Mea­sure push­ing for housing faces hur­dles

Antelope Valley Press - - NEWS - By ADAM BEAM

SACRA­MENTO — Fac­ing a short­age of 3.5 mil­lion houses, some Cal­i­for­nia law­mak­ers want de­vel­op­ers to build more apart­ments and other housing closer to pub­lic trans­porta­tion — even if it means over­rid­ing lo­cal zon­ing laws.

The leg­is­la­tion is aimed at at­tack­ing a housing cri­sis in Cal­i­for­nia, which has some of the na­tion’s high­est home prices and an alarm­ing growth in home­less­ness. The prob­lem was on dis­play Tues­day when sup­port­ers of home­less women liv­ing il­le­gally in a va­cant Oak­land home in­ter­rupted a news con­fer­ence on the mea­sure to protest their plight.

But some lo­cal gov­ern­ments ob­ject to the pro­posal be­cause they say the state should not tell them how to man­age growth in their com­mu­ni­ties.

A sim­i­lar pro­posal stalled in the Leg­is­la­ture last year. But state Sen. Scott Wiener, a

Demo­crat from San Fran­cisco, an­nounced changes Tues­day to the mea­sure de­signed to win over skep­ti­cal lo­cal gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

The new bill would ex­empt lo­cal gov­ern­ments from the law but only if they come up with their own rules to build more housing. Those rules would still re­quire ap­proval from two state agen­cies.

Most lo­cal gov­ern­ments would have two years to come up with the rules. If they don’t, the law would ap­ply to them be­gin­ning in 2023. Other neigh­bor­hoods deemed at risk for gen­tri­fi­ca­tion would have more time — up to five years — to de­velop rules.

“(This bill) will help end this cri­sis by forc­ing cities to zone for more housing ex­actly where it should be: near job cen­ters and near pub­lic tran­sit,” Wiener said. “I’m op­ti­mistic that our grow­ing coali­tion will help move this im­por­tant housing re­form bill for­ward.”

The bill must pass the Se­nate by Jan. 31 for it to have a chance to be­come law this year. But it’s stuck in the Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee, with chair­man An­thony Por­tantino op­posed. Por­tantino, also a Demo­crat, said Tues­day that “we would be

in a bet­ter place today” had Wiener shared his changes dur­ing the leg­isla­tive break.

“Given that the cri­te­ria in the lat­est amend­ments cre­ate a nearly im­pos­si­ble thresh­old for cities to meet, the amend­ments seem like more theater than an im­ple­mentable plan to truly en­gen­der broad sup­port,” Por­tantino said.

But the mea­sure has strong sup­port among oth­ers in the ma­jor­ity Demo­cratic cau­cus, in­clud­ing Nancy Skin­ner, a state se­na­tor from Berke­ley. She said much of her dis­trict in Oak­land is zoned for sin­gle-fam­ily homes, which are more ex­pen­sive and ex­cludes peo­ple who can’t af­ford them.

“(This bill) opens up those best neigh­bor­hoods, those neigh­bor­hoods with the best schools, those neigh­bor­hoods with the best parks, those neigh­bor­hoods with the best in­fra­struc­ture and the best ser­vices,” she said.

The mea­sure’s key pro­vi­sions re­main in place. It would re­lax height re­quire­ments for housing within a half-mile of pub­lic trans­porta­tion and ar­eas where state of­fi­cials have de­ter­mined lots of jobs are avail­able.

That means de­vel­op­ers could build a five-story housing com­plex in an area his­tor­i­cally re­stricted to sin­gle-fam­ily homes. It also would al­low home­own­ers to ren­o­vate ex­ist­ing build­ings to add up to three ad­di­tional units. Wiener’s of­fice said those projects won’t sub­stan­tially in­crease the build­ing’s size and must con­form to lo­cal de­sign stan­dards.

The two largest lo­cal gov­ern­ment groups — the League of Cal­i­for­nia Cities and the Cal­i­for­nia State As­so­ci­a­tion of Coun­ties — say they are still re­view­ing the changes to the mea­sure.

“But based on the brief­ing we heard yes­ter­day, I think we’ll have a lit­tle more work that we want to do to be able to re­move op­po­si­tion,” said Chris Lee, leg­isla­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tive for housing is­sues with the county group.

The bill has at­tracted bi­par­ti­san sup­port, with Repub­li­can Assem­bly­man Kevin Ki­ley ap­pear­ing at a news con­fer­ence Tues­day in Oak­land to back it.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Nikia Dur­gin, who raps un­der the name Qing Qi, yells at a rally out­side of City Hall in Oak­land Tues­day. Cal­i­for­nia Sen. Scott Wiener an­nounced amend­ments to a closely-watched bill that would al­low more housing to be built near pub­lic trans­porta­tion.

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