Senator Wiener Moves Quickly out of the Gate on Housing Bill

Shortly after being sworn in as California State Senator on Monday, former San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced SB 35, placeholder legislation addressing barriers to housing production. The legislation currently consists of a one paragraph intent statement, focusing on streamlining and providing incentives for creation of housing, and removing local barriers to creating affordable housing and complying with regional housing needs obligations.

According to press coverage, Senator Wiener ultimately intends to pursue two approaches: (1) exempting 100% affordable housing projects from certain local requirements, and (2) allowing housing developers to avoid certain local requirements in cities that are out of compliance with their regional housing needs obligations.

The legislation comes on the heels of the “By Right Housing Approvals” streamlining legislation proposed by Governor Brown, which died in the last legislative session due to opposition from a coalition of labor, environmental and other groups.  In San Francisco, the Board of Supervisors passed a Resolution urging the San Francisco legislators in Sacramento to seek amendments to the state legislation or oppose it; that Resolution was opposed by then-Supervisor Wiener and ultimately vetoed by Mayor Lee.

As we reported in our November post-election summary, affordable housing had mixed results in Bay Area elections, with notable successes on major bond and sales tax measures, and a range of outcomes on rent control and other affordable housing-related issues. In San Francisco, this summer the Board of Supervisors failed to pass mixed-income density bonus legislation, and instead approved a density bonus program limited to 100% affordable housing projects. As a Supervisor, Wiener voted for the 100% affordable density bonus legislation, and also supported the mixed-income version.

It remains to be seen what SB 35 retains or rejects from Governor Brown’s “By Right” legislation, and whether it becomes the vehicle for both the 100% affordable and regional housing needs obligation approaches that Senator Wiener is purportedly pursuing.