SB 50: Housing Bill Postponed Until 2020


On Thursday, the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee announced that Senate Bill 50 by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) will become a “two-year bill,” meaning it will not come up for a vote this year and will be eligible for a vote in January.

SB 50 creates new zoning standards for the construction of housing near job centers and public transportation, while protecting against the displacement of renters and vulnerable communities living in those areas. SB 50 eliminates hyper-low-density zoning near transit and job centers, thus legalizing small to mid-size apartment buildings and affordable housing in these locations so that more people can live near transit and near where they work. It also reduces or eliminates minimum parking requirements for new developments.

The Appropriations Committee did not vote on the bill. SB 50 legalizes more housing near public transportation and job centers. It received bipartisan 9-1 and 6-1 votes in its two committee hearings, has 17 bipartisan co-authors from all over California, and is backed by a massive coalition of labor, environmental, affordable housing, business, senior, and student organizations.

Senator Wiener issued the following statement:

“While I am deeply disappointed the Chair of the Appropriations Committee has decided to postpone SB 50 until 2020 – since we have a housing crisis right now, – we are one hundred percent committed to moving the legislation forward. California faces a 3.5 million home shortage – equal to the combined housing shortage of the other 49 states – and status quo isn’t working. California failed housing policy is pushing people into homelessness, poverty, and two-hour commutes, is pushing working families out of their communities and out of the state entirely, and is undermining California climate goals. We need to do things differently when it comes to housing. We’re either serious about solving this crisis, or we aren’t. At some point, we will need to make the hard political choices necessary for California to have a bright housing future.”

In a statement, California Senate Chair on Appropriations, Senator Anthony J. Portantino’s (D–La Cañada Flintridge) statement on the decision in the Senate Appropriations Committee regarding SB 50:

“SB 50 is a well-intentioned effort to help solve our state’s housing crisis and it highlights two valid ways to affect land use decisions across the state:  providing incentives or legislating mandates.  My preference has always fallen on the side of incentives for local governments to accomplish goals.  There were legitimate concerns expressed from both large and small cities about the scope of SB 50 as it pertained to bus corridors, historic preservation, the definition of ‘jobs rich’ neighborhoods and whether it would increase gentrification and discourage light rail expansion as unintended consequences; all of which justified the pause established today by the committee.  My colleague from San Francisco is one of the smartest and most earnest legislators in the capitol.  He cares deeply about the housing crisis and I expect him to continue to pursue his goals.  Hopefully we provided the opportunity to broaden the conversation, which can result in a more targeted legislative effort.”

For more on SB 50: click here.



SB 50, as amended, Wiener. Planning and zoning: housing development: incentives.


