residential and mixed-use zones, but not commercial or industrial zones.

Lewis M with California Yimby, https://cayimby.org/ made the point that this is only one step, and many more will be needed to solve the crisis. He made the case for State regulation of what has always been considered a local matter – the State sets standards for education, transportation, energy use, and heath care, all areas that touch everyone. Housing should be treated similarly, in his opinion.

Pilar L with [email protected], told of her personal story, she used to rent in Mountain View, but after several rent hikes and several moves, she now lives in the East Bay. 

Fernando M with a SF Housing group expressed concerns about SB 827. The bill requires coverage of relocation expenses, including higher rents and offers the right to return for tenants displaced while project is built, for up to 3 1/2 years, but the point was made that comparable housing may not be locally available, so the impact on tenants is huge. There is the fairness question too, as these tenants often are lower income residents of color. 

Lenny Siegel, Mayor of Mountain View, is not in support of the bill. He does not want to see old Mountain View destroyed simply because it is next to a CalTrain stop. He says Mountain View is now providing housing, far more than neighboring cities, and does not want to lose local control.

Lewis made an interesting point – by failing to supply housing, our kids have been forced to move elsewhere, contributing, for example, to the high rents and gentrification of San Francisco.

The meeting was informative, contentious at times, and I think it is safe to say, SB 827 will need some significant amendments if it is ever to become law.

Gary Hedden

Note: Wiener’s bill failed in a Sacramento committee on Tuesday, April 17.

For more see: https://slate.com/business/2018/04/why-sb-827-californias-radical-affordable-housing-bill-was-so-unpopular.html