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Scott Wiener
Senator Scott Wiener. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Sen. Wiener’s Dense Housing Bill Passes Senate Committee

Stack & Pack housing is very unpopular in most California cities

By Katy Grimes, April 8, 2021 3:42 pm

San Francisco Democrat Senator Scott Wiener has tried for several years to end single family zoning laws to allow for dense “Stack & Pack” housing to replace single family homes.

In a press statement Thursday, Wiener said:

SB 478, the Housing Opportunity Act, ensures that local zoned density and state housing laws are not undermined by hyper-restrictive lot requirements that make it practically impossible to build multifamily apartment buildings in areas zoned to allow them. Specifically, SB 478 sets minimum standards on floor area ratios (FAR) and minimum lot sizes, for land zoned for missing middle housing (from three to ten unit buildings). Excessively low FAR and excessively large minimum lot sizes are tools that numerous cities use to undermine their own zoned density — in other words, a city can zone for multi-unit housing, but extreme FAR or lot size requirements make that zoned density effectively impossible. As a result, cities are able to use these loopholes to prohibit multi-unit housing otherwise authorized by local or state zoning law.

California isn’t going to have much of a housing crisis in the near future with millions of residents moving OUT of California, and not into it.

In 2020, Wiener tried to pass a “lighter” version of SB 50, the controversial dense housing bill that failed in the Senate in January 2020. SB 902, also authored by Wiener was designed to allow for zoning approval for two, three, and four residential units per parcel, removing all single family zoning.

It would have specifically been based around city populations. Any city or town under 10,000 people would have to have two units per parcel in residential zoned areas. Cities between 10,000 and 50,000 would have a minimum of three units per parcel, while cities above 50,000 would need at least four per parcel.

“To tackle California’s severe housing shortage, we must all pitch in,” Wiener said last year. “By authorizing two, three and four units per parcel statewide, and by giving cities a powerful new tool to increase density even more, SB 902 recognizes that we’re all in this together and makes it easier for cities to do the right thing. We think this legislation will over time allow for a significant increase in the amount of housing, and will do it in a way that is a light touch. And also in a way where cities have significant latitude in how they do it.”

Rather than throwing single-family zoning out the window, cities and counties could very easily remove the building obstructions that cost developers so much up-front money, which is passed on to the buyers drastically increasing the purchase and rental prices. The average home in California costs more than $100,000 in up front costs before ground is ever broken – multiple levels of permit costs, permit insurance, fees, environmental regulations, parkland fees, construction taxes, school fees, and more depending on the city.

But Sen. Wiener has had great difficulty moving his zoning changes past colleagues. Many legislators are also former Mayors or city council members. They still listen to local constituents on the issue of zoning, particularly when residents say changing zoning laws will gentrify and destroy entire neighborhoods.

As the Globe reported last year: “We have classic houses that are of historic value,” noted Charlotte Davis, who has represented historic neighborhoods in Pasadena and other Los Angeles adjacent cities. “There are entire neighborhoods of single family houses that are all owned by families. Many streets and public services are designed for lower traffic and fewer people. A lot of people want space for gardens and children and pets.”

“SB 902 destroys that. They won’t be knocking down blocks, but it puts a lot of houses at risk for duplexes and triplexes, buildings people do not want.”

The same issue reared its ugly head in Sacramento in January 2021. The Sacramento City Council voted to eliminate standard single-family zoning in Sacramento’s residential neighborhoods, adopting a radical zoning measure that the California Legislature couldn’t even pass – twice, the Globe reported.

“City officials said the proposal would help the city alleviate its housing crisis, as well as achieve equity goals,”the Sacramento Bee reported. “The Mayor and Council voted 8-0 to proceed with a draft zoning plan that would allow houses across the California city to contain up to four dwelling units.”

Most of the opposition to re-zoning comes from cities which thrive on single-family units or primarily construct and have a market for such homes, with many city leaders saying that single-family zoning should always remain an option.

The Globe reported Los Angeles community advocate Pedro Ramos warned last year that neighborhoods will be destroyed. “Senator Wiener should actually meet poorer people and see the neighborhoods in LA he’ll be destroying. He’s just thinking about his small area of San Francisco where this kind of bill can make sense. Here, and in most other places in California, it’s terrible.”

“And look, we’re some of the bluest districts in the state. That has to tell you something about how bad it will be for us.”

Regardless of the feedback by people who live in these cities which will be impacted the worst, Wiener said Thursday, “California has a massive housing shortage, and we must ensure that planned housing can actually get built,” said Senator Wiener.“Abusive square footage limits and lot size mandates can effectively negate the zoning a city has adopted. When it comes to housing, cities should not be giving with one hand and taking with another. SB 478 is simply an accountability law that ensures cities allow the housing for which they’ve zoned.”

