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SB 50 flowchart will help you make sense of California’s transit-housing bill

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Senate Bill 50 as of April 24, 2019.
Illustration by Alfred Twu

Confused by Senate Bill 50, State Sen. Scott Wiener’s ambition proposal to increase housing along some of California transit hubs? You’re not alone. After going through several updates, the bill, which aims to ease the state’s housing crisis by allowing cities to allow some four- and five-story apartment buildings near train and bus lines, is a lot to decipher.

Which is why Berkeley illustrator and housing activist Alfred Twu, who designed the fantasy BART apartment complex, created this flowchart to help explain SB 50, the MORE Homes Act.

The illustration details into what would happen if SB 50, as it stands today, went into effect, including how the bill would be handled in cases of cities deemed low-income sensitivity communities, areas with populations under and over 600,000, and for areas not zoned for housing at all.

Twu’s chart comes on the heels of SB 50’s recent revision, which merged with SB 4 last week, and will now spare counties with fewer than 600,000 residents from some of its provisions. Now less populous areas will only be asked to allow one extra story on top of existing standards.

A provision of SB 4 that is now part of SB 50 would make fourplex apartments “by-right” statewide. “Allowing houses to be divided into up to four units is a big deal,” Twu tells Curbed. “2,000-plus square-foot houses are common throughout California, and could easily be divided into four apartments. Since this rule is statewide, the number of potential new homes is now higher, more than offsetting the carveouts for smaller counties.”

While Wiener’s proposal has many supporters, including Habitat for Humanity, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and AAPR, the bill has its dissenters, too. Menlo Park Mayor Ray Mueller penned an op-ed in the Daily Post, saying, “SB 50 would change the character of our city’s treasured residential neighborhood,” and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, an LA-based nonprofit, recently compared SB 50 to racist urban renewal programs.

SB 50 still has a long journey, with its next stop scheduled for the Senate Appropriations Committee.