State Sen. Scott Wiener’s much-talked about SB 827, a bill that would have encouraged denser housing development around transit, died in committee this past week, but the lawmaker is not finished with housing this year.
He still has two more bills moving through the process, he said Thursday afternoon after speaking on a panel on the state’s housing at Yelp Inc.’s (NYSE: YELP) headquarters in San Francisco.
One, SB 828, would reform the way the state calculates how much housing cities must plan for under a system known as the Regional Housing Need Allocation or RHNA. The other, SB 829, targets building more housing for the state’s farmworkers.
Every eight years, the state tells cities how much housing their cities should have in their pipelines for different income levels. The way those targets are set is highly politicized, Wiener said. For example, during the last round, Beverly Hills only had to produce three low-income homes.
Under SB 828, housing goals will be based more on data and job and population growth projections. Unmet housing goals would carry over so that cities wouldn’t be able skirt responsibility over time.
The allocations will be “more equitable so that you don’t have communities with absurdly low RHNA goals,” he said.
The problem with RHNA is that in the past, cities simply failed to meet their goals and not much would happen. So it didn’t matter much if the system for setting those goals was unfair.
Thanks to SB 35, a bill Wiener introduced that passed last year, cities that don’t meet their RHNA goals must conduct streamlined reviews of new housing projects that meet local codes.
That means no years-long administrative review that often kills new housing developments.
And of course, he’s not done with SB 827.
Even though the bill didn’t make it past the first threshold for a new state law, it did ignite controversy about where and how the state should add more housing.
“The good thing is, we do have a fair amount of support,” Wiener said. “We’re going to work the rest of the year on bringing SB 827 back. We’re going to work with stakeholders including those who opposed the bill to bring back a bill that is strong and effective.”
In his second year in the statehouse, Wiener said what’s he learned is that other state lawmakers understand the gravity of the state’s housing crisis that affects all communities, even the ones thought be more affordable.
“Even though 827 stumbled in one committee, the members of the committee acknowledged that something significant had to happen,” he said. “They just weren’t prepared to vote for it that night in that form. The dynamic in the capital overall is positive for housing and is getting more optimistic so I think we’ll be able to do good things.”