Sen. Scott Wiener’s new bill to stimulate the construction of housing includes a gun pointed squarely at Palo Alto and Los Altos, with their high-performing school districts. Last year, Wiener unsuccessfully pushed Senate Bill 827, which would have forced cities to allow housing developments up to eight stories within a half-mile radius of every Caltrain station and a quarter mile from bus stops where buses run every 15 minutes during commute times.
The old bill defined the target zone for high-density housing to places around bus stops and train stations.
The bill defines places with good schools and jobs as “High-opportunity areas.” My concern is that if SB 50 passes, Palo Alto and Los Altos will become “High-opportunity areas” where a developer could build a high-density housing project on any parcel zoned residential, and there wouldn’t be much that residents could say about it. Our lobbyist should try to convince Wiener to amend the bill so that it doesn’t label all of Palo Alto and Los Altos as a high-density housing zone.
Palo Alto can argue that it is taking the challenge of creating more affordable housing seriously without being hammered by the state.
Where should new housing go?
That should be a local decision. I don’t want to replace the judgment of our local city council members and planning commissioners with that of Weiner and his buddies in Sacramento.
While Wiener’s previous bill failed, this one has more supporters.
He now has the very vocal housing advocates on his side because he added protections for existing low-income housing.
Big businesses are supporters as well, which figures since this approach will cost them less than if they were required to create housing when they build more offices.
And while Gov. Jerry Brown was lukewarm on SB 827, Gov. Gavin Newsom is more likely to sign SB 50 given his goal of building 3.5 million new homes in seven years.