Senator Wiener Announces New Amendments to Bill to Allow More Housing Near Public Transportation

Amendments include setting broad affordability requirements, refining the definition of transit corridors to focus on high-quality, all-day bus service, excluding properties where there has been an Ellis Act eviction, and removing 85-foot allowance
April 10, 2018

Sacramento –  Today Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) announced amendments to Senate Bill 827, which allows for more housing near public transportation. These amendments were made in consultation with colleagues, advocates, local elected officials, and housing experts.

The amendments introduced by Senator Wiener include setting affordable housing requirements in cities that don’t have local affordability requirements, refining the definition of transit corridors to focus on high-quality, all-day bus service (not just rush hour service), strengthening demolition controls to exclude properties where there has been an Ellis Act eviction, removing the bill’s 85-foot height allowance in order to focus the bill on 45-55 foot wood frame buildings, and limiting the bill’s height increases to rail, subway, and ferry stops (with bus stops still triggering density increases, though not height increases). The amendments also delay implementation of SB 827 in order to give local communities time to plan and enact their own requirements for denser development near public transit. The full list of amendments is below. 

“California has a housing deficit approaching 4 million homes, and our housing shortage is a huge threat to our state’s diversity, economy, environment, and quality of life,” said Senator Wiener. “SB 827 is about creating more opportunities for housing where we need it – near public transportation. This bill has triggered a robust and passionate discussion about housing in California, and I appreciate all the feedback we’ve received, including from critics who have engaged thoughtfully on the bill. We have worked with both supporters and opponents on these amendments, and we will continue to work with anyone committed to solving our housing shortage as we move through the legislative process. We will bring more housing to our state if we work collectively on solutions.”

The amendments introduced by Senator Wiener do the following:

1. Ensure an affordable housing component to every development except the very smallest: Any project approved with an SB 827 zoning bonus must comply with a local inclusionary housing requirement, if there is one. If a community does not have a local inclusionary housing requirement, the following applies, based on the size of the project. These inclusionary housing percentages are based on the existing requirements in the State Affordable Housing Density Bonus law.

  • 50+ units and >25% square footage is office: 20% total (10% very low-income + 10% low-income)
  • 50+ units: Developer can choose between 20% low income or 11% very low income
  • 25-50 units: Developer can choose between 13% low income or 7% very low income
  • 10-25 units: Developer can choose between 10% low income or 5% very low income 

2. Restrict demolitions: No demolition permit may be issued on properties that have had an Ellis Act eviction recorded in the last five years. (The bill already allows communities to adopt and enforce their own demolition controls.)

3. No net loss: Similar to the state density bonus, there shall be no net loss of affordable units through SB 827. In the rare occasion that rent-controlled or subsidized affordable housing is removed, and in addition to the Right to Remain Guarantee for tenants already contained in the bill, the developer must replace each of these units with a permanently affordable housing unit on a 1:1 basis.

4. Adjust height restrictions: Around rail and ferry stations, buildings up to 55’ tall are permitted in the first ¼ mile and 45’ in the second ¼ mile. There is no building height increase around qualifying bus lines, but parking and density restrictions will be relaxed.

5. Redefine qualifying bus stops: The bill is amended to ensure that transit stops have consistent, high-quality transit during the week and on weekends, from early morning to late night. Specifically, on weekdays, qualifying bus stops must have average service intervals of 15 minutes during peak 3 hours between 6-10am and 3-7pm, and have 20 minute average service intervals between 6am-10pm. On weekends, qualifying bus stops must also have average service intervals of 30 minutes from 8am-10pm.

6. Delay implementation: The operative date of SB 827 is January 1, 2021, such that local governments have time to conduct studies, update inclusionary housing ordinances, and adopt specific transit oriented development plans. During this time, a city may not reduce or eliminate residential zoning designations that would have the effect of limiting the number of parcels where SB 827 is applicable. A local government may apply for a one-time, one-year extension if they can prove to the Housing and Community Development Department that they have made significant good-faith progress.

7. Adjust parking minimums: A city may not enforce parking minimums within ¼ mile of rail or ferry; however, a city may enforce up to .5 spots/residential unit outside of the first quarter mile or around bus stops, which matches requirements in state density bonus law. A developer must provide recurring monthly transit passes to all residents at no cost.

8. Establish residential threshold: Any project approved with an SB 827 zoning bonus must be at least two-thirds residential by square footage.

This is the second set of amendments Senator Wiener has made to the bill.  Two months ago, he introduced amendments to clarify and strengthen demolition and displacement protections, allow for locally adopted programs requiring affordable housing near public transportation to work in parallel with SB 827, and clarify other questions regarding how the bill works.

SB 827 is slated to be heard in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on Tuesday April 17. SB 827 is co-authored by Senators Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), and Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), and is sponsored by California YIMBY. It is supported by the California Building Industry Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environment California, Climate Plan, the Council of Infill Builders, the California Apartment Association, the California Association of Realtors, the California Asian Chamber of Commerce, the Local Government Commission, Habitat for Humanity, the Bay Area Council, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the Los Angeles Business Council, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research (SPUR), the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, the Tech Equity Collaborative, the Two Hundred, and a number of local pro-housing advocacy organizations.

Support for SB 827:

Letter from group of national fair housing experts: “Too many communities with the best job prospects are inaccessible or inconveniently accessible to entry level or low‐ and middle‐income job‐seekers. By overriding exclusionary land use policies in many of our highest job growth centers or places where public transit connects users to those centers, SB 827 strikes at the heart of this problem. By circumventing cost‐inflating restrictive zoning barriers, SB 827 would allow more affordable housing than is currently permitted to be constructed where public transportation systems can carry job seekers to employment centers.” ​

Letter from California urban policy professors: “SB 827 can break the local gridlock and put housing where it belongs. The local failure to build housing owes largely to the political incentives local governments face. Local officials are most responsive to local voters, and the most vocal of these local voters are often suspicious of housing. The result is a collective action problem: when every local government looks out for itself, the state as a whole suffers, and the most vulnerable residents—who often have the least local voice—suffer most.”

Letter from Natural Resources Defense Council, Environment California, and Climate Resolve: “SB 827 represents the scale of action necessary to meaningfully address the affordable housing and environmental crises.”