Latest (4/18/18) Update on SB 827

Despite amendments lowering the maximum heights and de-emphasizing bus routes, bill dies in its first committee.
Wednesday, April 18, 2018

With opposition to their bill appearing both wide and strong, Senators Scott Wiener (D-S.F.) and Nancy Skinner (D-Oakland/Berkeley) backpedaled significantly on their bill to mandate upzoning near transit stations and along transit corridors.  However, it was apparently not enough.  SB 827's first committee hearing, before the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, happened April 17th.  While the results of that hearing were not yet available on the Legislature's website, News reports indicate it was voted down by a large margin, The authors had made two sets of amendments to the bill  attempting to mollify oppnents (see file attached below; also attached is the bill analysis for the April 17th committee hearing).  But with many cities in both the Bay Area and Southern California  registering opposition, including an 8-3 vote to oppose by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the unanimous opposition of the L.A. City Council, and the League of California Cities, California State Association of Counties, and many environmental, housing, and tenant rights groups opposing it, the pushback was too strong. 

The latest amendments backed off considerably from the bill's original proposals.  The 85' maximum height on streets more than 70 feet wide was gone.  So were raised height limits along major transit corridors, which had been refined to cover only bus stops on high-frequency bus lines.  In addition, the newest version added some modest mandatory affordable housing requirements for projects involving ten or more residential units, and further displacement protections for current tenants. It also softened its prohibition on off-street parking requirements by limiting it to areas within 1/4 mile of a transit station, with all other covered areas now limited to 1/2 parking space per residential unit.  Areas within 1/4 mile of a high-frequency bus line stops would have, however, still required allowing higher density and floor area ratio limits than are associated with single family housing, the bill's stated target.

Nevertheless, the bill faced stiff opposition.  Critics continued to attack its "one size fits all" approach.  It still didn't take into account transit capacity or efficiency limitations, so the ability of new residents to make effective use of transit would have varied widely  And, while it required new rental units taking advantage of its incentives to provide free transit passes to their tenants, that seemed unlikely to convince those tenants to ditch their cars if the available transit was overcrowded or inefficient.  Nor did the bill provide any state funding to promote the spread of the high-quality transit that it hoped would reduce auto dependency. Perhaps also significantly, unlike last year's SB 35, also authored by Wiener, the bill didn't require paying union wages for construction workers, earning the opposition of the state building trades council.  All in all, the latest changes to the bill may have dampened the enthusiasm of its most fervent supporters, but arpparently didn't satisfy its many opponents.

While the bill has now died, Senator Wiener has said he will continue to push for its aims, and has promised to introduce another bill aimed at promoting higher housing densities near transit in next year's session.

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sb_827_amended_4-9-18.pdf444.88 KB
201720180sb827_senate_transportation_and_housing.pdf235.65 KB