Move may save controversial housing bill SB50

Senate Leader Toni Atkins and Senate Appropriations Chairman Anthony Portantino. AP photos.
Senate Leader Toni Atkins and Senate Appropriations Chairman Anthony Portantino. AP photos.

Daily Post Staff Writer

Santa Clara County Supervisor and former state Senator Joe Simitian said more changes could be coming to Senate Bill 50 after the controversial housing measure was shuffled between two senate committees yesterday.

The bill, authored by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, was moved by Senate leader Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, in what some say is an effort to save the bill.

The bill got stuck in the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee last year, which is headed by Anthony Portantino, D-San Fernando Valley, who opposes the bill. When it appeared that the bill would die in committee, Wiener announced that he would make it a two-year bill, essentially hibernating the legislation until this month.

Simitian, who was a state Senator from 2004 to 2012, said the move by Atkins signals that the bill may be further amended.

“It’s tough to get this right,” Simitian said. “(Wiener’s) trying to thread the needle.”

But Los Altos City Councilwoman Anita Enander said Atkins may have moved SB50 to the Rules Committee as a way of bypassing the Appropriations Committee and increasing its chances of success.

Atkins said in a press release that she moved the bill back to the Rules Committee to give legislators more time to reach an agreement on the bill. There are three possibilities now that SB50 has gone back to the Rules Committee:

• The bill may go untouched until the Jan. 31 deadline and die before it can see a full Senate vote.

• It may also be sent back to the Appropriations Committee before being read by the full Senate.

• SB50 may also go directly to the full Senate from the Rules Committee.

What’s next?

The Rules Committee will likely make changes to the bill before it goes to the full Senate, Simitian said. The bill would need to be put in the Senate’s “daily file” and undergo two more Senate readings, or debates, before it could be voted on.

SB50 must be passed by the Senate by Jan. 31.

Wiener unveiled changes to SB50 earlier this month. The new version would let cities escape the requirements of the bill for up to two years if they are able to meet the state’s housing goals on their own.

SB50 would allow multifamily housing projects that are within a quarter mile of a train station, such as Caltrain or BART, to bypass city parking requirements or density limits.

The bill also removes density limits and lowers parking requirements for multifamily housing projects in areas with lots of jobs and good schools, such as Palo Alto and Los Altos.

David Watson, a lifelong Mountain View resident and pro-housing activist, said he thinks SB50 has a good chance of meeting the Jan. 31 deadline.

“Because of the most recent amendments, cities that have their own plan can go their own way,” Watson said.

But Livable California, a slow-growth group opposed to SB50, published a statement in response to the news, saying that the bill will likely “end up in a fist-fight on the state Senate floor over the next several days.”

Simitian said it will be hard to craft a bill that satisfies the needs of every municipality in California.

“What works well for San Jose might not work well for Palo Alto,” Simitian said.

Simitian said he thinks local and state governments should offer developers “more carrots” in the form of funding to incentivize more affordable and workforce housing.

Palo Alto Mayor Adrian Fine published a statement in support of SB50 yesterday, saying that the bill “offers my city and the state the best opportunity to provide secure, abundant and affordable housing.”

Mountain View Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga said more local control “is a promising change.” However, more details need to be decided.

“What is an ‘opportunity rich’ area? What does ‘access to jobs’ mean? Lots of questions still to be answered,” Abe-Koga said.


  1. Who compensates the community for the extra kids this growth will put into our schools? Who makes the homeowner whole when the value of his home is sharply reduced when a towering Section 8 apartment building goes in next door?

    • Seriously? There isn’t enough affordable housing for everyone and you sympathize with the ones who already have one because, *gasp* , they won’t be able to make as much profit off it? This is the problem with this country.

  2. SB 50 will probably pass the state senate this month. Politicians want the support of the high tech bigwigs behind it. But if it stalls, its provisions will just be slipped into another bill or bills.

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