The Big Plan Behind SB50

Editorial by Zrants


In order to understand what is going on with the housing market in the state of California and what is behind SB50 we need to look at the big picture. Look at the high number of vacant units recently disclosed in the urban communities where the homeless are proliferating. Look at the changes we have seen in our communities and consider the constant demand for “improvements” the public is being asked to finance through a number of legislative changes that are being drawn up in Sacramento.

Proponents of SB 50 constantly attack single family housing. Their explanations and reasonings reveal some claims that are highly alarming, offensive, and easily disproven:

  • Single family homes are racist and inclusionary… only multiple family units can be built to accommodate “poor people and people of color”. (Tell that to the people of color who own homes in California.)
  • Single-family homes remove affordable housing.
  • No one can afford to build affordable single-family homes in California.
  • All single-family homeowners are rich and greedy unless they build more units on their property.
  • Single-family neighborhoods should “share the pain” with the dense housing mixed use neighborhoods.
  • Single-family homes and suburban neighborhoods are bad for the environment because they increase the use of private vehicles.

These statements and beliefs appear to be the backbone of the argument for state bills such as SB50 that remove local government control over zoning by eliminating single-family neighborhoods. SB50 supporters also claim that developers need to eliminate public review, debate, and environmental appeals to speed housing production, and they need financial incentives such as fee reductions for housing projects to “pencil out”. Note that all these “solutions” benefit developers at the expense of the public.

Opponents of SB50 point to other motivations for removal of single-family homes and neighborhoods in the state including higher profits for developers, state power grabs, privatization of public assets and higher taxes for the public.

Higher taxes will be next on the agenda. After the state takes over control of the development process, Sacramento politicians plan to incentivize developers to build more housing by cutting development fees. Since someone has to pay for expanding the infrastructure, public transit, water, sewer, energy, education, security and other services for the expanding population, state, local, and regional entities will need to raise taxes and public debt through bond sales.

Expect more requests by authorities for higher taxes to fix bridges and roads and higher fees for public access through establishment of toll roads and other revenue enhancing schemes. We will hear more promises to cut traffic and increase parking options. Parking turnover will be imposed by increasing costs and implementing shorter parking limits. This hasn’t worked so far!

The regional entities established by the state, and run by unelected appointees to manage transportation funds doled out by state and federal governments, have become powerful fiefdoms. They have been given the task of developing dense multi-use projects on government-owned properties, along transit corridors. Removing parking lots near transit hubs is their top priority. Along with building and managing housing they are expected to turn a profit for to generate a profit for the public transit agencies.

The regional authorities don’t work alone. They establish public/private enterprises and do whatever it takes to succeed. This works really well for the private corporate partners. A transit authority that controls parking, transit, access, and regulatory authority removes competition.

Next let’s consider the impact of removing single-family home production in the state on state property taxes. All mixed-use property is designated as commercial property. By cutting back on single-family homes and private home ownership, the state is forcing more people into tenancies in commercial mixed-use properties.

Prop 13 currently limits the property taxes on all property including commercial. The voters oppose paying higher property taxes, so the state legislators plan to offer a new deal that sounds good until you consider the divide and conquer tactic behind the plan. There is a state ballot initiative in the works that will give voters the option of removing Prop 13 protections for commercial property owners.

Beware of this friendly sounding bill. It has bad breath when you consider removing single-family housing from the future housing stock. Cutting back on single-family homes and private home ownership puts a greater number of residential units at risk of losing Prop 13 protection. How will this affect people who claim income from rental properties, tenants in multi-use complexes, and large commercial apartment buildings, and how many people know this is coming?

Mixed use properties have a few other poison pills. They pay higher utilities, insurance and other costs than residential properties. Higher taxes will get passed onto tenants and make California living even more expensive.

There is a plan to privatize much of the government and removing public review and discourse that will make the procedures a lot less transparent. We may start by asking some questions about procedural changes that have already been initiated.

