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Advocates Scramble to Keep Transit Housing Bill Active

12:50 PM PDT on May 17, 2019

Hayward, California. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Senator Scott Wiener's Transit Housing Bill, S.B. 50, became the victim of politicking yesterday after the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee announced it will become a “two-year bill,” meaning it will not be eligible for a vote in January. The bill was racking up endorsements before this maneuver.

San Francisco's Wiener issued the following statement:

While I’m deeply disappointed that the Chair of the Appropriations Committee has decided to postpone S.B. 50 until 2020 - since we have a housing crisis right now - we are one hundred percent committed to moving the legislation forward. California faces a 3.5 million home shortage - equal to the combined housing shortage of the other 49 states - and the status quo isn’t working. California’s failed housing policy is pushing people into homelessness, poverty, and two-hour commutes, is pushing working families out of their communities and out of the state entirely, and is undermining California’s climate goals. We need to do things differently when it comes to housing. We’re either serious about solving this crisis, or we aren’t. At some point, we will need to make the hard political choices necessary for California to have a bright housing future.

A spokesman in Wiener's office said they are continuing to look for a path forward this year.

The San Francisco Housing Action Coalition's Todd David put together this action item:

As you can imagine, politics can be tricky and there are twists and turns we can't avoid. While we believed the bill was done for the year this morning, the bill still has a path forward in 2019, but there is no time to waste. We have two asks.

1. Please call Senator Toni Atkins's Sacramento office at (916) 651-4039. If you have a network in San Diego, please forward this email and ask them to make calls.- Tell her office that you want her to show her leadership to ensure S.B. 50 is voted on by the State Senate this legislative session.

2. Please call Senator Anthony Portantino's Sacramento office at (916) 651-4025- Tell his office that you're angry about his abuse of power and that a vote for S.B. 50 should have happened in Appropriations.

The next 48 hours will determine S.B. 50's fate in 2019.  Please make your phone calls now!

S.B. 50 is a revamped bill to address affordable housing concerns with Wiener's previous attempt to up-zone areas around transit, S.B. 827. As the SF Chronicle pointed out, these bills often invite disingenuous attacks by people who have single-family homes and simply don't want more density where they live.

Not that there aren't sincere people trying to make the bill better and improve the housing situation in California. From Edie Irons at TransForm, which hasn't taken a position on S.B. 50:

We urgently need more homes, especially affordable ones, near transit and jobs. We'll keep analyzing the bill's impacts and working with allies on both sides of the issue, as well as Senator Wiener's office, to make it as balanced and effective as possible.

...there are still many groundbreaking housing bills that are alive and well in this legislative session. These include critical tenant protections that can immediately help stop the bleeding while we figure out how to increase housing production, like Just Cause eviction protections and anti-rent gouging protections for most rental properties in the state (A.B. 1481 and A.B. 1482), plus a tenant's right to organize bill (S.B. 529), and rental assistance and legal aid for people facing eviction (S.B. 18), to name just a few. Hopefully the advocates who've been single-mindedly focused on S.B. 50 might put some muscle behind these other important bills.

Meanwhile, NBC News reports that CO2 levels are now at their highest levels in over 3 million years. And a recent report indicates that San Francisco's homeless population continues to swell, at an estimated 8,000 people.

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