Statewide TOD legislation, take two


“The type of multi-family housing SB 50 would authorize.” (Image & caption: Scott Wiener, Medium)

California is facing an extreme housing shortage with estimates putting the housing deficit as high as 3.5 million homes. Much of the shortage comes from zoning restrictions that block the construction of new homes in job- and transit-rich neighborhoods.

In an attempt to fix this problem, California State Senator Scott Wiener has introduced a bill that builds on one that failed to gain traction in last year’s legislature. California Senate Bill 50—the HOMES bill (Housing, Opportunity, Mobility, Equity, Sustainability)—would allow more development in transit- and job-rich areas across the state by loosening zoning restrictions within a half mile of rail stations, within a quarter mile of frequent bus lines, and in areas that are job-rich but have limited transit. It would raise minimum height limits to between 45 and 55 feet in those areas and remove local parking requirements that often stymie new development.

One of the concerns about the previous legislation (SB827) was that the new rules would speed up gentrification in high risk areas, which led potential allies to oppose the bill. This year’s bill seeks to address those concerns by restricting the demolition of units that have been occupied by renters in the previous seven years and allowing economically vulnerable areas to delay any changes for five years. Additionally, any new buildings would have to adhere to any existing local inclusionary housing requirements, design standards, or setback rules.

Support for the bill comes from the mayors of San Francisco and Oakland and positive remarks have been made by the mayor of Los Angeles. Some equity and justice advocates such as Strategic Actions for a Just Economy are holding their comments until the debate around the bill forms. Those who opposed SB827 because they don’t want to build new housing are still opposed.

After Minneapolis passed its 2040 comprehensive plan allowing three units on single-family lots, and as Oregon looks at legislation to remove restrictions from zoning in the urban core, SB50 is a step in a similar direction but related specifically to transit and job access. We will be watching with great interest.

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Recent TOD news

Here are a few things that have been happening this week with TOD projects across the country.

  • New housing proposal would focus on residential housing and in-law units on transit corridors (The Salt Lake Tribune)
  • Is more housing near transit the right move for Sacramento? (Comstock’s Magazine)
  • Research abstract: trip and parking generation at TOD and TAD in Portland (Cities Journal)
  • The latest plan for Chicago’s $5 billion Lincoln Yards development (Chicago Tribune)