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Legislation to Continue to Streamline Affordable Housing Barely Clears Assembly Committee

“We’re going to build housing again in California.”

Senator Scott Wiener testifying at the Assembly Natural Resources Committee hearing

Though it lacked the support of committee chair Assemblymember Luz Rivas and a majority of the Democrats on the committee, S.B. 423 advanced out of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee yesterday. While the 6-0 vote might appear unanimous, four Democrats abstained on the final vote in protest. Without the support of Democratic Assemblymembers Rich Chavez Zbur (who represents coastal Santa Monica and other LA County cities) and Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), the legislation would have died in committee.

The legislation now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee and from there to the Assembly floor. If it passes, it will head to the Governor’s desk for signing or veto. If Rivas had managed to keep either Friedman or Zbur opposed to the legislation, it would have died in committee yesterday.

The democratic opposition to the bill stemmed mostly from coastal cities that use regulations to discourage development and environmental groups that worry about the impact of new housing on local environmental projects.

S.B. 423 would extend legislation - passed in 2017 and due to expire in eighteen months - that streamlines building new housing, especially affordable and low-income housing and construction on surplus government-owned land.

According to S.B. 423’s author, San Francisco Senator Scott Wiener, 75 percent of the housing built under this streamlined system has been affordable, resulting in 18,000 new affordable units.

“We need to make sure that we never, in the name of environmental protection, make climate change worse,” Wiener argued at the hearing.

S.B. 423 strengthened union and living wage requirements from the earlier legislation, helping earn the support of major trade unions across the state. However, the legislation has proved controversial because of a major change that removes exemptions for lands along the California coast.

It is rare for a bill to advance out of committee without the support of the chair, and Rivas and Weiner traded barbs throughout the hearing. CalMatters Housing Reporter Ben Christopher live-tweeted the hearing for anyone interested in the politics of the vote.

The final vote was greeted with cheers from progressive leaders in Santa Monica. “Huge thanks to our Assemblymember @RickChavezZbur for voting yes on S.B.423, keeping the bill alive, and helping housing move forward,” tweeted Santa Monica Forward. Santa Monica Councilmember Jesse Zwick, who wrote an op-ed for the Daily Press urging passage of S.B. 423, retweeted the Forward tweet and another from the political director of the ​​Southwest Mountain States Carpenters that simply stated, “we’re going to build housing again in California.”

This post was originally published at Santa Monica Next.

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