Why is there a rush to build mixed use properties in all the residential neighborhoods? Why are developers building parking for businesses instead of residents in these mixed-use properties? Who benefits from reducing environmental review and appeals? Why are retail units being included in new development projects when retail is dying and there is a glut of vacant retail space on the market?

Given the recent announcement by the White House that most of the national environmental protections under NEPA are being scrapped, why is California reducing state environmental protections under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)?  The timing is uncanny for a state that prides itself on being environmentally ahead of the curve. This should give us pause to consider alternatives to killing our own CEQA process as we watch for more changes in the environmental protection laws unfold at the national level.

Find out more about SB50:
Check the map to see how your community will fair under SB50

The small town in the city: Why people leave the urban heart of SF for the Sunset

By Michelle Robertson : sfgate – excerpt

“The last place I thought I’d ever live was the Sunset,” said Carol Lipof. “It was just so, so far out there.”

In August, Lipof moved to the Sunset.

“We’re very, very, very happy. Happier than we could have imagined.”

The Sunset District has long been considered the suburban outskirt of San Francisco. It’s where the surfers and the families live, where few Muni lines run, where one goes to “retire” from the bustle of urban San Francisco.

But the neighborhood, like so much of San Francisco, is changing. Long home to the city’s largest Asian American community, suburbia in the Sunset appears to be giving way to the urban chic stroller set – identifiable by their wide-legged sailor pants, organic cotton tops and well-dressed babies — and young artists, many of whom have found a refuge of quiet, open space and community-minded businesses in one of the city’s last affordable outposts.

“I feel like I moved to a new city,” said Lipof…

Then there’s the matter of the garage.

“That was a game changer for me,” she said. “I’ve lived in the city for almost 15 years, and I can’t tell you how many parking tickets I’ve had.” The garage, and its miraculous automatic door opener, “feels like the greatest luxury of my life.”… (more)

We hope the newcomers to the Sunset are aware of the efforts being made in Sacramento to turn their new touch of suburbia into the bustling , crowded cramped neighborhood they just escaped. If Senator Wiener is successful, they will soon find their little bit of beachfront disappearing behind a towering shadow, and their garage turning into an ADU.

Should they attempt to add a unit for their growing family, they may find they are sued unless they build to the max in their own backyard. Watch SB 50, SB 330, and AB 1515 carefully and be sure to vote for the state representative that protects your rights to live the way your lifestyle you way.

San Francisco RE-ZONED!

SB 50 explained.

The good folks in Sacramento are back at it. They propose replacing our Planning Dept. by virtually eliminating local zoning!

SB 50 would allow buildings up to 8 or 9 stories, anywhere in SF! And virtually no backyard requirement, as well. It’s the return of SB 827 & 828. And developers can then add on the state density bonus for more height and less affordable inclusionary housing.

Yes, there is a housing & jobs crisis. Do you think Sacramento will fix the housing problem by legislation that frees developers without providing money for affordable housing and transportation?

And what about the CASA program and proposed massive regional enterprise?
Speakers Michael Barnes, economist, CASA critic, Albany city council member, and Ozzie Rohm, local housing advocate, will answer your questions and discuss what can be done.

Thursday, Feb 14, 7 to 9 pm
1833 Page Street/Cole Park Branch Library
Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council
Panel to Discuss CASA and SB 50
There will be a panel discussion on CASA and SB 50 at Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council this Thursday, Feb 14th starting at 7:00 pm.  Thanks to Tes, I’ve been asked to be on this panel. I will be sharing this with a knowledgeable activist from the East Bay, Michael Barnes.  He will cover CASA while I’ll go over SB 50.  The meeting is open to public.

Tuesday, Feb 19, 6:45 to 7:30 pm
1125 Fillmore Street Northern Police Station
Panel to Discuss CASA and SB 50
There will also be a panel discussion on the same topic at the next CSFN monthly meeting on Feb 19 starting from 6:45 pm.  The CSFN panel will be hosting Dennis Richards, Rick Hall, and Carlos Bocanegra from La Raza.  This meeting is also open to public… (more)