(1) Existing law authorizes a development proponent to submit an application for a multifamily housing development that satisfies specified planning objective standards to be subject to a streamlined, ministerial approval process, as provided, and not subject to a conditional use permit.
This bill would authorize a development proponent of a neighborhood multifamily project located on an eligible parcel to submit an application for a streamlined, ministerial approval process that is not subject to a conditional use permit. The bill would define a “neighborhood multifamily project” to mean a project to construct a multifamily structure on vacant land, or to convert an existing structure that does not require substantial exterior alteration into a multifamily structure, consisting of up to 4 residential dwelling units and that meets local height, setback, and lot coverage zoning requirements as they existed on July 1, 2019. The bill would also define “eligible parcel” to mean a parcel that meets specified requirements, including requirements relating to the location of the parcel and restricting the demolition of certain housing development that may already exist on the site.
This bill would require a local agency to notify the development proponent in writing if the local agency determines that the development conflicts with any of the requirements provided for streamlined ministerial approval; otherwise, the development is deemed to comply with those requirements. The bill would limit the authority of a local agency to impose parking standards or requirements on a streamlined development approved pursuant to these provisions, as provided. The bill would provide that the approval of a project under these provisions expires automatically after 3 years, unless that project qualifies for a one-time, one-year extension of that approval. The bill would provide that approval pursuant to its provisions would remain valid for 3 years and remain valid thereafter, so long as vertical construction of the development has begun and is in progress, and would authorize a discretionary one-year extension, as provided. The bill would prohibit a local agency from adopting any requirement that applies to a project solely or partially on the basis that the project receives ministerial or streamlined approval pursuant to these provisions.
This bill would allow a local agency to exempt a project from the streamlined ministerial approval process described above by finding that the project will cause a specific adverse impact to public health and safety, and there is no feasible method to satisfactorily mitigate or avoid the adverse impact.
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires a lead agency, as defined, to prepare, or cause to be prepared, and certify the completion of, an environmental impact report on a project that it proposes to carry out or approve that may have a significant effect on the environment or to adopt a negative declaration if it finds that the project will not have that effect. CEQA also requires a lead agency to prepare a mitigated negative declaration for a project that may have a significant effect on the environment if revisions in the project would avoid or mitigate that effect and there is no substantial evidence that the project, as revised, would have a significant effect on the environment. CEQA does not apply to the approval of ministerial projects.
This bill would establish a streamlined ministerial approval process for neighborhood multifamily and transit-oriented projects, thereby exempting these projects from the CEQA approval process.
(2) Existing law, known as the Density Bonus Law, density bonus law, requires, when an applicant proposes a housing development within the jurisdiction of a local government, that the city, county, or city and county provide the developer with a density bonus and other incentives or concessions for the production of lower income housing units or for the donation of land within the development if the developer, among other things, agrees to construct a specified percentage of units for very low, low-, or moderate-income households or qualifying residents.
This bill would require a city, county, or city and county to grant upon request an equitable communities incentive when a development proponent seeks and agrees to construct a residential development, as defined, that satisfies specified criteria, including, among other things, that the residential development is either a job-rich housing project or a transit-rich housing project, as those terms are defined; the site does not contain, or has not contained, housing occupied by tenants or accommodations withdrawn from rent or lease in accordance with specified law within specified time periods; and the residential development complies with specified additional requirements under existing law. The bill would impose additional requirements on a residential development located within a county with a population equal to or less than 600,000. The bill would require that a residential development within a county with a population greater than 600,000 that is eligible for an equitable communities incentive receive receive, upon request, waivers from maximum controls on density and minimum controls on automobile parking requirements greater than 0.5 parking spots per unit, up to 3 additional incentives or concessions under the Density Bonus Law, and unit. The bill would require that a residential development also receive specified additional waivers if the residential development is located within a 1/2-mile or 1/4-mile radius of a major transit stop, as defined. For a residential development within a county with a population equal to or less than 600,000, the bill would instead require that the incentive provide waivers from maximum controls on density, subject to certain limitations; maximum height limitations less than or equal to one story, or 15 feet, above the highest allowable height for mixed use or residential use; maximum floor area ratio requirements less than 0.6 times the number of stories in the proposed project; and minimum automobile parking requirements, as provided. The bill would require a local government to grant an equitable communities incentive unless it makes a specified finding regarding the effects of the incentive on any real property or historic district that is listed on a federal or state register of historical resources. The bill would authorize a local government to modify or expand the terms of an equitable communities incentive, provided that the equitable communities incentive is consistent with these provisions.
The bill would include findings that the changes proposed by these provisions address a matter of statewide concern rather than a municipal affair and, therefore, apply to all cities, including charter cities. The bill would also delay implementation of these provisions in potentially sensitive communities, as defined, until July 1, 2020, as provided. 2020. The bill would further delay implementation of these provisions in sensitive communities, determined as provided, until January 1, 2026, unless the city or county in which the area is located votes to make these provisions applicable after a specified petition and public hearing process. On and after January 1, 2026, the bill would apply these provisions to a sensitive community unless the city or county adopts a community plan for the area that meets certain requirements.

By adding to the duties of local planning officials, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.

The Housing Accountability Act prohibits a local agency from disapproving, or conditioning approval in a manner that renders infeasible, a housing development project for very low, low-, or moderate-income households or an emergency shelter that complies with applicable, objective general plan, zoning, and subdivision standards and criteria in effect at the time the application for the project is deemed complete unless the local agency makes specified written findings based on a preponderance of the evidence in the record. That law provides that the receipt of a density bonus is not a valid basis on which to find a proposed housing development is inconsistent, not in compliance, or not in conformity with an applicable plan, program, policy, ordinance, standard, requirement, or other similar provision of that act.
This bill would additionally provide that the receipt of an equitable communities incentive is not a valid basis on which to find a proposed housing development is inconsistent, not in compliance, or not in conformity with an applicable plan, program, policy, ordinance, standard, requirement, or other similar provision of that act.
(3) By adding to the duties of local planning officials, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.


  1. The idiot Wiener pulled SB50 because he knew he would have a real fight on his hands. We don’t have a housing crisis at all. We have a “people who cannot afford to live here” crisis. There are states where they can live very nicely on what they earn.

    • I agree! Wiener, the jerk, wants to take away residents’ rights to have input in what goes into their established neighborhoods. He wants this silly-assed law to supercede their wishes. It won’t work because people don’t want their established neighborhoods to be overrun by “affordable” housing which brings in the riff-raff. Look at what happened to Antioch!

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