Tue, Jun

Senate Bill SB50: A Non-Solution to a Very Real Housing Crisis


GUEST WORDS--Last week, SB 50 (housing development legislation) failed to pass out of the State Legislature, but it may be back again before we know it. 

While we wait to see what Sacramento decides to do, we need to focus on how to honestly provide affordable housing for people of all income levels in Los Angeles. Housing experts recognize that California is urban, suburban and rural, and the solution is not the same for all regions. The author of SB 50 was mistaken to focus on how MANY more units we can build, it’s about how AFFORDABLE we can make these units. SB 50, while ambitious, fell short of what we actually need. 

SB 50 opponents are right to point out that it failed to address the issues of equity, equal opportunity, and local control. We know that SB 50 was trying to be a one-size-fits-all legislation: it ignored the unique and diverse needs of each community while presuming that a boom in the number of new housing units will be the panacea California needs. It WILL NOT. Because SB 50 favored developers, POTENTIAL residents, and development lobbyists, it stands against our communities, cities, and counties. Zoning and planning experts around the country are raising red flags about the unintended consequences of these drastic laws. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to oppose SB 50. Cities like Chicago and New York City have tried to upzone parcels of land and found that speculation has driven up the cost of land and housing, further displacing minority and working-class residents.

The idea that “upzoning” will provide enough new units to ease the pressure of the housing crisis is short-sighted. To override the local zoning laws in favor of developing areas that are near good schools, employment opportunities, and public transportation hubs would worsen this problem throughout our state. SB 50 would not have created more affordable housing. It required less than the small amount already required from new developments that request waivers and incentive (SB 1818 and TOC). In fact, SB 50 waived affordable housing/units for anything under 10 units which are many luxury small lot subdivisions and SB 50 single home conversions to 4plexes. SB 50 did not require 4plex conversions of single-family homes to be affordable units. The incentives granted were too much for how much affordable housing would have been generated. What good are new units if existing residents are unable to afford them? The people who live in these communities should be at the table, giving their input and helping determine what their community needs.

SB 50 had zero environmental requirements for new construction such as solar, open space for groundwater capture, or electric retrofit. New, tall buildings will block solar use for adjacent structures and can contribute to rising temperatures (aka “heat islands”). SB 50 would not have reduced vehicle emissions or traffic congestion. Vehicles used for ride-hailing services, like Uber and Lyft, along with delivery vehicles have proven to be the biggest increase to traffic congestion and contributors to vehicle emissions. SB 50 does not require ride-hailing vehicle operators to use electric vehicles.

Recent studies and reports show that the demolition of existing buildings (dumped into landfills) is one of the most destructive contributors to climate change and the environment. Lots are scraped of all structures and mature trees in order to build on the entire lot, leaving minimal building setbacks. There is no room for trees to grow or for vital groundwater capture.

According to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, “constructing a replacement for a 50,000 square foot building releases the same amount of carbon into the atmosphere as driving a car 2.8 million miles.” Moreover, it can take between 10 and 80 years for a new, energy-efficient building to overcome, through more efficient operations, the negative climate change impacts that were created during the construction process." Cities cannot absorb the steep environmental costs and it is wholly ridiculous that the people should be taxed to pick up the tab for hedge fund and developer investors.

Despite more than a year of working on amendments, SB 50 continued to leave out important details and answers as to how any of this would actually work or be paid for. There are real issues with real long-term impacts to cities, the people, and the state of California. How could any bill so disruptive be voted on and passed without putting forward and providing real answers first? We need real solutions, but not at the cost of our community’s livability, safety, infrastructure, and environmental justice. 

SB 50 had too many long-term negative consequences. It was weak on real answers, provided no details, and would have been too expensive for cities and for the people who made investments to live and work in California cities. I believe that SB 50 would have been more destructive than beneficial for the people and future of California.

Before a new version of SB 50 is introduced, we need to push for honest, effective affordable housing solutions that will work for all communities throughout our great state.

(Grace Yoo is a candidate for Los Angeles City Council District 10. She can be reached at

graceyoocd10.com )




Tags: SB 50, Grace Yoo, District 10, Los Angeles


Get The News In Your Email Inbox Mondays & Thursdays