A Proposed Legislative Solution to California's Out-Migration Epidemic

The Sacramento Bee follows-up a revealing report on lower income workers leaving California due largely to exorbitant housing costs with an editorial endorsing legislation by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco to address the source of the problem.

2 minute read

March 13, 2017, 11:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

Leaving California

britta heise / Flickr

"As The Sacramento Bee’s Phillip Reese reported on Sunday, lower-income people, many of them starting out, must leave for lower-cost states such as Texas," writes the editorial board. "The exorbitant cost of housing is driving many of them away."

Sen. Scott Wiener, a freshman Democrat from San Francisco, is taking up the worthy cause of helping to bring more affordable housing to California’s urban areas, including his own.

His Senate Bill 35, which faces its first hearing Tuesday [March 7] in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, would streamline the permitting process in cities that have failed to provide sufficient affordable housing. We hope the committee approves it, understanding that it will be refined as it moves through the legislative process.

They did, with 7 ayes, 3 noes, and 3 senators not voting.

"Today’s vote was a critical first step towards addressing our need for more housing in California, particularly for the lower income workers who are finding it increasingly hard to find places to live," said Senator Wiener in a press release.

 "Each city has the power to contribute to building the housing our residents need, and SB 35 will ensure that cities are taking this responsibility seriously," adds Wiener.

That's the controversial part of the bill, the streamlining that the editorial board mentioned above, and perhaps the reason why two of Wiener's Democratic colleagues chose not to vote.

According to a Feb. 27 letter (pdf) written by the powerful League of California Cities:

“Streamlining” in the context of SB 35 appears to mean a shortcut around public input. While it may be frustrating for some developers to address neighborhood concerns about traffic, parking and other development impacts, those directly affected by such projects have a right to be heard. Public engagement also often leads to better projects. Not having such outlets will increase public distrust in government and additional ballot measures dealing with growth management.

However, the league doesn't indicate that the "streamlined, ministerial approval process for infill developments" applies only to "localities that have failed to meet their regional housing needs assessment numbers," according to the bill's digest prepared for the hearing.

With the passage of SB 35 at it's first committee on March 7, the long slog to the governor's desk has begun in earnest, which will no doubt be a major test for the freshman senator. The bill's predecessor, legislation proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year, was ultimately defeated after diverse groups opposed it. 

Monday, March 6, 2017 in The Sacramento Bee

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