Comments on Senate Bill 50, Planning and zoning: housing development: incentives.

Dr. Peter Andersen, Professor of Communications, San Diego State University, retired
Tuesday April 02, 2019 - 09:39:00 PM

(This bill is co-authored by, among others,State Senator Nancy Skinner and Assemblymember Buffy Wicks.)

Senate Bill 50 undermines CEQA. Projects may be exempt from the CEQA if they are in jobs rich or transit rich area or if they are in the 10% to 25% of the housing that can be built outside of job rich or transit rich areas.

The bill undermines general plans and eliminates future zoning and general plans that are inconsistent with this law

The bill changes the entire legal burden of proof from the developers to agencies (cities, counties, planning boards). These local entities have to prove in court that they are in compliance with law when disputes occur. This is like a person having to prove themselves innocent in court (which is logically impossible).

The bill conflates and mixes 3 different needs pretty randomly: homeless shelters, low income housing, and affordable housing in one bill where the rationale for each is very different.

The bill uses frighteningly vague and/or tautological in many sections. For example it defines housing as housing. It defines disapproval as disapproval. This fails freshman English or logic.

The bill is a major assault on neighborhoods of single family homes. Evidently living in a single family home, according to the bill, is a luxury we cannot afford in the alleged housing crisis. Indeed, the bill may have the perverse effect of people who want single family home moving out of cities into suburban sprawl developments. 

The bill requires an extremely short one to two month time period for the local agency to prove a development is bad. This is an impossible burden to put on already swamped local government agencies. 

The bill has no infrastructure requirements such as transit, schools, or parks. 

The bill provides no appropriations for the imposition of additional work and most importantly, no appropriation of additional infrastructure to support additional development. Transit should precede development. Indeed, the only mention of appropriation is for fines to local municipalities and counties. This is a large transfer of fiscal responsibility from the state to localities. 

There is no mention of new transit or transportation in the bill. It would be wrong to impose substantial new housing and density with no way to move people in and out of their community. They do try to channel funding into transit rich areas but new development could be in job rich areas with no transit, which would drive to people to cars. Moreover this is limited to rail transit and ferries, two modes of transportation that is unavailable in most areas of most California cities. Moreover, 25% of development can be outside transit rich areas with no limit on sprawl development. This a huge foot-in-the door to promoting sprawl with little or no environmental review, general plan, zoning regulations on such projects. 

If a development is within a .25 miles of transit there is no limit on the height of the building and no restriction of the floor area ratio. 

The bill never mentions sprawl, nor does it restrict sprawl. The only mention of sprawl is an unsubstantiated assertion in the preamble that discriminating against low income housing promotes sprawl.