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6 California Bills Target Housing Crisis

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6 California Bills Target Housing Crisis

The Freedom House low-income affordable housing is pictured in the Fillmore district of San Francisco on June 27, 2023. (Philip Pacheco/AFP via Getty Images)

John Seiler

John Seiler

8/15/2023

Updated: 8/15/2023

Commentary
The California Legislature gaveled back into session this week. A pro-housing group, California YIMBY, has identified six major bills it’s supporting. YIMBY stands for Yes In My Back Yard, which is a refutation of NIMBY—Not In My Back Yard.
Assembly Bill 1633 is by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco). Simplifying the bill’s complex language, Yimby says it “ends the inappropriate use of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by jurisdictions that attempt to block new housing developments that have already been found in compliance with local and state land use and environmental regulations.”
This is an excellent idea and partly would tame CEQA. It passed the Assembly on May 31 and the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality 7–0 on July 12. However, it was placed on the suspense file by the Appropriations Committee on Aug. 14, meaning it might not be considered until next year.
Senate Bill 684 is by Sen. Anna Caballero (D-Merced). In the bill’s language, it would “require a local agency to ministerially approve, without discretionary review or a hearing, a parcel map or a tentative and final map for a housing development project that meets specified requirements.”
Basically, it makes it easier to build housing near jobs and schools. It passed the Senate May 24. After amendments, it’s now in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.
An apartment development under construction in Anaheim, Calif., on Jan. 8, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

An apartment development under construction in Anaheim, Calif., on Jan. 8, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Senate Bill 423 is by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). In the YIMBY summary, it “permanently extends the provisions of SB 35, reducing housing costs while ensuring that new affordable and mixed-income homes are built faster in the places they’re most needed.” SB 35 from 2017 made it harder for local politicians to halt affordable housing construction.
Although an argument can be made local governments are a kind of “homeowners’ association,” defending owners’ property rights, a balanced view also sees SB 423 and SB 35 allowing property owners more flexibility in what they construct.
SB 423 passed the Senate, 29–5, on May 31, and an amended version passed the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources on July 10. It’s now in the Appropriations Committee.
Senate Bill 450 is by Senate President Toni Atkins (D-San Diego). According to YIMBY, it “strengthens SB 9 by clarifying the intent and purpose of the law, and by giving state agencies the authority to enforce its provisions in cities that try to block it.” Senate Bill 9 from 2021 streamlined permitting and allowed more dense housing.
SB 450 passed the Senate 30–7 on May 24. It passed the Assembly Committee on Local Government 5–2 on June 28. On July 12 it was put on the suspense file.
Housing units for rent in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Nov. 16, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Housing units for rent in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Nov. 16, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Senate Bill 4 is by Sen. Wiener. In the bill’s wording, it would make it easier for “higher education institutions and religious institutions” to build low-income housing on their property. It passed in the Senate 33–2 on May 30. An amended version passed 9–1 on July 10 in the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources. It’s now in the Appropriations Committee.
Assembly Bill 835 is by Assemblyman Alex Lee (D-Milpitas). It would require the California State Fire Marshall to study whether the state safely can reduce the number of exits in certain structures from two to one. That’s due to increased fire-prevention construction methods in recent decades. Doing so would reduce the cost of building housing.
It passed the Assembly unanimously, 80–0, on May 30. After amendment, it passed the Senate Governmental Organization committee 15–0 on June 27, and currently is in the Committee on Appropriations.

Conclusion

All these bills seem reasonable and will increase property rights, thereby making housing more affordable. Especially AB 1633, which would begin reforming CEQA.
It’s a start. Still needed will be comprehensive CEQA reform. Unfortunately, in May the Legislature sidelined Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ambitious reform plan. It’s probably useless to even try to mention reforming the Coastal Commission.
Meanwhile, as Siyamak Khorrami describes in the EpochTV documentary “Leaving California,” people keep leaving the Golden State, reducing the demand for housing. Which also will depress prices. Ironically, as the state becomes more unlivable, it will also become more affordable.
John Seiler

John Seiler

Author

John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. Mr. Seiler has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at JohnSeiler.Substack.com and his email is writejohnseiler@gmail.com

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