Wiener’s housing density legislation faces hometown opposition

State Sen. Scott Wiener’s second attempt to pass legislation increasing housing density near transit is meeting with renewed resistance at...

State Sen. Scott Wiener’s second attempt to pass legislation increasing housing density near transit is meeting with renewed resistance at home in San Francisco as it heads toward its first committee hearing.

Wiener’s Senate Bill 50, a revised version of last year’s controversial Senate Bill 827, promises to tackle a statewide housing crisis by requiring cities to allow for denser, taller construction near transit hubs. The bill is scheduled to be heard in committee on Tuesday.

While SB 50 has won endorsement by Mayor London Breed, it has failed to sway a number of city supervisors who last week announced formal opposition, citing a lack of protections against gentrification and the bill’s failure to mandate robust community benefits from developers.

District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar introduced a resolution opposing SB 50 and calling for city leaders to work together with state legislators to craft a number of amendments. Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, along with supervisors Rafael Mandelman, Sandra Lee Fewer, Aaron Peskin, Shamann Walton and Hillary Ronen, co-sponsored the resolution.

The resolution states that while SB 50 provides temporary exceptions for “sensitive communities,” the bill would exacerbate negative social and environmental impacts by restricting local authority to “adopt long term zoning and land use policies to assure equitable and affordable development” in those communities.

In a statement issued last week, Mar said that he supports increasing density near transit, including in his own district, but is advocating for “the opportunity to plan for our own neighborhoods with permanently affordable housing, more open space and more robust community benefits.”

“If we loosen zoning restrictions and increase land values, we must demand that developers meet the needs of the community,” said Mar.

He called SB 50 a “giveaway to private interests and developers without listening to, protecting or meeting the needs of our community.”

SB 827, also authored by Wiener, was also opposed by eight San Francisco supervisors last April over concerns about displacing existing renters, and failed in committee in 2018.

On Thursday, Wiener called Mar’s resolution a “knee-jerk local control, anti-growth position” that is based on “inaccuracies,” and likened it to positions taken by “housing resistant” cities such as Beverly Hills and Palo Alto.

“The resolution states that SB 50 will undermine affordable housing, which is flat out false. The San Francisco Planning Department analyzed SB 50 and concluded that it will significantly increase the amount of affordable housing in The City,” Wiener told the San Francisco Examiner.

Earlier this month, SB 50 was amended to more accurately define areas close to transit, add protections for existing rental housing and set minimum affordability requirements, among other things.

On Monday, Wiener penned a letter to Mar in response to the resolution, in which he cited a recent San Francisco poll that showed 74 percent support for SB 50, with “the highest level of support coming from” District 4. Mar has not officially responded to the letter.

Mar told the San Francisco Examiner on Thursday that he’s been “in conversation with a range of community folks and affordable housing advocates” on developing amendments to SB 50.

“My main concern with SB 50 is that it’s primarily promoting market-rate housing and does nothing to expand affordable housing past the various models we already created on the local level,” he said, adding that San Francisco is “close to meeting its market rate housing goals.”

Mar said that he doesn’t “think it is fair” to compare San Francisco to other cities.

“My six colleagues and I are speaking from our understanding of the housing affordability crisis in San Francisco. I can’t speak to what is happening in other cities,” he said. “SB 50 is a one-size-fits-all approach to changing zoning across the state.”

While the resolution is expected to pass at the board of supervisors, Wiener said that he isn’t worried.

On Thursday, he took to Twitter to announce endorsements by the California Labor Federation and the California Chamber of Commerce. The State Building & Construction Trades Council has previously endorsed SB 50, Wiener said in the tweet.

The bill has also gained support from the BART Board of Directors.

“The supervisors are entitled to their view. The board did not elect me, but the people of San Francisco and San Mateo counties elected me and they want more housing,” said Wiener. “They are struggling with housing and they want new approaches, not the same old dysfunctional approach this resolution takes.”

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