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The Complex Story Behind the Failure of California's Upzoning Bill

SB 50 was often viewed as an attack on wealthy, single-family homeowners, but housing justice advocates also had issues with the legislation.
February 19, 2020, 10am PST | Camille Fink
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Joakim Lloyd Raboff

Alyssa Walker takes a deep dive into the failure of California’s SB 50, legislation that would have eased density restrictions near job and transit stations and helped address the state’s housing shortage.

"SB 50 was framed as a way to stick it to homeowners, neighborhoods, and cities that weren’t doing their part to combat the housing crisis. They didn’t like that very much," says Walker.

She notes that wealthy NIMBYs with the resources to oppose density increases will always be an obstacle for legislation like SB 50. But housing justice advocates had concerns about affordability and displacement, and they were also part of the opposition.

"SB 50 would not have applied to rent-controlled housing, properties where renters had been evicted in the last 15 years, or apartments occupied by renters anytime in the previous seven years, which is all better protection than what many California sites have now. But like a new rent control bill that went into effect in January, SB 50 also didn’t have a mechanism in place to enforce those provisions, which would largely affect low-income renters," says Walker.

Walker also considers the role of Proposition 13 in the housing crisis. "Repealing Proposition 13 is just one part of a bigger fight for the lives of Californians who have been locked out of stable, equitable housing. Both fans of SB 50 and housing justice advocates want to topple the state’s most exclusionary policies and build more homes for the people who need them most. We have our work cut out for us, and we have to do this work together," writes Walker.

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Published on Friday, February 7, 2020 in Curbed
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