News


Housing bill draws pushback from local leaders

Local zoning wouldn't apply under Wiener bill

It's a piece of legislation being hailed as a surefire way to boost housing construction across California -- so why are so many housing advocates opposed to it?

A recent bill put forward by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) has sparked a firestorm because it would suspend many cities' land-use restrictions when it comes to constructing new apartments near transit stops. Even in Mountain View, where officials pride themselves on addressing the housing crisis, the idea is going over like a lead balloon.

Earlier this month, Mountain View Mayor Lenny Siegel wrote to Wiener outlining his concerns with Senate Bill 827, saying it would cripple the city's ability to extract concessions from housing developers.

The city has long relied on using a density-bonus system that allows housing developers to build higher and more densely packed apartments. In exchange, developers are required to help fund local improvements, such as parks, transportation or affordable housing.

Wiener's bill would essentially take away the city's leverage to demand those concessions, Siegel told the Voice, and he warned it could trigger a political backlash. The bill, he said, would make it so that certain high-rise apartments wouldn't have to address valid neighborhood concerns, such as traffic, parking and construction impacts.

"If you don't have the capacity to address those concerns, then people are going to find a way not to build anything," Siegel said. "We need a comprehensive approach to housing, not just finding ways to squeeze more apartments onto the head of a pin."

Wiener's proposed legislation applies only to so-called "transit-rich" properties, defined as those within a half-mile of a major transit stop. For Mountain View and cities up the spine of the Peninsula, that means the proposed rules would impact sites near Caltrain, BART and VTA light rail stations. An approximate map of the Bay Area's affected properties can be found at transitrichhousing.org.

Under the new bill, housing proposals for those properties near transit would be immune to most local zoning restrictions, such as parking requirements and caps on the maximum density or height. The closest properties to a major transit stop could be built at least 85 feet high, according to the bill.

Siegel points out that Wiener's bill wouldn't square well with plans in Mountain View to build more housing close to offices, such as in North Bayshore. A better plan, he suggests, would be for the state lawmakers to provide more incentives for encouraging housing, such as extra funding for transit projects.

Asked for comment, Wiener praised Mountain View and Siegel's work in promoting housing growth. But he pushed back against the criticism that his bill would suspend local control over development. A newer version of his housing bill contains some provisions for cities to set their own density limits, albeit within the parameters of the legislation, he said.

"The community can still engage on the approval process for specific projects under this bill," Wiener wrote. "We worked with local governments on developing these parameters and we're happy to engage with local leaders on this."

Wiener's proposal has remained one of the most closely watched bills at the state Legislature, and it has regularly been singled out for opposition by the League of California Cities. Last month, the Palo Alto City Council signed its own opposition letter to the bill.

The proposed housing bill is currently being considered at the state Senate's Transportation and Housing Committee. If it passes out of the committee, it will likely go forward for a vote in late May.

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.

Comments

23 people like this
Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 25, 2018 at 11:28 pm

Mark Noack, thanks for this article. Scott Wiener's proposal is just horrible. From the article:

"Under the new bill, housing proposals for those properties near transit [within one-half mile] would be immune to most local zoning restrictions, such as parking requirements and caps on the maximum density or height. The closest properties to a major transit stop could be built at least 85 feet high, according to the bill.

"The city has long relied on using a density-bonus system that allows housing developers to build higher and more densely packed apartments. In exchange, developers are required to help fund local improvements, such as parks, transportation or affordable housing.

"Wiener's bill would essentially take away the city's leverage to demand those concessions, Siegel told the Voice, and he warned it could trigger a political backlash. The bill, he said, would make it so that certain high-rise apartments wouldn't have to address valid neighborhood concerns, such as traffic, parking and construction impacts."

This bill sounds like it was written by developers. I just hope we have enough honest and sensible state legislators to obliterate this proposal.

MV Voice staff - Please note that there are 2 threads for this article; the story did not post on the website until Sunday.


15 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2018 at 11:18 am

If cities and municipalities across the state truly believe in local control they can unanimously update their zoning laws to allow for tens of millions of new homes across the state... otherwise this bill is absolutely necessary.


39 people like this
Posted by Robyn
a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2018 at 3:05 pm

This misguided legislation totally disregards the quality of life impacts. Things like peace and quiet, sufficient parking, less congestion from the roads to the lines in stores and government offices, comfortable schools, clean air and water, reasonable cost of living and taxes have all been scrapped in the name of unbridled growth. Enough!
Let Mr. Weiner live with his family in a sardine can.


