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  • SB 827 - State Senator Wiener's "Neutron Bomb" Law to Override Localities Limitations on New Housing

SB 827 - State Senator Wiener's "Neutron Bomb" Law to Override Localities Limitations on New Housing

Sen. Wiener Dilutes the Proposed Law to Make Passage More Likely

April 03, 2018

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On January 3, 2018, San Francisco’s State Senator Scott Wiener introduced a bill (SB 827) that would all but abolish the city’s famously strict land use controls—and those of virtually all California’s urban neighborhoods. It is considered the most radical of all the pro-housing legislation introduced during the last year in California. This article discusses SB 827 itself, and amendments Senator Wiener has recently introduced to water it down to ensure it passes the State Legislature. SB 827 would ensure that all new housing construction within a half-mile of a train station, or a quarter-mile of a frequent bus route, would no longer be subject to local regulations concerning size, height, number of apartments, restrictive design standards, or the provision of parking spaces. Because San Francisco is a relatively transit-rich area, this would up-zone virtually the entire city. But it would also apply to corridors in Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, and low-rise, transit-oriented suburbs across the state. It would produce larger residential buildings around transit hubs, but just as importantly it would enable developers to build more quickly.

  1. One proposed amendment to SB 827 explicitly defers to and preserves local demolition controls and limitations so that if a local community restricts or bans demolitions (as San Francisco does), SB 827 will not change that local determination. Whether what is proposed to be demolished includes rent-controlled housing, historic buildings, or any other kind of housing, local law will control, and local procedures to make a demolition more difficult will stay intact.
  2. Another proposed amendment bans the demolition of all renter-occupied housing for SB 827 projects unless a Right to Remain Guarantee is granted for all existing tenants. "Right to Remain" means that if a tenant is displaced due to a demolition, the developer must house the tenant nearby at the same rent while the project is being built (and must provide a comparable unit to the tenant at the same rent once the project is done). Once a Right to Remain Guarantee has been certified for every affected tenant, a demolition permit may be issued if a city allows such demolitions. This Right to Remain Guarantee must, at minimum, state the developer will provide (at its expense):
    • All moving expenses in and out of the temporary unit housing a tenant until the project is complete.
    • Up to 42 months of rental assistance that covers the full rent of an available, comparable unit in the area.
    • Right of first refusal for housing units in the new building, along with a new lease at the rent previously enjoyed by the tenant in his or her demolished unit.
  3. Another proposed amendment to SB 827 places special protections on rent-controlled housing. Even if a local community allows housing demolitions (San Francisco does not allow in many instances) SB 827 nevertheless bans these demolition permits unless the local community adopts a local policy (after SB 827 passes) making clear to the public what the process will be for reviewing and issuing demolition permits. Again, if a local community does not allow demolition of rent-controlled units (e.g., San Francisco), SB 827 will not affect that determination.
  4. An Amendment to state that local inclusionary housing requirements apply to all projects proposed under SB 827. This clarifies that SB 827 does not in any way change local inclusionary housing requirements (i.e., where market rate developers are required to provide a percentage of units as affordable to low or moderate income residents).
  5. An Amendment to state that a project must be within one-quarter mile of a transit stop on a high frequency transit corridor to trigger SB 827. The intent of SB 827 is to provide housing within walking distance of a fixed rail stop or bus line that runs at a minimum of 15 minute intervals during peak hours. The amendment makes clear that projects will qualify when within one-quarter mile of a high quality transit stop on a high frequency transit corridor, not just any transit corridor, and not within one-quarter mile of a corridor itself.

For more information, please contact:

M. Brett Gladstone

415-995-5065 Direct Phone
415-995-3517 Fax

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