A controversial housing bill that could bring taller buildings to certain California neighborhoods cleared its second hurdle Wednesday, scoring a 5-0 committee vote after several changes designed to make it more palatable to its many opponents.

Senate Bill 50 gathered the votes it needed to pass out of the state Senate Governance and Finance Committee, but the bill looks different now than when it was first introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco.

SB 50 would override local zoning rules to allow taller and denser residential buildings near transit hubs and in “job-rich” communities to ease the states housing shortage.

“The legislative process for SB 50 is far from over, but today is a big win for the legislation and for Californians, so many of whom need housing,” Wiener said following the vote before a packed hearing.

Wieners bill has been heavily attacked by city leaders worried it would usurp their local planning control and apply one-size-fits-all zoning rules throughout the state. Activists worried it would accelerate gentrification and lead to the displacement of more low-income residents.

In response, Wiener amended the bill to include some exemptions for smaller cities and counties, a provision to make sure affordable housing is built with SB 50 projects, and several other tweaks. Wednesdays changes merged Wieners bill with SB 4 by Sen. Mike McGuire, a Democrat representing the coast north of San Francisco to the Oregon border.

SB 50 now moves on to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“Every city and county in the Golden State needs to do their part with housing …The strategy of no no longer works,” McGuire, chair of the Governance and Finance Committee, said Wednesday. “At the same time, we know we need to take into account the unique differences of jurisdictions.”

Studies released before Wednesdays amendments showed the earlier version of SB 50 exposed large swaths of Southern California to new apartment construction in single-family neighborhoods from Santa Ana north to Pasadena and west to Sherman Oaks.

The Los Angeles Planning Department issued a report Tuesday concluding 43% of the developable area of L.A. would have been eligible for higher-density construction under the earlier version of the bill, threatening to undo new general plans adopted recently in South Los Angeles.

A map produced by UC Berkeleys Terner Center for Housing Innovation showed that portions of Long Beach, Pasadena and the San Fernando Valley also would have been subject to SB 50 redevelopment rules.

For example, a section of Long Beach stretching from downtown east to the citys Traffic Circle were “likely to be impacted by upzoning” under the bills original provisions. Same for neighborhoods along Colorado Boulevard east of Lake Avenue in Pasadena and for long swaths through neighborhoods along Ventura and Van Nuys boulevards in the San Fernando Valley.

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Its unclear how SB 50 now impacts those areas after Wednesdays amendments.

Under the new version of the bill, smaller cities and counties would get special treatment, while small coastal cities, historic districts and fire-prone areas would be exempt.

In counties with 600,000 or fewer residents, projects within a half mile of rail or ferry terminals would generally abide by a scaled-back version of SB 50 — they could increase their height by one story.

For example, if the neighborhood is zoned for three-story buildings, a developer could build up to four stories under SB 50. Previously, SB would have allowed developers in any city to build four or five-story apartments near rail stations.

The new one-story rules apply only if a city has a population of more than 50,000.

Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco and San Mateo counties all have populations exceeding 600,000. Marin, Napa, Monterey, Santa Cruz and Sonoma counties were among those that had fewer, and would be eligible for special treatment under SB 50.

In another major change, the new SB 50 would require streamlined approval of fourplexes on vacant land in any residentially zoned neighborhood in California.

The compromises didnt appease many of the bills opponents, who lined up to voice their dissent Wednesday.

David Reyes, director of planning and community development for the city of Pasadena, complained the bill is now a “two-sizes-fit-all” solution, instead of a “one-size-fits-all.” If it becomes law, it will destroy the hard-fought partnerships formed between city officials, local residents and developers each time a new building is proposed, he said.

“What cities will do in response to a bill like this, is sue the state,” Reyes said.

Norma Garcia, director of policy and advocacy for the nonprofit Mission Economic Development Agency, worried the legislators havent done enough research on the impact SB 50 will have on low-income communities Read More – Source

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