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SB50: Proposal To Boost Housing Amid Crisis Falls Short In Final Vote

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) – Senate Bill 50, a high-profile proposal that aimed to address California's housing crisis by encouraging more development near transit and job centers had failed in its final attempt to advance out of the State Senate on Thursday.

The measure from State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) was reconsidered in the Senate chamber after it failed to advance in Wednesday's session. But the result was the same. While 18 senators voted in support and 15 were opposed, it was short of the 21 aye votes needed. Several senators abstained.

"California's long-term failure to build enough housing is harming millions of Californians, damaging our economy, badly undermining our climate goals, and threatening California's status as a center of innovation and diversity," Wiener said in a statement.

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"I think the takeaway from the defeat of SB50 is that this is a really hard issue and the aggressive, bold action we need is going to be controversial," Wiener said during a news conference after the vote. "The reason why it was so controversial ... is because it's a bill that makes significant change."

The bill aimed to chip away at the state's housing shortage, estimated to be at 3.5 million units, by encouraging the building of apartments near transit stations and allowing up to four units in areas that have been zoned solely for single-family homes.

While Senate Bill 50 had support from mayors of the Bay Area's largest cities and a host of groups representing business, labor, the environment and real estate, the measure faced opposition particularly from local governments, who have argued that zoning should remain under local control. Case in point: San Francisco, where the measure was backed by Mayor London Breed, but the city's Board of Supervisors passed multiple measures opposing SB50.

John Dunbar, mayor of Yountville in Napa County and president of the League of California Cities, said his organization agrees that the state needs more housing, but opposed SB50.

"Any solution will require a long-term commitment that matches the scale of a crisis that has been decades in the making," Dunbar said in a statement.

Wiener's proposals to increase housing production through zoning have been stymied in the legislature before. A predecessor bill, Senate Bill 827, failed in its first committee vote in 2018. Senate Bill 50, which was introduced in early 2019, had been shelved in a senate committee before before being re-introduced earlier this month.

"We will not give up until we have put California on a positive and sustainable path to a better housing future," Wiener said, adding that he would introduce new legislation addressing housing production.

Not even three hours after the final vote, the senator tweeted a picture of himself introducing two bills pertaining to the housing issue.

Following the vote, State Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) said legislation addressing housing production would be introduced later this year.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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