Thursday, April 19, 2018

Why did California’s major housing bill fail so quickly?

The San Jose Mercury News reports:
Without the political heft of an official housing package backed by top legislative leaders and the governor, a proposal that could have added millions of apartments and condominiums throughout the state failed suddenly this week at its first committee hearing, giving its champions no time to finesse the thorny policy and politics of development.

Last year’s package gave staying power to tough housing bills, such as one to fast-track housing near public transportation, which was signed into law last fall, said Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, author of the ill-fated Senate Bill 827.

“This year, that dynamic does not exist,” he said.

Others working behind the scenes to advance or thwart SB 827 — which would have forced California cities to allow apartment buildings within a half mile of rail and ferry stops — have offered varying theories about why it failed so quickly: It was too flawed to fix; it was killed by insider politics; it is an election year, when lawmakers are loathe to stick out their necks on controversial legislation. The bill was also sponsored by a political newcomer, the pro-development California YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) coalition, a group that — for all of its publicity and momentum — is still finding its bearings in Sacramento.

The vote sent a powerful message about the role the state Legislature is willing to take amid an ever-worsening housing crisis, said Ethan Elkind, who directs the climate program at UC Berkeley Law School’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment and who supported the bill.

“For them to just strangle it in the crib like that,” he said, “indicates that this relatively big approach to rein in local government isn’t going to fly anytime soon in California.
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The New York Post

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