Home>Articles>RECAP: SB 330, The Bill That Would Restrict The Housing Laws of Individual Cities

Senator Nancy Skinner. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

RECAP: SB 330, The Bill That Would Restrict The Housing Laws of Individual Cities

Stopping new construction and keeping denser buildings from being built are at risk for cities in California.

By Evan Symon, September 24, 2019 1:50 pm

In the midst of a housing crisis, the battle over a city deciding for itself what it’s needs are vs. what the state needs are clashing again in the form of SB 330.

What is it? 

Senate Bill 330.

SB 330, the Housing Crisis Act of 2019, intends to crackdown on California cities that are using local laws and ordinances to halt new construction of large buildings to be used for housing. The bill would stop cities from changing zoning laws to halt construction of large residential buildings like apartment complexes, would limit the power of cities to stop projects at the application phase, and would end all cities decisions to stop new construction.

The bill would be in effect for five years, and is designed for the state to meet its housing goals.

The bill is widely seen as round 2 for SB 50, a controversial housing bill by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) that didn’t get past the Senate earlier this year and was put on indefinite hold.

Who Backed It? 

Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) introduced SB 330. Amid growing concerns that wealthier cities are not doing their part to combat the crisis, Senator Skinner has pushed for broader rules to allow for more housing to be built in cities to meet demand.

“Our failure to build enough housing has led to the highest rents and home ownership costs in the nation,” stated Senator Skinner. “SB 330 gives a greenlight to housing that already meets existing zoning and local rules and prevents new rules that might limit housing we so desperately need.”

Developers, housing advocates, and companies such as Facebook have largely been in favor of the bill, as have construction firms who see this as a possible boon.

However, SB 330 has faced just as much opposition. As the Globe reported in June, local control, safety, habitat, conservation, and historic preservation are just a few of the major issues the bill ignores. Numerous cities, including the entire California League of Cities, are against the bill, as are hundreds of neighborhood groups, healthcare organizations (who worry about the health risks of greater vehicle traffic), and conservation groups.

What happened?

SB 330 had huge fights in both the Senate and the Assembly. It was also amended dozens of times, with some parts of the bill being taken out and put back in several times. It was passed 67-8 in the Assembly and 30-4 in the Senate.

Unlike most bills, the yea and nay votes both had a mix of Republicans and Democrats. Democrats and Republicans voting for the bill voted for it because of the need for housing and business opportunities that came with it, while those voting against it saw the bill as destructive to the local environment and wanted to keep the cities they represent free to do their own planning and build as they see fit. In short, parties were split because of the complexities of what the bill meant for certain areas of California.

Current Status:

It could go either way at this point. Governor Gavin Newsom did not like SB 50 and publicly denounced it. But Governor Newsom also supported SB 330 this year before the numerous rounds of amendments that made it more like SB 50. As Mayor of San Francisco he bucked against California laws in favor of local San Francisco laws, but he has also stated the need for more affordable housing.

As it stands, it could go either way with him. 

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Evan Symon
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