88 Cities are Right to Oppose SB 50Read or Edit the Petition
Please Oppose SB 50, considering that 86 cities have recently said "Notwithstanding the alternatives to SB 50 recommended above, there continues to be unsustainable flaws to the bill in its current form" in this excellent letter:
December 13, 2019
Honorable Scott Wiener
California State Senate
State Capitol, Room 5100
Sacramento, Ca 95814
RE: Los Angeles County Division Proposal: SB 50 Alternatives/Enhancements
Dear Senator Wiener,
The Los Angeles County Division of the League of California Cities®, representing 86 cities in the county recognizes the urgent and unprecedented housing crisis that our state is facing. We commend you and other legislative leaders for your efforts to develop concepts and alternatives in order to tackle this challenge. In that spirit, our Division is committed to working in partnership with you to consider and develop solutions to this crisis that enhance the quality of life for all Californians, through adequate and affordable housing, safe communities, and sustainable infrastructure systems.
The Division has proactively advocated the importance of striking a delicate balance between the need for more housing in California with the need to honor constitutionally based principles by providing for community input and involvement in the development process. In July, the Division led a local driving tour with you to discuss the likely unintended consequences that SB 50 (As amended June 4, 2019) could have on built-out cities already impacted by density, lack of transit, and other unique circumstances that differ from those in the Bay Area. Additionally, the Division continues to meet with legislators to discuss the housing crisis in our cities.
Development of Los Angeles County Division SB 50 Working Group
In the recognition of this partnership with you and our state leaders, the Division’s Board of Directors made a commitment to work on realistic, practical and feasible alternatives to address the intentions of SB 50. The Division created a Working Group comprised of city officials who have diverse backgrounds, professional disciplines, and who represent different regions with varying populations in Los Angeles County. This Working Group of six mayors and council members met five times over a two-month period, deliberating for hours, to consider where common ground might be found with the existing provisions of SB 50. The Working Group developed alternatives for areas in which consensus could not be reached with the current version of the bill, with an end goal of developing practical solutions to the housing crisis. The Division’s Board of Directors subsequently met in November to approve a final white paper (attached) that includes a more detailed discussion of certain issues. The highlights of the alternatives are listed below:
Recommended Locally-Led Alternatives to Addressing the Housing Crisis
• Create entitlement certainty for multi-family housing. The “one-size” fits all approach in SB 50 does not provide flexibility for local governments and communities to adequately plan for multi-family housing.
Alternative: A mandatory local entitlement process (entitlement incentives) for multi-family housing developments, in areas selected by local governments (transit corridors, commercial corridors, downtown districts, and other locally defined areas) could give certainty to the development community while preserving local control and protecting community engagement. A process similar to SB 540 (Roth, 2017), which created a voluntary entitlement program and was sponsored by the League of California Cities, could be replicated and required.
• Density must be combined with long-term funding tools. SB 50 does not provide funding for local governments to sustain exponential long-term density.
Alternative: Incentives should be offered that provide permanent, ongoing funding sources for multi-family and affordable housing projects to ensure their sustainability and success. These can include housing block grants or tax increment programs (ex: SB 5 (Beall) 2019, vetoed by Governor) that would be a long-term financing tool for cities to address increased vital services for infrastructure, park, public safety and other community priorities resulting from the greater demand for such services that occurs with new construction. We recognize the state’s effort to provide funding through SB 2 and AB 101/SB 102. However, those funding sources are either one-time uses or insufficient to sustain the state’s housing goals.
• Affordability must be prioritized and sensitive communities must be protected from displacement. SB 50 gives generous “equitable community incentives” to a developer within a specified radius of a “transit rich or “jobs rich” area. However, the affordability requirement in SB 50 does little to address rising housing costs that affect our communities’ most vulnerable residents.
Alternative: Multi-family housing developments must provide a minimum of 25% inclusionary housing, unless a local agency has enacted a higher minimum, to receive any development incentives and entitlement certainty incentives for multifamily developments. The State should also encourage the development of more local Housing Authorities to facilitate construction of affordable housing.
Why SB 50 is Not a Practical Solution to the Housing Crisis
Notwithstanding the alternatives to SB 50 recommended above, there continues to be unsustainable flaws to the bill in its current form:
• Carve outs must have merit. The proposed carve-outs in SB 50 are arbitrary and will do little to solve the crisis.
Alternative: While the Division believes that the entire state should contribute to solving our unprecedented housing crisis, we believe that carve outs should only be carefully considered for the most dense and sensitive areas of the state, as well as coastal zones and historical districts. Carve outs for coastal zones recognizes the unique landscape in these areas and carve outs for historical districts would prevent the demolition of historic resources and protect the planning and architectural character of neighborhoods with a high number of historic residences and other historically significant buildings.
• Focus Should be on Multi-Modal Transportation Options. Definitions of “transit rich” areas in SB 50 are poorly defined, in many cases, based on routes that were established decades ago and in some cases, temporary in nature.
Alternative: Access to transit varies widely throughout the state, including providing limited or no weekend services, which do not fulfill the mobility needs for residents to reach employment or other destinations. Local leaders are in the best position to address transportation options and transit access as part of the multi-family housing development planning process.
• Jobs Accessibility Areas should be defined by the local agency. Current definitions of “jobs rich” is loosely defined in SB 50.
Alternative: Replace the ambiguous “jobs rich” definition with the locally defined “jobs accessibility areas”. Local leaders have the most intimate knowledge of their communities to map these areas based on real local data that will take into account local zoning, the safety and appropriate co-location of jobs and housing, and to successfully connect them with effective transportation options and development.
• Recent State legislation already eliminates Single Family Residential (SFR) neighborhoods. Four-plexes or other small developments in former SFR zones are unnecessary as new legislation currently allow up to three units of housing in existing SFR neighborhoods.
Alternative: Remove language related to four-plexes to allow local governments to implement ADU legislation.
• Commercial/Multi-Family areas need flexible ratios to accommodate different neighborhoods. SB 50 requires commercial/multi-family ratios that may not be logistically or financially feasible in some communities.
Alternative: Allow a lower residential threshold that may expand the number of commercial developments open to mixed-use residential uses.
The state and our region have faced many housing crises. The causes of the latest crisis are multi-faceted and complex. There is no single solution. Our discussion on solutions cannot happen in a vacuum without tackling various related issues such as, CEQA obstacles, potential revisions of the housing element and zoning laws and practices. It will take a long-term effort of engagement, education and consensus building with all stakeholders. It is our hope that our effort will be accepted in that spirit of open dialogue and cooperation.
Again, we acknowledge your and other state leaders’ bold efforts to tackle our state’s housing crisis. We appreciate efforts to work with all stakeholders to ensure that the goals of any housing solutions are balanced with community essentials like equity, infrastructure, and public safety, among other important values. We are prepared to work with the legislature in January 2020 and beyond to find long-term solutions to this crisis, and look forward to discussing our proposals with you in greater detail and context.
If you have any questions, please contact Division Staff, Jennifer Quan at email@example.com or 626-786-5141.
President, Los Angeles County Division, League of California Cities
Mayor, City of Bellflower
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