By Matthew Reagan
Action on Senate Bill 50 (SB 50) — a measure to address the state’s housing crisis by rewriting local zoning codes — was put off until 2020 by the state Senate Appropriations Committee on May 16. The delay undercuts the Senate Housing Committee and the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, which passed the bill in April. The bill would let apartment complexes be built in areas deemed “job rich” or “transit rich” and would permit fourplexes in neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes.
Locally, political support for the bill has been lukewarm to nonexistent. It is unclear at this point whether a delay or subsequent revisions will change any minds.
On April 2, Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, who represents Northeast Los Angeles in Sacramento, voted for SB 50 in the Senate Housing Committee. On April 17, in an email response to questions from the Boulevard Sentinel about her “yes” vote, Durazo said, “I have concerns about SB 50 and I’m still listening to my community about their thoughts on the bill.” Sen. Durazo declined a request for comment regarding the bill’s delay and any alternative measures being considered to address the housing crisis.
On April 16, Councilmember Gil Cedillo, who represents Highland Park and Glassell Park on the L.A. City Council, voted along with 11 other city councilmembers to oppose the bill as it made its way through the state legislature. (Councilmember José Huizar, who represents Eagle Rock, was absent for the vote.) The City Council objected to SB 50 because it would shift zoning authority from local governments to Sacramento.
Emails from the Boulevard Sentinel to Cedillo’s spokesperson asking what the Councilmember would rather see out of Sacramento to address the housing crisis were not answered.
Peter Dreier, a housing expert and the E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics at Occidental College, said opposition to SB 50 had proved too broad to overcome. In addition to homeowners and local governments, low-income housing groups also opposed SB 50, saying that its lack of provisions for affordable housing would only make things worse.
And yet, despite the opposition, the leader of the California Senate, Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), recently released a statement emphasizing that the bill has only been delayed, not defeated.
“To be clear, the bill is not dead, and this is the first year of a two-year session,” said Atkins, who called for an effort to revise SB 50 for reconsideration in 2020.
According to Dreier, revisions that could make SB 50 more acceptable include greater protection against rent hikes and stronger requirements to build affordable housing.