Scott Wiener’s SB50 transit-housing bill clears key hurdle after some changes

Scott Wiener’s SB50 transit-housing bill clears key hurdle after some changes

SACRAMENTO — State lawmakers advanced a proposal to make it harder for local officials to block construction of apartment buildings around public transit after its author agreed Wednesday to carve out separate rules for more lightly populated counties.

Sen. Scott Wiener, the San Francisco Democrat behind the bill to spur denser housing development in California cities, announced a deal with Sen. Mike McGuire that folded the Healdsburg Democrat’s similar but more limited measure into Wiener’s SB50.

The combined bill, which passed the Senate Governance and Finance Committee with bipartisan support, would allow residential buildings of at least four or five stories within half a mile of rail stations and ferry terminals, provided those projects meet other local design standards.

Wiener agreed to limit the rules changes to counties with more than 600,000 people. There are 15 counties in California that qualify, including San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Santa Clara.

The bill would also remove density limits within a quarter-mile of stops on bus lines with frequent service and in high-income census tracts with lots of jobs and good schools, regardless of their proximity to transit. That would open neighborhoods previously zoned for single-family homes to apartments and condominiums.

The new SB50 creates an exemption to the proposed rules for coastal zones in cities with fewer than 50,000 people, areas at high risk of fire and state-designated historic districts.

“We need to move away from this notion that housing is somehow a punishment,” Wiener said at the committee hearing, where city officials and affordable-housing advocates lined up against the bill. Read more

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