California’s Housing Crisis Builds Appetite To Limit Local Control

Nicholas McVicker

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As local governments in San Diego County work to encourage more housing production to alleviate the region’s housing crisis, lawmakers in Sacramento are debating changes to a long untouchable facet of California law: local control over housing and land use.

The most aggressive of housing bills introduced in the state capital is SB 827, authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). The bill would require cities and counties to allow apartment or condominium buildings of four to eight stories in “transit rich areas” — defined as land within a half-mile of a major transit stop or a quarter mile of a stop on a high-frequency bus route.

Governments would also be forbidden from requiring developers to include a minimum number of parking spots per home in those areas.

“Right now around a lot of public transportation we have low-density zoning, so very few people can live within walking distance of transit,” Wiener said in an interview. “And what that does is it pushes people out to live in sprawl. They have to drive everywhere, it creates gridlock on our roads, it increases carbon emissions. So we’re just trying to get more housing near transit.”

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