Update on Senators Wiener's and Skinner's new housing upzone bill

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Authors scramble to add amendments to SB 827 to address impacts identified by its critics.
Thursday, March 22, 2018

The February Rockridge News featured an article on Senators Scott Wiener's (D-San Francisco) and Nancy Skinner's (D-Oakland-Berkeley) bill, which would mandate residential upzoning near transit stations and major transit line stops statewide.  Faced with significant opposition to their bill, they have added a series of amendments.  (The attached file shows the bill's amended language as of March 1, 2018.) The amendments attempt to placate at least some of the bill's opponents, which include many tenant and minority advocacy groups. Those opponents have said that the bill would increase tenant displacement and gentrification in "transit-rich" areas like Rockridge and West Oakland.  (See, for example, this recent article.)

While still early in the legislative process (the bill is still pending in its first committee - Senate Housing & Transportation), it has already become one of the most high-profile and polarizing bills of this legislative session, with front-page coverage in the New York Times and many other news media.  Supporters include California YIMBY [short for Yes In My Back Yard](which has gotten major support from the Bay Area's high-tech industry), the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and the Bay Area Council; while the opposition is headed up by the League of California Cities and also includes local neighborhood groups, especially in the L.A. area.

Wiener and Skinner have responded by adding amendments to clarify some of the bill's provisions and to add some protection for current tenants in rent controlled units.  Also added are provisions intended to help tenants displaced by projects under the bill, including potentially providing them with "comparable units" in the new projects (although, under California's Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, those units could not be subject to rent control).

It remains to be seen whether the changes that have been proposed will satisfy the bill's opponents, and if not, what additional changes might be added.  One risk is that a bill can get so loaded down with amendments that it becomes too complicated and eventually gets shelved by a committee along the way.

Certainly this bill remains one for residents of Rockridge and other transit-rich communities to watch and comment on.  Those are the places where the bill's impacts - both positive and negative - will be focused.  The bill can be followed on the Legislature's website at https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/.

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