SB 50, a bill to allow multifamily building statewide, again put on ice

The bill received attention from around the state, including intense opposition from many elected officials

Anthony Portantino and State Senators Scott Wiener
Anthony Portantino and State Senators Scott Wiener

A sweeping bill to allow dense residential development across California is once again dead in the water, at least for the rest of 2019.

State Senator Anthony Portantino, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced Thursday that Senate Bill 50 would not leave his committee this year, putting it on hold until next year’s legislative session, according to the Los Angeles Times. Portantino represents the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys.

It’s the second time the State Senate has killed a version of the bill, which was previously called Senate Bill 827. The measure was authored by State Senator Scott Wiener, who wants to upzone parcels across the state to promote development and address the state’s housing crisis. It mostly concerned urban areas near transit, including in L.A. and San Francisco.

A spokesperson for Wiener could not immediately be reached for comment. Portantino’s decision is a disappointment to supporters of the bill, who contend such sweeping legislation is needed to build enough the housing the state needs.

“The hold on SB 50 for at least another year is a significant disappointment and unfortunately limits the tools California will have to address the extreme housing crisis,” said land use attorney Kristina Lawson of Hanson Bridgett LLP.

The latest version of the SB 50 would allow for four- to five-story multifamily projects within walking distance to transit, much like L.A. City’s highly successful Transit Oriented Communities program.

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Roughly 40 percent of developable land in L.A. would see more dense zoning, while around six percent of single-family parcels citywide would be impacted, city officials wrote in a report last month.

Opposition is mostly rooted in concerns among single-family homeowners who don’t want to see their neighborhoods crowded by multifamily housing. Other opponents believe the bill does not protect existing minority communities from real estate speculation that could push them out for wealthier renters.

Elected officials in many cities across the state oppose the bill because it would usurp their planning authority.

The L.A. City Council opposed the bill and sent lobbyists to fight it in Sacramento in April.

Recent revisions to the bill would allow up to four-unit developments on parcels previously zoned for single-family housing only, but with significant protections for existing single-family homes.