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Poll: Two-thirds of California voters back SB 50 housing bill

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Public support will have to simmer until January

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Senate Bill 50, the proposal by SF-based State Senator Scott Wiener that would encourage taller and denser housing development near transit lines and job centers by pruning the types of zoning limitations cities can put on lots, ended up mired in Sacramento red tape Thursday and ineligible for a senate vote until 2020.

A day later, California YIMBY, an advocacy group promoting housing development, released results of a poll conducted by Washington DC-based pollsters Lake Research Partners (LRP) suggesting that the bill is popular among California voters, two-thirds of whom support it in the survey.

According to LRP, 66 percent of the 1,200 voters polled support the proposal, whereas only 18 percent oppose it.

Responses were based off of the following summary of the legislation: “Senate Bill 50 would change state law to allow more homes like apartments, townhouses, and triplexes, including affordable housing for lower—and middle—income families, near public transit lines like buses or trains, and in areas with a lot of jobs.”

Seventy-nine percent of renters said they support the proposal. Among homeowners polled, support came in at 56 percent.

As in previous polling, the law is more popular with Democrats than with Republicans, with 76 and 55 percent support respectively.

Also included in the same poll:

  • Sixty-one percent of those polled say they “support having more housing built in their community,” including 75 percent of renters, 51 percent of homeowners, 68 percent of Democrats, and 54 percent of Republicans.
  • Eighty-seven percent of those polled say they agree with the following statement: “Many people are leaving California because they cannot afford to live here.” And 78 percent agree with the more specific statement that “many young people” are leaving the state.
  • Asked whether they believe the best place to build housing is near transit and job sites—independent of their opinions about the bill itself—71 percent agreed.

Voters also said that they feel more favorable toward SB 50 if told that it would establish protections against displacement, with 74 percent reporting that this makes them more amenable.

LRP conducted the poll via phone and online between April 17 and April 25, and estimates a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

Matthew Lewis, who commissioned the poll for California YIMBY, tells Curbed SF that the poll was constructed around responses to focus groups in San Jose, Los Angeles, Irvine, and San Bernardino earlier this year.

He says, “This isn’t the first poll on this topic” to show favorable results.

Lewis also alleges that the most common criticisms of SB 50, such as the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ position that the bill doesn’t do enough to preserve local controls and encourage housing most residents can afford, are political posturing.

“A minority of people we talk to do say, ‘California is full, the reason I know that is the traffic is so bad, if you build more it will just get worse.’ But they are the minority,” says Lewis.