SB 827: A guide to California’s transit, density, housing bill

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In January, Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced a sweeping bill that has the potential to help ease California’s housing crisis by making it easier for developers to build apartments and condos near transit stations.

Known as the Transit Zoning Bill, Senate Bill 827 would usurp certain local building restrictions for new construction near transit hubs, setting looser state standards instead. It would allow residential developers to skirt local rules on height, density, and parking—if their buildings are within a .5 mile of a train or subway station.

“Building dense housing around transit is one of the most pro-affordability and pro-sustainability things we can do,” Weiner says.

The bill is set to face its first test in the Legislature on April 17, when it will be heard by the senate’s transportation and housing committee. Outside of the Capitol, it has already touched off a debate about neighborhood character and displacement.

On Tuesday, Weiner rolled out a number of big changes in response to wide-spread criticism. One of the biggest was reducing height allowances for buildings near train and subway stations from eight stories to five.

Weiner also amended the bill to state that developers could only break local parking and density restrictions—but not height limitations—near “high-quality” bus lines.That’s defined as bus routes with with service intervals of less than 15 minutes during rush-hour.

The other big change? The bill would now require builders to add more affordable units, and it would bar developers from razing low-income housing for more upscale residences.

SB 827 has the potential to bring bigger buildings to low-slung neighborhoods, and that could be a game-changer for much of Los Angeles, as this map shows. Yeghig Keshishian, a spokesperson for the city’s planning department, told the Los Angeles Times that nearly 50 percent of the city’s single-family homes would be impacted by the bill.

Supporters say that’s a good thing. Los Angeles, along with many other parts of California, isn’t building enough housing. The short supply is blamed for driving up housing costs and fueling a homelessness crisis that has left 42,828 people living unsheltered on the streets of Los Angeles County every night.

For more on SB 827, scroll through our coverage below.

— Jenna Chandler

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