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New California Bill Described as ‘Density Vitamin’

California Rep. Scott Wiener’s (D) Senate Bill 50 has failed three consecutive years. Its most recent attempt fell three votes shy in January. 

However, Wiener introduced a new bill—SB 902—that was described as a “density vitamin” that cities could choose if they wanted it. 

“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,” said Wiener in a report by CalMatters. “And also in a way where cities have significant latitude in how they do it.”  

The most recent version of SB 50, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times, faced criticism from in 2019, when Sen. Anthony Portantini, the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee came out against SB 50. He said the measure would have trumped zoning rules that are “exclusively under the control” of cities and counties. 

SB 902 would retain the proposal of eliminating single-family zoning across nearly all of California. The new bill would force cities to permit duplexes in areas they are currently illegal in cities of less than 10,000 people, triplexes in cities with a population between 10,000 and 50,000, and fourplexes in areas with more than 50,000 people. 

Single-family-only neighborhoods in high fire-risk areas would be exempt. 

Developers would not be required to build denser housing next to single-family homes, but they would be allowed to. Additionally, homeowners could choose to demolish their property and rebuild it to include higher density only if a renter hasn’t lived there for the past seven years. 

The idea of higher density is gaining traction, as a new Zillow survey found more than three-quarters of respondents said local governments should do more to keep housing affordable, and building more would help.

Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed said homeowners should be able to add additional housing on their property, and 30% said they would be willing to invest money to create housing on their property if allowed. 

Younger, lower-income, and homeowners on the west coast showed the strongest support for this idea. The highest support came in San Diego (70%), which was followed by Seattle (67%) and San Francisco (64%). Detroit showed the lowest support, with just 47% getting behind the idea. 

About Author: Mike Albanese

A graduate of the University of Alabama, Mike Albanese has worked for news publications since 2011 in Texas and Colorado. He has built a portfolio of more than 1,000 articles, covering city government, police and crime, business, sports, and is experienced in crafting engaging features and enterprise pieces. He spent time as the sports editor for the "Pilot Point Post-Signal," and has covered the DFW Metroplex for several years. He has also assisted with sports coverage and editing duties with the "Dallas Morning News" and "Denton Record-Chronicle" over the past several years.

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