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When State Senator Scott Wiener’s lightning-rod housing bill, SB 50, died in committee last week — just three votes shy of the number needed to be reported out — Santa Barbara’s State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson was one of the no votes that helped bury the measure. With customary bluntness, Jackson declared the proposed bill “really uncooked,” further dismissing it as “a Tower of Babel” and a “one-size-fits-all approach to a really complicated problem.”
For the past several years, Wiener has led the charge to limit the land-use power of local governments to deny or restrict housing proposals. In the process, he’s unleashed a host of specific bills he claims will allow the state to build the 3.5 million housing units he claims are needed to meet the demand in California. While many housing advocates — and construction unions — have vigorously embraced Wiener’s approach, local governments have howled in protest, calling his bill a draconian power grab.
Jackson said she met with Wiener to discuss the bill but was unpersuaded. His bill, she said, fails to account for the infrastructure needed to accommodate all the new housing. The recent drought, she said, exposed Santa Barbara’s water supply as unpredictable at best and unreliable at worst. Local roads could not handle the additional traffic load, and mass transit systems have yet to demonstrate an ability to fill the void. Jackson agrees the state’s housing crisis is real but said a more comprehensive approach is necessary.
Wiener’s bill also attracted opposition from many tenants’ rights groups, who complained the measure did not sufficiently protect tenants from gentrification. Wiener had hoped several tenant-protection bills recently signed by the governor would have allayed such concerns. Likewise, he amended his legislation to give local governments two years to craft plans to allow the new housing needed. “Two years,” Jackson said, “that’s not enough to set the table.”