On June 7, Palo Alto Forward, Peninsula for Everyone, and several other community groups co-hosted a community event with State Senator Scott Wiener to discuss solutions to the housing crisis including the high-profile bill SB-50. We had a full house of a couple hundred people.
SB-50 allows for more homes near transit and multi-family housing in jobs-rich neighborhoods to address a shortage of more than 3 million homes across the state.
We’re excited about the bill and its potential to legalize more housing. Sen. Wiener spoke with us about the details of the plan, and we’ve recapped a couple of the audience’s questions below — condensing/paraphrasing answers where needed.
Question: What’s the right mix of state vs local control?
Sen. Wiener: We should strive for a balance between state and local rules. For instance, we don’t allow school boards to set school years of 30 days a year, or decide to skip teaching math and science. We as a state agree that there should be baseline standards, and allow local communities to have control within those boundaries. As a former local elected official, trust me — no one supports local control more than me. But admittedly, on housing, it hasn’t been working.
Question: How does the imbalance of jobs to housing play into this?
Sen. Wiener: We often hear things like “tech caused the problem, tech needs to solve it.” Respectfully, I think we all caused the problem. Tech didn’t set the land use rules, tech didn’t ban apartments in 75% of California, didn’t create 10-yr approval processes — we as a community did. Some people suggest that tech should build the housing themselves. Even if you agree with the notion that company towns are a good thing and a company should be both landlord and boss – why should we make it easier for them to build housing than other developers? We can let existing developers play their role. And relatedly, I also support tech companies paying their fair share of taxes. Too many successful companies right now are at a 0% Federal tax rate — we all need to do our part to contribute to infrastructure.
Additionally, Sen. Wiener listed some key facts related to housing:
- 1 in 20 schoolchildren in California are homeless
- Recent state-wide polls have shown 66%, 61%, and 62 % support for SB-50
- 51% of homeowners support SB-50
- California currently ranks 49th out of 50 for homes per capita. Only Utah is behind us, due to their larger household sizes.
- Even as California’s population is increasing, the number of units built is decreasing. The 1980s saw stretches where 300,000 units were built per year — when the state’s population was only 2/3rds of what it is today. For context, last year saw the arrival of only 77,000 units. Even returning to previous levels of building would be a great start to support our economy.
We’re excited to work together with our communities to continue the dialogue about housing solutions.
Want to get involved?
- Sign up for our email list, and to volunteer
- Find your local elected officials and let them know you strongly support more housing this year.
P.S. Missed the event? See the conversation in full below: