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High-Profile California Transit Housing Push Fails for the Legislative Session

Senate Bill 50 Would Have Cleared Path for Denser Apartment Development

By Randyl Drummer CoStar News

Homeless encampment in Hollywood, California, on Jan. 28. (Getty Images)

Senate Bill 50, California's divisive housing measure that sought to encourage multifamily construction near public transit by overriding local zoning laws, has failed to muster enough votes for passage for a second day, effectively killing the effort.

The California Senate did not gain the 21 votes necessary to pass the bill, authored by San Francisco Democrat Sen. Scott Wiener and aimed at boosting the state's housing supply by overriding local zoning laws to encourage multifamily construction near public transit stops.

Senate Bill 50 failed Thursday on a 17-15 vote, falling four votes short of the majority needed to move the measure forward to the state Assembly before Friday’s legislative deadline. The bill failed on a 18-15 vote on its first vote on Wednesday. The Senate now is adjourned until Monday, making another vote on the issue impossible. It's the third year the effort has failed.

Los Angeles Democrats Sens. Bob Archuleta and Steven Bradford, Orange County Democrat Sen. Tom Umberg and Republican Sen. Ling Ling Chang, Inland Empire Republican Sen. Mike Morrell and San Francisco Bay Area Democrat Sen. Bob Wieckowski had not taken a position on the vote as of 10:30 a.m. Bakersfield Republican Sen. Shannon Grove was absent.

"Housing production, in part due to restrictive zoning, has collapsed over the last 50 years and we are in a world of hurt in the state of California, and we see it every day," said Wiener during the vote Thursday. "The suffering and the pain of people living in their cars, young people not being able to envision a future for themselves in their community, children moving away and not being able to move back home."

This is the third year that Wiener has attempted to pass legislation that would allow denser housing development across the state, which is dealing with a worsening affordability crisis and the largest homeless population in the nation. He introduced the first bill in 2018 but it died in committee. Last year, he introduced Senate Bill 50 but it was tabled late in the year until this year's legislative session.

Wiener was seen on the Senate floor Thursday during a break after the latest vote, still trying to whip votes for the measure as of 11 a.m., speaking with Wieckowski and other colleagues. He was unsuccessful.

"This is not the end of the story," said San Diego Democrat and Senate Pro Tempore Toni Atkins, before the measure failed on a final vote. "I want to personally commit to you to the people of California that A housing production bill will happen this year."

"SB 50 may not be coming forward, but the status quo will not stand," Atkins said

Atkins made her remarks before adjourning the Senate.

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