SB 50–High Density Housing in YOUR Neighborhood

Help Defeat Controversial High Density Housing Bill – Senate Bill 50

Posted by:  Sharon Rushton – April 27, 2019 – 10:00am

Senate Bill 50 (Wiener), a controversial bill to push denser and taller housing, cleared its first legislative hurdle on April 2nd when it passed the California Senate Housing Committee by a vote of 9 to 1. Senators Wiener, Caballero, Durazo, Moorlach, Morrell, Roth, Skinner, Umberg, and Wieckowski voted “Aye”; Senator Patricia Bates voted “Nay”; and Senator Mike McGuire did not vote.

Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), the bill’s author, encouraged Senators to support the bill by saying; “We have to move past the paralysis on housing and change how we do things.”

Senator Bates, who opposed the bill, spoke at length about her career as a social worker in South LA and other low-income areas and said that SB-50 would seriously augment gentrification and displacement of existing residents.

Senate Bill 50 will continue to be refined and head to the California Senate Governance and Finance Committee, which will vote on the bill on April 24th. Marin’s representative, Senator Mike McGuire, is Chair of the Senate Governance and Finance Committee.

About Senate Bill 50 

Senate Bill 50 would allow developers to build much denser, taller housing near major transit stops and “high-quality” bus corridors as well as within high-income areas that are close to jobs and schools. This would be accomplished by exempting “transit-rich housing projects” and “job-rich housing projects” from local regulations concerning zoning, density, floor area ratio, setbacks, design guidelines, and parking requirements. The bill would also mandate that, for housing near major transit stops, minimum height limits range from 45 to 55 feet (5 to 7 stories) OR from 75 to 85 feet (9 to 10 stories) if the State Density Bonus is applied. Immense developments could be approved in single family neighborhoods with hardly any public input.

Reasons To Oppose Senate Bill 50

  • Senate Bill 50 would pose a significant threat to local control, democracy, and public engagement. The bill ignores regional differences. It would override local land use plans and regulations and eviscerate decades of careful planning. Local planning efforts (general plans and zoning ordinances) encourage public engagement and are much better than the State at determining where and how much housing growth should occur. Local planning efforts are also better at anticipating necessary government services such as water, sewer, utilities, schools and traffic flow;
  • The bill creates incentives for housing developers to build near bus corridors by exempting developments from specified low-density zoning standards, including density, parking requirements, and other development standards. However, it doesn’t make sense to tie housing growth to bus services that are not permanent and can change frequency or cease to exist. The potential for unpredictable bus service could lead to confusion for both developers seeking to use the benefits of the bill as well as local governments for planning purposes;
  • The bill does virtually nothing to solve affordable housing needs and would actually decrease opportunities for affordable housing. Exemptions from low-density zoning standards such as those proposed in the bill would greatly increase land values near transit and jobs as up-zoning confers a monetary benefit to property owners and developers. Therefore, the bill would decrease opportunities for the development of affordable housing because the increased value of land would exacerbate the challenges affordable housing developers have in competing for expensive parcels;
  • The bill would increase traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. For “job-rich housing projects”, the bill allows developers to build much denser, taller housing, while lowering parking requirements, within high-income areas that are close to jobs and schools but may not be near any public transportation. Without public transportation, tenants would be forced to drive vehicles to get to destinations and would have to park on the street due to insufficient off-street parking spaces. Due to more cars on the road plus more circulation of those cars, as residents search for vacant on-street parking spaces, traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions would rise;
  • The bill would increase displacement of existing residents, particularly those from low-income communities;
  • The subsequent housing densification and population growth would increase the risk of adverse impacts on the environment, public health and safety, traffic congestion, infrastructure, utilities (water supply), public services (schools), views, sunlight, privacy, neighborhood character, and quality of life; and
  • The bill would create unfunded mandates. There is no funding for dealing with the above listed impacts and the bill provides an official sidestep of addressing this issue. The bill states; “No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII-B of the California Constitution because a local agency or school district has the authority to levy services, charges, fees or assessments sufficient to pay for the programs or level of service mandates by this act within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code.” Moreover, there are no subsidies provided for affordable housing programs.

Alternative Solution 

A better alternative to SB-50 is to support locally-grown sustainable strategies that enable our communities to meet all housing needs.


If you agree that Senate Bill 50 should be defeated, then please do the following:

  1. Send letters/emails regarding “OPPOSE SB-50” to the Senate Governance and Finance Committee via Anton Favorini, who is a consultant for the committee. He will enter your comments into the official public record, provided he receives them by the April 17th deadline. Email:

If you don’t have time to write your own letter, then you can send in a quick email endorsing Sustainable TamAlmonte’s letter (dated April 10th), which is attached below.

  1. Call and email the Senate Governance & Finance Committee Members and urge them to vote “NO” on Senate Bill 50 and, instead, support locally-grown sustainable strategies that enable our communities to meet all housing needs. If you live outside a Senator’s jurisdiction, then the Senator’s website may reject your email. If so, it is best to contact the Senator’s staff. Contact information for the Senators and their aides are below.
  1. Write to your local representatives (Marin County Board of Supervisors and City Council Members) and ask them to write letters of opposition to Senate Bill 50. The Marin County Board of Supervisors’ email is:

Thank you in advance for taking action.  Together we can make a difference!