California lawmakers scale back bill to add more housing

SB 828 would still require local officials to zone for more housing than current law requires

Senator Scott Wiener and a multifamily property (Credit: Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects)
Senator Scott Wiener and a multifamily property (Credit: Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects)

California lawmakers this week reduced the requirements in a bill meant to significantly boost housing statewide to alleviate the drastic shortage.

An earlier version of Senate Bill 828 would have required cities and counties to zone for twice as much housing units as locally needed at each income bracket. The latest amendment, made in the Committee on Transportation and Housing, lowered that 1.25 times more.

That’s still higher than what’s required under existing law, which requires them to zone enough land for 100 percent of the local need — an obligation local officials have rarely met.

Under the original draft, a city short 1,000 units of housing would have to identify enough land for 2,000 units and set in place a plan to rezone them.

Under the new draft, that city would instead have to find land for 1,250 units. That could be a boon for developers statewide.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

A spokesperson for the bill’s author, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), said there was still room in the legislative process for that percentage to increase and that Wiener is shooting for 1.5 times more. The lower requirement could make it more palatable to lawmakers with constituents wary of new development.

Wiener is also the author of SB 827, which would have overridden local zoning laws statewide to allow for more dense multifamily development near transit. The goal is to alleviate the state’s housing crunch, lower prices, and encourage greener transit-oriented development.

That bill was also significantly scaled back before it went before its first committee, but was still voted down in its first hearing earlier this month. Wiener plans to tweak it and reintroduce it next year.

The amended SB 828 also cuts out a requirement that cities and counties take steps to bring rents below 30 percent of household median income. That would require the California Association of Governments to identify the percentage of households paying more than that on housing.

SB 828 is headed to the Senate Committee on Appropriations.