“It’s like acting against climate change – you can’t rely on everyone to move forward together in such a way that everyone is confident that they will get a benefit for their costs,” said Michael Andersen, lead researcher at the Sightline Institute. and Urban Think Tank based in Seattle. “The regional planning reform has political costs at every level, but only a political benefit at the collective level.”
In California, where the average home price recently topped $ 800,000 and more than 100,000 people sleep outside every night, the vision of a single-family home with a garden for enjoying the sun is anchored in residents’ dreams. The move to pass zone reform was a year-long odyssey of twists and turns in a script.
It started in 2018 when Mr Wiener introduced a bill, SB 827, that would have allowed eight-story buildings near major stops, regardless of local zoning regulations. After the bill failed, Mr Wiener introduced a similar measure called SB 50, which was rejected in early 2020. Shortly after the SB 50 vote, Ms. Atkins gave a speech saying “the status quo cannot stand” and promising that “a house production law will succeed this year.”
The next month, she convened a Senate housing group to draft a new package of laws that included a duplex bill similar to this year’s SB 9. As the clock crept around midnight, Buffy Wicks, an Oakland Democratic Assembly member who was not allowed to vote by proxy, appeared masked and held her newborn baby to deliver a passionate speech in favor of the bill. The bill passed the assembly but failed to get a Senate approval vote before the end of the session.
Zoning for single families only is something of a California creation: in 1916, Berkeley was probably the first US city to restrict neighborhoods to single-family homes. A century later, it has become a core value that homeowners across the country euphemistically describe as maintaining “neighborhood character”.
According to an analysis of the Terner Center bill, SB 9 would allow an estimated 700,000 additional units to be created in the state’s existing neighborhoods (California allows approximately 100,000 new housing units each year). The key feature of the bill, Ms. Atkins said, is that allowing homeowners to subdivide their land would expand home ownership instead of just rental apartments.
In a series of speeches prior to the vote, phrases such as “gradual density” were met with “planning chaos”. Some members of the congregation said it would increase the prosperity of the generations. Others said it would destroy it.