19 people like this
Posted by William Hitchens
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 26, 2018 at 3:12 pm

William Hitchens is a registered user.

Legal question: Does the State have the Constitutional power to deprive local governments' abilities to impose land use restrictions and to create and enforce zoning laws and rules? If the Legislature imposes this insanely destructive power grab, I hope it goes to court and is declared unconstitutional. Keep control local, not driven by idealistic Sacramento bureaucrats.


6 people like this
Posted by Jerry
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 26, 2018 at 3:54 pm

I'm not especially excited about 7-10 story housing to the left and right of every transit hub. I can imagine a 'canyon' of housing running up and down the peninsula.
But there's another problem intimately tied up with this one. The lack of housing (even unaffordable housing) is distorting our community. The bottom third of the occupational hierarchy is being squeezed out.
We can't solve affordable housing or local zoning control in isolation; they have to be treated together. Clearly cities "have a plan" for handling development, but it isn't scaling up fast enough or high enough.
We could always limit growth (population and jobs), but that leads to another type of problem. But let's deal with the full complexity of the issues and stop attacking single points of contention.


15 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2018 at 5:29 pm

@Robyn

This legislation is all about quality of life. The majority of us who are renting, squeezing into spare bedrooms, and being deprived a middle class existence would have our quality of life greatly improved by this. If you happen to be a homeowner with prop 13 that has been completely detached from the housing crisis and resulting cost of living increases, then yeah, I can see why you might not see it that way. When you have every possible advantage going for you, anything that tips the balance towards the other side must seem like a terrible affront to you.


27 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Mar 26, 2018 at 8:04 pm

Juan is a registered user.

This is not about quality of life. Stacking up 20 story-tenements, being stuck in traffic all day, water shortage and smog / pollution everywhere is not quality of life.


8 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2018 at 11:31 pm

Building densely near mass transit is entirely about not being stuck in traffic and not contributing to pollution. Suburban sprawl means commuting, which means pollution.


9 people like this
Posted by Todd
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 27, 2018 at 8:34 am

Not just high-rise apartments but also high-rise condo complexes. Much of Mountain View would qualify. Another newspaper reported that 96% of San Francisco is in a qualifying transit zone. Hundreds of billions of dollars could be made on high-rises with no required parking across the State of California. There would be plenty of money for a BIG THANK YOU for all of the former politicians who delivered the new law and left the country.


10 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Jackson Park
on Mar 27, 2018 at 10:37 am

I am not sure the legislation would negatively impact residents. I live next to 100 Moffett, and the city didn't do much to help mitigate the multi-year construction project squeezed into 3 small blocks. The city actually sued the residents to expedite the project because they had to close my neighbors' driveway to build it. The city is in it for the developers or extracting money/favors from them. Also, I see plenty of cars being used by the residents of the complex. I am not sure proximity to transit matters that much. I am sorry if this doesn't seem believable. Truth is often hard to accept.


5 people like this
Posted by Negative Impact
a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2018 at 1:53 pm

SB-827 would have left it up to the developer to build up to 8 stories, with no step down to the adjacent residential. It would certainly have results in a bigger impact on the residents. Also, the concessions that the city got from the developer as it was would have disappeared.


4 people like this
Posted by Yimby #2
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2018 at 2:34 pm

We have this huge housing shortage driving up rents
Yet, we still have opposition to creating supply
So how do we do solve this?
Pass laws against job creation here?*
Pay $Millions for rent control bureaucracies that push paper?
Keep the current state and watch people leave because they cannot afford to live here
What is wrong putting dense housing next to transit?
* Note there are several technologies in decline and laying off people.
Good thing we have new things to replace them or there could be a net loss of jobs


6 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2018 at 3:47 pm

I'm still in favor of dropping Prop 13 so homeowners that want to be the last people allowed housing around here have to actually pay for the privilege. Instead it's renters and new homeowners that have to bear the financial costs that NIMBYs externalize onto others.


11 people like this
Posted by Lynn Wood
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 27, 2018 at 5:13 pm

The thing is, they'll knock down affordable/rent control housing to build market-rate condos. Already happening in North Whisman -- look at the plans for Moffett Manor.

We poors (by which I mean anyone who can't afford $3500/mo for a 1BR) will need to move further and further out as we are evicted and our older buildings razed. Hooray.


17 people like this
Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 27, 2018 at 6:00 pm

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

Lynn, that's simply not true. SB 827 would preserve our inclusionary zoning, leading to more affordable units being created, and it would give you a Right of Return guarantee to the new building at your existing rent, in addition to moving expenses and 42 months of rental assistance for a comparable unit during construction.


