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A California housing bill targeting upscale communities would eliminate single-family home zoning across most of the state, transferring the authority to shape neighborhoods away from local governments to remote politicians in Sacramento.

Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), the lead author of Senate Bill 50 (SB 50), says the practice — known as “upzoning” — is necessary to address problems such as housing affordability and homelessness, which he claims have reached “crisis” levels statewide. To justify his bold proposal, Wiener references a report that found California needs 3.5 million more homes.

“The fundamental problem is that we have a massive housing shortage, which explodes housing costs and which puts enormous pressure on tenants in particular because the rents go so high,” Wiener told Mother Jones. “We have to lessen that pressure by adding more housing of all varieties at all incomes.”

In the Golden State, nearly two-thirds of all residences are single-family homes. A recent survey determined that most of the developable land is currently zoned strictly for single-family dwellings.

SB 50 is supported by mayors in San Francisco and Oakland but overwhelmingly opposed by municipalities further south. A Los Angeles Councilman described the bill as a “handout for developers” that aims to “destroy single-family home neighborhoods in Southern California.”

“I feel that overreach by Sacramento politicians is a threat not only to our community but to every community in the state,” said Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch.

The complicated measure recently underwent significant changes that allowed it to advance from a Senate committee. More revisions were created earlier this month which establish different rules for rural and urban areas. Some lower income “sensitive communities” at risk of displacement and gentrification would be exempt for five years.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the proposal’s current language “would require California cities and counties to permit duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes on much of the residential land now zoned for only one house,” and “would allow midrise apartment construction near mass transit and small apartment complexes and townhomes in wealthy communities in large counties …”

The Times went on to report:

As it stands, the bill has limits on where developers could build fourplexes. Under the legislation, developers would not be able to demolish a single-family house to build a fourplex without local government approval, but a single-family home could be remodeled into a fourplex if it doesn’t increase in size by more than 15%. The bill also places restrictions on building fourplexes in single-family areas that are in floodplains, communities at high risk of wildfire and some historic zones.

These limitations would blunt the bill’s ability to spur construction of fourplexes in single-family-only neighborhoods, says Mott Smith, a principal at Civic Enterprise Development in Los Angeles. But he still expects a significant number of property owners to be able to take advantage.

“I wish that it were less restrictive,” Smith said. “But at the same time, this is quite momentous: the abolition of single-family zoning in California.”

Sen. Nancy Skinner, a Democrat representing the East Bay Area who co-authored SB 50, said single-family zoning policies were deliberately crafted to exclude people “for economic reasons and race reasons.”

“That’s the poster child for discriminatory zoning,” Skinner said on a recent episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast.”

“I love this inclusion of the fourplex because it allows us to get at some of that exclusion and gives other people the same type of access to the neighborhoods to have the great parks, the great schools, and other great assets,” she continued.

Last month, the Times wrote that Wiener “intended for his bill to push high-income neighborhoods zoned only for single-family homes to make room for apartments as redress for historical wrongs.”

SB 50 must go to the Senate floor for a vote by the end of this month. If passed, it will advance to the Assembly for consideration. Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom has not taken a position on the proposed law.

“If this does pass it will be a big smack in the face to local government by our California electeds,” said West Hollywood Mayor John D’Amico.

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  1. Edward Conley

    May 15, 2019 at 2:41 pm

    Agenda 2030 in full force.
    This is only the beginning.Wait till all the 5g is rolled out.

  2. abolishliberalism

    May 15, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    lol…. now that they have run out of room for more voters, they will begin doubling and tripling up and one day they will have all huge tall sky scrapers… gotta get as many voters in the state as possible. Im just waiting to see how much the elitist ca. dems will take before they turn on the state and start to bail on it..the only problem is, they will all head inland and start to wreck states like Arizona… I hope not!

    • Art LaPella

      May 16, 2019 at 2:22 am

      Alas, they will feel more at home here, in the West Coast state of Washington. Then again, refugees are often easier to live with than those who stay behind.

  3. Alison

    May 15, 2019 at 2:46 pm

    Okay, all you dumb-ass single-family homeowners that voted for Democrats. Have you learned your lessons yet???

    • Wilson

      May 15, 2019 at 3:59 pm

      Nope.Heels up Harris is a shoe-in or is that shoes off nomination to win the Cali primary.

  4. Ray

    May 15, 2019 at 4:37 pm

    Shocking the Mayor of Beverly Hills has an issue with this Bill. The Rich and Famous must be calling his office day and night over this Bill.Let the Hollywood Elite who live in these ridiculous size Mansions on multiple acres give up their land they want Illegal immigrants to stay in the Country let them live on their property

  5. joe

    May 15, 2019 at 6:03 pm

    California is a sanctuary state. San Francisco is a sanctuary city. The government needs to go one step further. They need to declare any home a sanctuary home. In other words. You have no right to any possessions.

  6. fred H SMITH

    May 15, 2019 at 7:58 pm

    ideal for housing illegals,, build 20 high rise condos close to Nancy Pelosi’s property.fill them with illegas

  7. Mike McBride

    May 15, 2019 at 9:39 pm

    If California has a housing shortage of 3.5 million homes then send all the illegals back to where they came from. Problem solved, more homes than people to put in them.

  8. Joe

    May 15, 2019 at 11:11 pm

    Please Senator Skinner explain the connect between race and single family houses.

    I do see how a big influx of cheap apartments will drive up the property taxes of single family home owners. The government won’t get much property tax money from apartment buildings to pay for the services such as schools, police, garbage collection and all the rest. Only way is to raise property taxes on single family homes.

  9. Sunday

    May 16, 2019 at 5:46 am

    Agenda 21…right on time.

  10. Patriot 1951

    May 18, 2019 at 10:27 pm

    Isn’t the definition of stupidity voting the same way (D) and expecting different results?

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