SB-50 Suggested Amendments
On April 22, 2019 I sent the following letter to all members of the California Senate Governance and Finance Committee. They will consider SB-50 on April 24th - 26th, 2019. A full list of the Committee Senators and their emails is at the bottom of this post:
Text of SB-50 here: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB50
Link to this post for sharing: https://meetingthetwain.blogspot.com/2019/04/sb-50-suggested-amendments.html
More discussion here: https://meetingthetwain.blogspot.com/2019/04/forum-on-sb-50.html
A more readable formatted version of SB-50 is available for download here:
----------------------- begin letter ---------------------
Thank you for your service to the people of California.
While I oppose SB-50 as a “one-size-fits all blunt instrument” here are some suggestions a number of us feel would make SB-50 much more likely to accomplish its stated goals.
1. Avoid Displacement: There is high likelihood that builders could use SB-50 to “gentrify” lower income neighborhoods increasing displacement and homelessness.
a. Not Apply to Low Income Areas: To avoid gentrification, the provisions should not apply to jurisdictions where the average income is below the state median.
b. Require BMR in All Buildings: The current SB-50 exemption of 10 units or less from any BMR requirement is less stringent than that of Sunnyvale and other communities. It should be strengthened to at least 15% in all units constructed under SB-50 incentives.
c. Database of Renters: SB-50 excludes places that have been rented in the previous 7 years. Without a database of renters cities have no way of enforcing this. An Assembly bill currently being considered would create a state-wide database of renters. SB-50 should explicitly state it will not take effect unless and until such a renter’s database is created for any jurisdiction subject to SB-50.
2. Define “Jobs-Rich” and “Good Schools”: SB-50 does not clearly define “jobs-rich” and “good schools” even though those are key criteria for imposition of SB-50 mandates.
a. “Jobs Rich” Definition: A well-defined objective quantitative rule should be written into the law - such as jobs with average pay 50% above the county median – or some similar clear and identifiable criteria.
b. “Good Schools” Definition: A well-defined objective quantitative rule to define good schools might be schools scoring in the top 50% of the state.
3. Define “Housing Crisis”: If SB-50 is meant to “solve” a “housing crisis” in California it should define what it is in clear objective quantifiable means so we know where and when it applies. It is impossible to solve a problem if you can’t tell when you are done.
a. Objective Standard Needed: An objective standard needs to be defined which will enable a jurisdiction to know when it is subject to SB-50 so it will know what it needs to do to satisfy that condition.
b. Not apply to areas not in a “housing crisis” - Of California’s 58 counties only 17 have a population over 500,000 – 23 counties have fewer than 100,000 residents. In the vast majority of those counties housing costs are at or below the national average. Thirteen counties are actually losing population. There is no need to give density bonuses in those counties as it will not lower already low housing costs.
4. Environment: There are eight mentions of the environment in SB-50 but nothing explicitly improving sustainability. To further strengthen California’s environmental record:
a. Protect Solar Panels: SB-50 should explicitly state that no building under SB-50 may block the sun from existing solar panels or roofs where solar panels could reasonably be positioned. Without this, property owners will be afraid to install solar panels for fear they could be shadowed by a nearby building.
b. Require Solar Panels: The California Energy Commission and Senator Wiener’s San Francisco have made a huge impact by requiring solar panels on certain types of new buildings under certain conditions. SB-50 should further those goals by requiring that all new construction under SB-50 be required to have solar panels covering the equivalent of at least 70% of all roof surface area.
c. Net-zero Buildings: California has made great strides in reducing GHG emissions in power generation, but there is almost nothing being done to reduce GHG emissions from buildings. SB-50 eligible construction should be “net-zero” GHG emitters.
d. Eliminate Natural Gas: Natural gas is the dominant contributor to GHG emissions from both residential and commercial buildings (for space heating and hot water heating). Forbidding SB-50 eligible construction from having natural gas connections – using heat pumps instead (already popular in Europe) – would set an example for the entire US. We in Sunnyvale are moving in that direction as are other communities around the world.
Thank you again for your service to the people of California.
Michael S. Goldman
Sunnyvale City Council Member, Seat 7
I write solely on my own behalf.