Community groups rallied against SB 827, legislation by state Sen. Scott Wiener that would rezone cities to allow taller buildings near transit, outside San Francisco City Hall on April 3, 2018. (Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez/S.F. Examiner)

Wiener scales back controversial housing bill

State Sen. Scott Wiener has lowered proposed height increases for housing in Senate Bill 827 amid loud and growing opposition in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The legislation, which is meant to address California’s growing housing crisis, would rezone cities statewide to allow taller buildings near transit, but critics have argued it is too sweeping. The Planning Department said 96 percent of San Francisco would be rezoned under the bill in its initial form.

In Southern and Northern California, critics have also voiced concern that SB 827 would encourage landlords to evict tenants to reap profits from building new ten or eight story developments and that it would override a city’s ability to bargain for more low income housing in exchange for increased heights.

SEE RELATED: SF supes vote 8-3 to oppose Wiener legislation changing city zoning

Wiener’s amendments, announced Tuesday morning, scale back the increases in height limits to four or five stories, depending on the distance from a transit stop, instead of eight and ten stories. And instead of applying to all transit stops, the bill’s height changes would only apply to rail, subway and ferry stops — not bus stops. Density of housing would still increase near bus stops, however. The amendments also include demolition restrictions from any property that has seen an Ellis Act eviction within the past five years.

The changes will also delay implementation of the bill until January 2021 “in order to give local communities time to plan” their own housing requirements near transit.

“This bill has triggered a robust and passionate discussion about housing in California, and I appreciate all the feedback we’ve received, including from critics who have engaged thoughtfully on the bill,” Wiener wrote in a statement.

Though the amendments scale back the bill’s sweeping effects on California cities, Gen Fujioka, policy director with San Francisco’s Chinatown Community Development Center, said that at its core SB 827 has not changed.

“Senator Wiener’s proposal now upzones part of San Francisco instead of all of it. But the amendments do not change the fact that this is a deeply undemocratic proposal,” Fujioka told the Examiner in a statement. “If San Francisco proposes to rezone there is notice to the residents and a community process. This proposal eliminates that process for everyone except for those with a lobbyist in Sacramento.”

Laura Clark, head of the local Yes in My Back Yard housing advocacy group, told the Examiner the loss of height in Wiener’s bill was “disappointing,” but further restricting demolitions and enacting tenant protections “is exactly the right way to ensure development without displacement.” PlanningPolitics

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