Talking PointsThese findings are thanks to a deep dive by allies, groups and land-use experts. SB 50 is a Russian Nesting Egg whose impacts are partially hidden in laws that were quietly amended by state Sen. Scott Wiener, the Density Bonus Law & the Housing Accountability Act.

SB 50 is a real estate bill, not a housing bill. It will kill cherished neighborhoods and severely gentrify working-class areas, worsening housing costs in California and displacing thousands of people.

1) SB 50 wipes out all single-family zoning if:  the street is within a ¼-mile radius of a busy bus stop, or within a 1/2-mile radius of any rail or train stop.

2) SB 50 wipes out single-family zoning in 1000s of neighborhoods without no transit at all, if:  the street is in an area with “above-median income, is jobs-rich, and has good public schools.”

3) SB 50 rewards construction of 85-ft towers next to single-family homes if:  the developer doesn’t think SB 50’s suggested apartment heights of 45 feet and 55 feet are tall enough. By tapping “Density Bonus” the developer can add +30 additional feet on certain quiet residential streets.

4) Cities can’t stop a luxury building if SB 50 passes, unless  the project hurts public safety. SB 50 is weaponized by the Housing Accountability Act, which was quietly amended by state Sen. Scott Wiener and his ally state Sen. Nancy Skinner in 2017. They banned cities from rejecting any “density bonus” project unless the developer “puts public safety at risk.”  Wiener and Skinner handed an absurd gift to any developer who manages to stop short of harming the public.

5) Cities can’t reject demolitions in SB 50-targeted areas because:  under the Housing Accountability Act as amended by Wiener and Skinner, SB 50 prevents cities from fighting demolitions in “jobs-rich, good schools areas” and “transit” areas. In fact, the law urges developers to sue, if fought by a municipality.

6) SB 50 forces ‘sensitive communities’ to upzone themselves by:  requiring working-class areas to upzone their Community Plans in 5 years to conform to SB 50 — and if they fail to upzone themselves out of existence, SB 50 will do it for them.

7) Puts developers in charge of their own planning by:  turning 1000s of streets into free-for-alls where cities have NO planning powers. Instead, developers would be their own planners, choosing their building size and design from a state list of profit incentives, a sample of which are listed below. Developers can throw out at least 3 municipal standards & rules to design their projects, including the following:

  • Setbacks: Areas for trees, green belts, side yards, can be cut.
  • Floor area ratio: Building size/density can grow 47% to 297%.
  • Parking: Developers can build apartment towers with NO PARKING.
  • Environmental sustainability: Any municipal development rule that isn’t state law can be ignored by developers, such as trees  or permeable land.
  • Historic buildings/zones. Developers can buy and demolish any home not on the CA Registry of Historic Resources. Historic “zones” lose protection. Only single buildings that seek & meet the tough Historic Resources code are safe from demolition.
  • Onsite open-space: Courtyards and balconies can be killed.
  • Historic buildings/zones: Developers can demolish buildings not on the CA Registry of Historic Resources.

8) SB 50 Turns Bus Routes into Land Wars: From Boyle Heights to Oakland to San Diego to The OC, SB 50 allows bus agencies to upend single-family zoning, a radical concept. By shortening bus stop “headways” (how often a bus stops at a stop location), bus agencies can override single-family zoning.

Nobody wants to be The Next San Francisco, Wiener’s hometown. The S.F. Board of Supervisors strongly opposes SB 50 and here’s why:

  • San Francisco’s nexus study shows that for every 100 new luxury units, 30-40 affordable units must be built just to avoid digging a deeper hole in the affordability crisis. SB 50 does NOT require luxury developers to make 30% to 40% of their units affordable just to stay even. Not even close.
  • Transit agencies can easily add a “high-frequency bus stop” on a street, thus allowing apartments. S.F. would lose virtually ALL single-family zoning.
  • SB 50 is strongly anti-family, lavishly rewarding construction of 1-bedroom luxury units with no space for children to play, or even room for a tree.

Please fight SB 50. Join Livable California and spread the word. It’s free!

SB 50’s Terrible Harm to Renters:

1) Worsens the Gentrification and Displacement Crisis: Under SB 50, rental buildings are “protected” from demolition for a set period — but the immediate neighborhood is not protected. Landlords will raise the rents to benefit from the luxury SB 50 apartments rising on their street.

SB 50 promises a seven-year “protection” of rental buildings. But when the seven years end, the ripple effect will devastate working-class areas, as widespread demolition begins. As the 2017 UN Report warned, when housing is a commodity, the global investors show up.

2) Relies on a Non-Existent Renter Database to “Protect” Renters: Few cities know the names of their renters or when rental units are occupied or vacant. SB 50’s inability to overcome this data black hole invites investors to buy out renters for small cash sums and then, without fear of punishment, claim the building was vacant for 7 years (as required by SB 50) and proceed to demolition.

3) SB 50’s Luxury Units Will NOT Trickle Down to Renters or Retirees: In 2017, 83% of apartments built in California’s three largest cities were luxury units. Rents and homelessness soared in those three cities. Trickle-down housing is a myth — Research shows it takes 25 years for luxury housing to trickle down. The California Legislative Analyst revealed in its 2016 Perspectives on Helping Low-Income Californians Afford Housing: “Housing that likely was considered ‘luxury’ when first built declined to the middle of the housing market within 25 years.

Please fight SB 50. Join Livable California and spread the word. It’s free!