Will SB 827 smash local control of development?

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State senator Scott Wiener has taken the fight over housing to where it hurts: single family neighborhoods.

SB 827 is a bill that would allow for the construction of taller and denser housing projects in neighborhoods within a half mile of major transit stops or a quarter of a mile away from stops on high frequency bus routes.

It would upend local control over planning and upzone parts of some single family neighborhoods.

Residents of such neighborhoods do not like the bill and nor do the councilpeople representing them.

But, says Wiener, and the YIMBY groups supporting his measure, “pure local control has driven the car into the ditch….because local elected officials, and I am a former local elected official, have enormous pressure not to approve housing because of a strong incentive not to allow any change.”

Meanwhile, developers and planners are divided over the possible physical impacts of the bill.

Developer Mott Smith argues it will incentivize a desirable blend of single family homes and duplexes and fourplexes while UCLA geographer Michael Storper says it will produce an undesirable “linear or sort of chaotic density rather than the build up of of true interactive urban centers.”

From the macro perspective, says city branding consultant Thomas Sevcik, the bill is vital because “the 21st century is the Pacific century” and Los Angeles needs to rise above “homeownership small solutions” and plan strategically for becoming the great American city of this century.

Senator Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco in the state legislature, is the author of SB 827. He says building more housing is critical to the state’s future. He says putting housing near mass transit would also cut down on traffic and sprawl. Photo credit: Saul Gonzalez