Wiener introduced SB50 to force increased residential density and eliminate single-family housing in California. If SB50 passes, fourplexes would be allowed on virtually any single-family zoned property. That means anyone could build a fourplex in any neighborhood currently zoned single family, eliminating single-family zoning everywhere in the state.
In addition, any location determined to be “job rich” or “near transit” could receive waivers on requirements for parking, density, height, size, etc. This would be on top of any waivers received as a result of the California Density Bonus Law, which already undermines local control. The criteria of being “near transit” would mean that a city’s zoning rules could change at the whim of outside transit authorities adjusting the timing of bus routes. Further, the definition of “job rich” is sufficiently nebulous so that most populated areas in the state could be included, even if they are nowhere near transit.
Because commercial space yields greater revenues to cities than residential development, places like San Francisco, San Jose and Santa Clara scramble to attract and build more and more commercial space to fuel tech booms and feed their coffers. But because of the jobs to housing imbalance, which from 2010 to 2016 was 13:1 in San Francisco, 17:1 in San Mateo and 8:1 in Santa Clara, surrounding cities are subsidizing their lack of housing production.
This fact alone displaces existing residents, and the impact would only be exacerbated with SB50. Building five- and eight-story luxury condos helps builders and tech companies, but the rest of us in smaller communities pay the bill in increased traffic, density and the change in character of our neighborhoods.
Housing production requirements should target areas with greater job growth. Housing shortages in California will not be solved by forcing small cities like Clayton to upzone while requiring limited to no parking, increased density and little consideration for lengthy commutes.
SB50 is a one size fits all cudgel that folks like Wiener are pushing so that small cities are forced to subsidize the lack of housing being produced where jobs are being created.
Write to your state representatives and urge them to oppose SB50. In Clayton, that is Assemblyman Tim Grayson and state Sen. Steve Glazer.
Jeff Wan is the vice mayor of Clayton, CA.