The Santa Cruz County Business Council Board of Directors voted unanimously last Thursday to formally adopt a “support” position on Senate Bill 50 – Planning and Zoning, Housing Development: Equitable Communities Incentive. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the legislation, SB50 is this year’s iteration of Scott Weiner’s failed SB827, which would have required automatic up-zoning for denser housing near transit. SB50 differs from 827 mainly in that rather than making the up zoning automatic, it is done parcel by parcel based upon an amendment to the State Density Bonus law (which we’ve covered extensively before). In short, SB50 would create opportunity zones near “transit rich” and “jobs rich” areas, and allow for individual developers to apply for taller, denser zoning on a project by project basis should they meet the basic requirements AND not displace any existing tenants.
The reasoning behind the Business Council’s decision to endorse SB50 is pretty clear: we need housing, and we needed it 10 years ago. Furthermore our position for the past 5+ years on all housing projects and legislation has been remarkably consistent–in that we believe the deficit of housing units is so dire that beyond the obvious problems of not being able to recruit a stable workforce, we can’t even plan for our children to be able to live in the community they grew up in.
Other metrics on housing show that the Santa Cruz/Watsonville metro area is one of the least affordable areas under 500,000 people in the entire country, with only 1 new unit of housing being constructed for every 10 new people. Statewide the problem is just as bad, with the State’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) projecting that we need to build an additional 100,000 units of housing (on top of what we are already building) for 10 years just to break even. It’s also why Governor Newsom has been so adamant that we build 3.5 million new homes within the next 5 years.
All of this speaks squarely to the need for more housing AND the political will to actually do something. SB50 is that something, and with it’s primary author (Weiner) now the Chair of the Housing Committee, the Senate President pro tempore having already endorsed it (Atkins), and the Governor taking dead aim at this issue, it is very likely that we will see SB50 combined with a bunch of other housing bills (including tenant protections) on Newsom’s desk in late September.
With all that in mind the SCCBC approached SB50 with our full-throated process. We heard about the legislation at the Board level, and identified a Sacramento partner to work with (CalYIMBY). We then referred the bill to our policy committee for analysis and input, which was relayed through our State partners in Sacramento. Finally, the committee referred the bill back to our Board with comments and a recommendation to support. At each phase of this process staff prepared presentations and materials to capture the input and analysis, which are all available below. A formal letter outlining our support will be released later this week and sent to our State elected officials.