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SF City Hall can’t stop shooting down transit-housing bill

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Tough town

A mint-green colored streetcar turning a corner, while in the background the white clocktower of the SF Ferry Building rises.
Both the Ferry Building and F-Market line count as major transit hubs under State Senator Scott Wiener’s bill.
Via Shutterstock

SF-based State Sen. Scott Wiener had a rough year in 2019: Not only did his signature housing bill, Senate Bill 50, run aground in Sacramento, but this week the San Francisco Board of Supervisors decried his legislation once again.

The city’s lawmaking body voted 10-1 on Tuesday in favor of a measure opposing SB 50, arguing that it would “undermine community participation in planning” and make too many concessions to development interests.

“The Board has now voted to oppose not once, not twice, but three times,” tweeted the state senator following the vote. “We get it. You don’t like it.”

The legislation language is almost identical to a measure passed earlier this year, both of them introduced by Sunset District-area Supervisor Gordon Mar.

SB 50 would bar California cities from mandating low-density development within a quarter or half mile (depending on the particulars) of significant job centers and transit infrastructure like train stations, major bus lines, and ferry terminals.

The bill got hung up in committee earlier this year, but will be eligible for a new vote come January.

And no sooner did the possibility of resurrecting Sen. Wiener’s signature housing proposal manifest itself than the SF board jumped to publicly condemn it once again—so zealous are major California cities to ward off the possibility of ceding more control over local zoning to Sacramento.

Of the board members, only Supervisor Ahsha Safai declined to vote for the condemnation, saying that he wanted to see how the legislation might develop further in the California Senate.

Previously, Sen. Wiener criticized Mar for not doing enough to directly address the housing crisis, calling the votes against SB 50 “symbolic political theater.”

But unlike San Francisco, Silicon Valley showed support for the bill, with the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors endorsing Wiener’s effort on a 4-0 vote.

In the past, few regional metros have come out in support of the plan, although individual officeholders, including both San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, endorsed it.

None of these cities or individuals have much direct control over the fate of the bill, outside of lobbying in Sacramento. But either praise or condemnation might tip the state legislature’s attitudes about the plan one way or another in the new year.