4 people like this
Posted by Lynn Wood
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 27, 2018 at 6:51 pm

Randy -- that is VERY interesting, thank you.


12 people like this
Posted by Todd
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 28, 2018 at 12:03 am

SB 827 is in the amendment stage. The developers and (other) crooks behind it will offer some temporary trickle down to displaced renters and post their rhetoric on articles - such as this article. Trump is npt the only CON-MAN in America. There are lots of them.


8 people like this
Posted by Developers Need
a resident of another community
on Mar 28, 2018 at 12:54 am

SB-827 is funded by developers. It's going to increase land values where it applies. So that way they can keep building housing that costs just as much as other new units. Prices will not go down. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Once a certain number of new units are built, the development will cease. This will mean larger developments in fewer projects. Easier for developers to manage. Greater profits for those who have already sold their land.

As for the cost of a long time owner, consider the lost income on a $2 Million cash outlay that would come from simply selling the home. Conservatively 5% per year. So $100,000 in lost income == there is a cost to living in a long time home.

Property taxes would go down to 1/2% of assessed value without Prop 13. Property tax costs 5K per year now o n $500K assessed value, and with current value change, would be $10K in this mythical future. So the net cost for a long time homeowner goes for $105K to $110K. Hmm, sure, that will force a sale.


3 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 28, 2018 at 2:18 am

That's not how supply and demand work.


9 people like this
Posted by Lynn Wood
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 28, 2018 at 8:58 am

Thinking more about this "right of return" mess and plowing through the text of the bill.

So -- what about renters who will be permanently displaced? Moffett Manor's projected to be torn down for condos. How many people currently living there are in a position to buy new construction, vs how many people who will just sigh and get on with life wherever they are displaced to? My rent control building -- I don't live in MM myself -- is possibly going up for sale soon too; we had agents trolling through recently. I look forward to my new evicting overlords.

Look, I'm not against high-density development in general, but what's going on right now is pretty scary. We are not NIMBYs with homes that have sextupled in value. We are working folks worried about losing our non-luxury, "affordable" rental units. Plus I find it desperately ridiculous that people who don't have as many resources will be pushed *further* away from transit. What troll logic is this?

Sorry man. Approaching with an open mind, but not loving it so far.


7 people like this
Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 28, 2018 at 9:36 am

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

You're conflating Moffett Manor with SB 827. The problem with what happened at Moffett Manor is that they're replacing the project with fewer units, if I recall correctly, and replacing. Increasing density and using inclusionary zoning allows everyone to be better off, and keeps affordable units near transit.

The other problem is that they're replacing affordable rentals with ownership units. Something that would also be preserved in 827 are any existing demolition controls, so, for example, if Mountain View wanted to preserve its rent-controlled housing stock, those projects would be protected. The NIMBY members of council (Matichak, Abe-Koga, and McAlister) however, don't like Measure V. Vote to strengthen Measure V and vote for candidates who will protect it.


4 people like this
Posted by Lynn Wood
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 28, 2018 at 10:01 am

Honestly it seems to me that Moffett Manor and 827 are two sides of the same displacement coin. But like I said, still plowing through the text of the bill. We'll see how it reads in its final form and then we'll vote, eh. Thanks for your insights.


3 people like this
Posted by thanks @Lynn Wood
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2018 at 2:00 pm

Thank you for your considered comments. Many of us will not have the time to push-down and actually read the constantly amending text of the bill.

Text Analysis (leg info.legislature.ca.gov)
Web Link

Status
Web Link

Also, may of us know that there actually IS a confounding of Proposition 13, increased allowance of High Density Office zoning, Moffett Mannor type projects, and these newly passed and proposed laws like SB-827.


14 people like this
Posted by Todd
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 31, 2018 at 1:19 am

Another paper reported that the bill is the brainchild of many Silicon Valley corporate executives callibg themselves YIMBYs (seriously) who want more housing for more workers and corporate profit - burdened or trampled residents be damned. Rest assured that most of these executives do not live in the flatland near mass transit. They live kn mansions in the restricted hills and other exempted spots.


3 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2018 at 1:29 pm

@Todd

So sorry to burden you with my generations need for housing, Todd. Maybe your generation shouldn't have had children then if you didn't want growth.


