RIP SB 50: Housing bill that would have boosted density fails again

Legislation that would have allowed developers to go taller falls 3 votes short in state Senate

Sen. Scott Wiener’s AB 50 fails to get enough votes (Credit: Getty Images and iStock)
Sen. Scott Wiener’s SB 50 fails to get enough votes (Credit: Getty Images and iStock)

The latest legislative proposal to address California’s deepening housing crisis by boosting density fell just short of the needed votes in the state Senate.

Senators on Thursday voted 18 to 15 in favor of the high-density housing bill known as SB 50 — three short of the required number. Six senators were marked as absent for the vote. It followed several failed votes over the last two days. The Senate still has until Friday —when the bill expires — but legislators were not scheduled to be in session.

Now the question is whether the SB 50’s sponsor, San Francisco Sen. Scott Wiener, will seek to revive the legislation.

Wiener conceived the legislation three years ago as a way to make it easier for developers to build taller, high-density housing around transit stations and employment hubs.

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The bill has gone through a number of versions, but has still come under tremendous scrutiny, especially in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Single-family homeowners have pushed particularly hard for its defeat, arguing it would damage their neighborhoods and push down property values.

L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz has also been a vocal opponent. In a letter to the editor published Tuesday in the Los Angeles Times, Koretz said the legislation “has the potential to decimate every single-family neighborhood in Los Angeles while also worsening our affordable housing shortage.”

Before the vote, Weiner urged his fellow lawmakers to “look at the big picture.”

“The numbers could not be more stark,” Wiener said. “We are short 3.5 million homes in California. This isn’t a small problem. This is a massive problem.”

Weiner said that when the ratio of homes per capita is calculated for all 50 states, California ranks one state from the bottom.

“We need to zone California to actually be able to build enough housing in a way that will not create sprawl,” he said. “This is about real people not just about numbers This is about Californians who are hurting right now.”