Mid-Year Policy Review: Housing (Fits and) Starts

Much of the talk on housing policy in early 2018 was around a bill that failed…but will be back.  Senator Scott Weiner, who as a new state legislator made waves last year with the passage of his housing streamlining bill, Senate Bill 35, was back at it with an even bolder proposal to ensure that our communities are building more housing and maximizing the public benefit of key development opportunities.

His Senate Bill 827 would have allowed for higher building heights and density around transit hubs across the state, overriding existing local zoning in an effort to ensure that we take full advantage of investments in transit infrastructure.  The bill died in committee this year, but some of the bill’s most prominent opponents, including State Senate Housing and Transportation Committee Chair Jim Beall, signaled support for the approach in concept.  There is talk of restructuring Sen. Weiner’s bill and making another run at it next year.  Both Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group were active supporters of SB 827.

Making its way through the legislative process is Assembly Bill 2923 (Chiu, Grayson), which would require the BART Board to adopt transit-oriented development (TOD) zoning standards for BART-owned land.  It would also require cities to adopt these TOD standards, which include minimum heights and related parking requirements depending on the type of community where the BART station is located.  The legislation narrowly passed out of the Assembly, was amended in two State Senate policy committees, and awaits consideration by the Senate Appropriates Committee.

On the local front, we’ll give a nod to a decision handed down in late 2017, but that still deserves mention:  The approval in December by the Mountain View City Council of 9,850 new housing units in the North Bayshore district, with 20% affordable housing.   The product of six years of planning, the approved Precise Plan puts Mountain View on the map as a housing model in a region that has too often dragged its heels on new residential projects.

Looking ahead:  Start telling your friends to support the Veterans and Affordable Housing Act, which will be Proposition 1 on the November 6 ballot.  Prop. 1 is a statewide housing bond authorized for voter approval by Senate Bill 3 (Beall) last year.  The Silicon Valley Leadership Group is one of four partners leading the effort, which would provide $4 billion for affordable housing financing and home loans for veterans. The housing bond proceeds, leveraged substantially by federal, state, and local housing funds, would produce an estimated 50,000 new affordable homes.

Up next: The downer of our series:  Immigration Policy

Thanks go to Nathan Ho for his contribution to this piece.