11 people like this
Posted by Todd
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 31, 2018 at 8:57 pm

@YIMBY. Evidently, you are not among the corporate executive YIMBYs behind SB 827. You have no backyard but want one. The executives involved have backyards (in areas off limits to further development) and propose to empower developers to build residential high-rises near the backyards of Mountain View homeowners (and next to other residents). It will help the corporate bottom line and increase compensation at the top. That's the spirit. "Yimby, it turns out, is all about "Yimby" (aka himself).


7 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2018 at 11:11 pm

@Todd

You keep trying to reference developers and executives in an attempt to make your position more sympathetic, because it doesn't sound as nice to straight up say it's worth keeping an entire generation from having housing so you can have a suburban neighborhood character.


10 people like this
Posted by Todd
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 1, 2018 at 1:43 pm

Nice try make-believe "yimby" who has no backyard. You are free buy a house - just not wherever you choose and at whatever price you can or care to pay. The trouble is that Mountain View does not have space for everyone who wants to live here. Your proposal to make room by building high-rises with no parking may be popular with developers and many CEOs that don't live in Mountain View, but it is not going to be popular with most existing residents - including renters. But maybe you can sell your efforts in posting online to developers or CEOs, get rich, buy a Mountain View house and then switch sides.


5 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2018 at 2:25 pm

Actually, I'm free to petition the state to solve this problem, which many others just like me are doing right now. Housing bills have already been passed that will penalize cities for not reaching their housing goals and remove the ability of localities from blocking development so long as they adhere to existing zoning. SB 827 is the next step to upzone around transit.

I'd be slightly more sympathetic to your cause if you were actually willing to pay to have your exclusive residential enclave surrounding Google. As it is, Prop 13 externalizes the increasing housing costs onto others from residents doing everything to block new housing supply. You've turned something that was intended to protect people from losing their homes into a weapon to prevent others from having homes of their own. And there's nothing to sympathize with in that.


5 people like this
Posted by Todd
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 1, 2018 at 7:01 pm

Well Yimby. You already admitted that you want a house in Mountain View for yourself and, now you say, everyone in your "generation." And you are perfectly pleased to have the government (the State) destroy a suburban city with high-rise housing to get you in the door. Why don't you try proposing highrises in Los Altos Hills next to the rich people - some of whom are pushing SB 827 for their own profit? What is the " principle" you are advocating "Yimby"? Got any principles? Or just your own agenda?


3 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 2, 2018 at 1:06 am

Los Altos didn't let itself become a jobs hub. That's the difference.

Todd, if you want a suburban niche you're more than welcome to start an HOA or something with a bunch of other homeowners and do what you want. But to prevent the city from building homes near jobs and transit on land you don't even own is ridiculous. To externalize the costs of that onto the rest of us is unconscionable.

What's my principle? Housing for humans. Go live in the rust belt if you want suburbia.


13 people like this
Posted by Todd
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 2, 2018 at 2:17 am

The persons who brought the jobs and (foreign) workers to Silicon Valley live in places including Los Altos and Los Altos Hills - not Mountain View, They now propose a state law that would help house their workers NOT in Los Altos or Los Altos Hills - but in Mountain View. Your "principle" is that Yimby gets a highrise apt or condo in Mountain View. Nothing more. It is just all about you. And because the City of Mountain View will not STACK AND PACK HOUSING fast and high enough for you, you want a state law that transfers decision-making to private developers whose guiding "principle" is to make profit - rather like Yimby's guiding principle.


9 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 2, 2018 at 9:15 am

Mountain View had to approve those businesses moving here, Todd. If you guys wanted to be Atherton you could have done that.

Todd, you're projecting. I have friends, family, and co-workers that are cramming into single-family homes like they're apartments, every bedroom and nook rented out, barely hanging on in the valley until the day rent finally increases too much. And here you are with Prop 13 bemoaning high-density housing because of the neighborhood character. You're not the one that ends up paying to keep cities like Mountain View low-density, and you have the gaul to call others selfish? Give me a break.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

First Sunnyvale, then Australia: Mountain View's Le Plonc plots expansion
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 2,343 views

Juggling Renewables
By Sherry Listgarten | 25 comments | 1,752 views

Premarital and Couples: Living as Roommates?
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 1,325 views

Homestead Faire at Hidden Villa 4/27
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 500 views

 

Best of Mountain View ballot is here

It's time to decide what local business is worthy of the title "Best Of Mountain View" — and you get to decide! Cast your ballot online. Voting ends May 27th. Stay tuned for the results in the July 19th issue of the Mountain View Voice.

VOTE HERE