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14 thoughts on “Sen. Wiener’s Dense Housing Bill Passes Senate Committee

  1. Senator Scott Weiner is another enemy of the people, like Gavin Newsom. Weiner, incapable of procreation and creating a family, doesn’t want single family houses, of course. He needs to be recalled too.

    1. Agree completely, Charles.
      Also, I would love to know why on earth Scott Wiener et al are still banging away at this dense housing nonsense —- also known as rabbit hutches and stack-and-pack housing —- given the last year of COVID, with everyone freaking out endlessly about being in too-close proximity to other people?
      How about you guys getting a clue for once?

  2. Appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom and another human tick sucking the blood out of each and every honest working California citizen. RECALL Governor Newsom and let’s get rid of this leech as well. We must bring back California to the once great state that it was. We have lost the GOLDEN GLOW OF CALIFORNIA from this corruption.

  3. If anyone would like to see what these multi unit buildings can do to a neighborhood, just take a trip to Alameda, California. This once pristine little community was a beautiful little island of streets lined with Victorian homes and quiet, tree shaded streets. Then, sometime in the mid to late 60s there was a resolution passed and the codes were changed to allow multi unit apartments to be developed and the Victorians leveled to the ground. Up those apartments went, one after another – thereby destroying the ambiance of this little island community. Then Measure A was voted on in 1973 stopping the carnage that had ensued. But, the damage has been done and it will never be the same. The future of property values and living conditions were never considered for this sleepy, little island community. Today, it is an incongruous assortment of irresponsible building construction and a blight to the area. Come and look for yourself and see what greed can do to a thriving community.

  4. Wiener is a pathological psychopath that needs to be recalled…

    His proposals are not beneficial to anyone in California – period…..

  5. Scott Weiner is the progressive most dedicated to changing laws to benefit his friends and supporters in San Francisco. He is pedal to the metal *all* the time. And he tries again and again to get bills through, as this bill shows. He is relentless. Republicans need to learn from him. If a new conservative Governor is elected – NOT Jenner! – then maybe some new blood can get in and get busy on legislation. This guy (Weiner) is dangerous.

  6. Unfortunately, Wiener is NOT alone. There are members on city councils and planning boards throughout the state who are now emboldened because of the Biden/Harris election win, to implement these kinds of policies. High-density housing is a long-term national effort by Leftists to redefine the family unit and increase their voter constituency in suburban neighborhoods.

  7. Just as the San Francisco cityscape has changed now will every blue run city in California be forever changed. @Michael gives a very good example in Alameda. That inlet was know for it’s charming neighborhoods, over the years it has morphed into an extension of it’s neighbor, Oakland.

    @Raymond is correct this is a national movement spearheaded by the left progressives. The latest “infrastructure” bill out of the Biden administration will be rewarding like minded city leaders with your tax dollars.

    Love him or hate him, President Trump warned the country on this very action. The globalist elite do not believe in private property, liberty, borders and your right to protect yourself. It is much larger and nefarious than Wiener claiming it is a housing crisis. He wants a bigger population dependent on the government. The outflow of Californians to other states is an example that they want home ownership and space, which leads to independence and wealth.

  8. It is individual cities which write their zoning ordinances. A few years ago the first shot was fired when the legislature passed a law (I think it was SB100, not sure) which prevented cities from using some zoning requirements, like minimum parking, to make second units on single family lots unfeasible. What I object to is the idea that people like Weiner can simply say to *every* city, “all of you do as I say.”

  9. As One Fed Up Cali Girl says, this is part of the globalist “reset” plan. Friends, you must read this article and pass it along:
    The Cloward-Piven Strategy
    September 26, 2020
    Nancy Oakley
    Strategy for forcing political change through orchestrated crisis.

    1. Yep… This entire political backdrop appears to be those globalist forces marshaling their collective resources to begin enforcing their Agenda 21 plan…
      Time to fight back…
      Literally if necessary, figuratively for sure….

  10. I’m all for affordable housing but I’m against eliminating single family zoning. There are many middle class families as well as Latino couples that have moved to the suburbs to find good housing that they can live in. It’s kind of a quandary. We need affordable housing for working class Californians. But I’m definitely not in favor of eliminating single family zoning. Latinos are looking for a place to stay and build a family. We need to build more houses by stopping unnecessary environmental rules.

  11. First comes the high density housing then elimination of private transportation. After that they fence it all in and they have concentration camps.

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