Senate Bill 50 gains new life amidst community concern

The bill, which would authorize multi-family buildings to be built near “high-quality” transit stations resurfaced in early January and requires a Senate vote by month’s end.

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Senate Bill 50 gains new life amidst community concern

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New life has been given to Senate Bill 50, the contentious housing bill introduced by Democratic state Senator Scott Weiner of San Francisco, designed to increase density around transit stations and jobs.

If passed, the bill would focus on neighborhoods with or around “high-quality” transit stations, or those containing train and high-frequency bus stations.

The bill would authorize multi-family buildings to be erected near the transit centers. This would mean that in a zone limited to single-family homes, multiple floor housing facilities could be constructed.

The housing bill would also allow for the increase in height for housing facilities in densely populated areas.

SB50 is currently sitting in the Senator Rules Committee.

“SB50 will make the housing crisis worse,” 70th Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, who represents Long Beach and Signal Hill, said.

“It’s a gift to developers and an assault on our neighborhoods,” O’Donnell continued. “SB50 usurps the role of local government. Cities should plan cities, Sacramento shouldn’t plan cities.”

One of the criticisms the bill has faced is the overriding of local restrictions on building.

“All cities should oppose SB50 because it takes away their power at the local level,” O’Donnell said.

A recent amendment to the bill hoped to address some of the concerns.

Senator Weiner amended SB50 in early January to give cities and counties two years to come up with their own initiative for development as long as density requirements were met.

Corliss Lee, president of local activist group Eastside Voice, is worried about the changes to quality of life Senate Bill 50 would bring.

“In Long Beach, the target areas would be along the Blue Line [A Line],” Lee said. “They would most likely endure the extreme height requirements and zoning for apartments and condos. Parking would not be required because it is a high-quality transit area. This would increase the traffic/parking/crime problems that come with high density zoning.”

The new housing would be priced at market rate, however SB50 would require up to 25% of housing to be affordable.

Lee, is concerned that the bill doesn’t do enough to address affordable housing.

“This law would provide a large amount of additional housing, especially in Southern California but result in gentrification and do little or nothing for affordable housing,” she said.

Assemblymember O’Donnell is also concerned with the approach SB50 takes toward building housing.

“I’m a supporter of doing anything we can to build more housing, but you don’t ruin housing to build more housing.”

The assemblymember worries that this is a San Francisco solution for the state of California.

“[SB50] could have the potential of allowing developers to buy single-family neighborhood homes and turn them into apartment buildings,” O’donnell said. “Maybe that’s good for San Francisco, but it’s not what my community wants.”

An attempt to reach 33rd District Senator Lena Gonzalez for comment was unsuccessful as of press time.

In order for SB50 to advance, the bill will need to pass a Senate vote by the end of the month where it will move on to the Assembly.