Why Californians Should Care About SB 827

By Ali Safavi Real Estate

California is in the midst of a housing shortage. More people want homes, specifically affordable homes, than are able to find them. Enter SB 827. This Senate bill would override local zoning laws to allow developers to build taller apartments and condos near transit stations (trains and subways). Density could also be increased around bus stations. Basically it’s saying no matter what your local zoning laws are, if the land is within a half mile of a mass transit station, Sacramento will now sets the standard for development.

Let’s take a step back and look at why we need this bill. For decades cities like Beverly Hills have actually mandated against building multi-unit housing in residential areas. Developers could only build single-family homes. This is why, in part, rent has sky rocketed and housing availability is at dangerously low levels. SB 827 would supersede local laws and mandate multi-family homes be built. It also hopes to increase mass transit use (we’ll see about that).

One of the major concerns is that this would negatively impact low income residents residing in these areas. New apartments would most likely be rented at market value, which is too high for many (and part of the problem). Advocates want to see safeguards put into the bill that insure residents can stay at current prices. One recent amendment required builders to offer a certain amount of affordable housing and to make it more difficult to tear down low-income housing. To many this is going in the right direction, but perhaps still not far enough.

We don’t need more one bedroom apartments for $3,500 a month. There are plenty of those going up across Los Angeles. If you can afford that price, I think you’re doing okay. We need affordable housing. Unless Sacramento forces builders to do it, chances are they will find loopholes to build luxury housing and reap the profit.

Another complaint is that this disproportionately affects cities with a heavy mass transit footprint, like San Francisco and Los Angeles. This furthers the criticism that the state government shouldn’t be meddling in local issues. Those decisions, they say, should be left up to the residents and city councils.

It’s understandable that neighborhoods with primarily single-family housing are weary of mass development. There is concern this bill would decimate the “character” of Los Angeles. Others point to problem with historic preservation. Some people are against low income housing in their neighborhood all together.

The fact remains that something needs to be done. Too often lawmakers and city official love talking about solutions as long as it doesn’t affect their neighborhood. No one moves to Los Angeles and is surprised by tall buildings and overcrowded streets. If everyone said “not in my backyard” then the problem would continue to perpetuate until LA becomes a kingdom for the wealthy – middleclass need not apply. Some sacrifices may need to be made for the greater good.

That isn’t to say that this bill is the answer. Details continue to be ironed out and lawmakers on both sides still have a lot of opinions. State Senator Scott Wiener, who authored the bill, does seem quite open to changes and amendments. Nothing is set in stone and there is a long way to go before this becomes law.

Remember that this is a bill, not a ballot measure. You won’t see this in the November election. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a voice, however. If you have an opinion, make sure to call your local representative.