Opinion: Easing building rules near transit key for needed housing


California’s chronic and well-documented housing crisis has been generations in the making and will not be fixed overnight. But the days of legislative inaction or half measures may be nearing their deserved end.

Last year, state lawmakers finally prioritized housing, sending a package of 15 bills to Gov. Jerry Brown to increase the affordability and supply of new housing.

While those bills will ultimately be insufficient to produce the approximately 100,000 additional housing units annually that would align supply with demand, they represent a sharp change in the Legislature’s commitment to fixing this unsustainable problem.

And a bill to take the dramatic next step is now on the table. Last month, state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, introduced Senate Bill 827, which would promote the creation of new mid-rise housing near transit stops and transit corridors.

The bill would eliminate minimum parking requirements, prohibit maximum residential densities or floor-area ratios, and require height maximums of 45, 55 or 85 feet, depending on the street, for new transit-proximate housing.

The goal is to facilitate denser and taller residential development where such development belongs. Most obviously, the bill would facilitate substantially greater housing production near subway and commuter rail stops in urbanized areas such as San Jose, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

The predictable hand-wringing response by hyperbolic NIMBYs wielding specious arguments began almost immediately. One elected official in the Bay Area called SB 827 “a declaration of war against our neighborhoods.”

A community group in Southern California resorted to breathless, ad hominem attacks, writing, among other things, “Scott Wiener is to gentrifiers what Donald Trump is to racists.” The group went on to suggest that the bill’s supporters are akin to colonizers and have a white-supremacist mindset.

Embedded between the lines of such bombast is the notion that the existing zoning schemes that have led to …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics

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