SB-50’s Defeat is only the Beginning


By Richard Eber

As a conservative journalist in the Bay Area, it is easy to place me on the political endangered species list.  It has been years since any candidate or issue I actively supported, ever experienced victory.

An exception to my losing record came last week was the defeat of  Senator Scott Weiner (D) San Francisco’s SB-50 housing bill by 3 votes in the of State Senate.  It is believed if it passed; the Assembly would have rubber stamped the final bill to the Governor’s desk for signing..

This legislation, would have allowed developers to build 4 and 8 multi story housing complexes within a mile of public transit stations or hubs without facing serious scrutiny of the local planning process.

If enacted SB-50 would order cities that if is their obligation to spur construction of needed  new residential housing, regardless of the impact on existing residents. Under Sb-50, Big Brother in Sacramento would be calling the shots.  Developers could invade neighborhoods of single unit housing with building permits in hand without taking  into account:

  • Traffic in the immediate area especially as it impacts local merchants. This is exasperated by density discounts in developments which reduces the number of on site parking spaces for residents
  • Fears of gentrification of neighborhoods lowering property values of existing home owners
  • Needing, to fund additional infrastructure costs for sewer, electricity, and adequate water. When police and fire protection are added to this list, large increases in local sales taxes are almost inevitable.

Scott Weiner has little concern in saying “Restrictive zoning ensures that housing is perpetually expensive and out of reach for most Californians.” The Senator concluded “We’ve made a choice that in the way a neighborhood looks, that views are more important than who’s actually able to live in a neighborhood.”

Opposing this philosophical approach was a broad based coalition that included, The League of Cities, moderate Democrats, The NAACP,  Conservatives, and many others. Together they were able to muster enough support to stop a brazen attempt by Progressives to have the State preempt local governments in the permit approval process for building housing within a mile of transit centers.

Not everyone was pleased by the demise of Weiner’s bill.  San Francisco Mayor London Breed called the outcome of defeating SB-50 to be “tragic”.  She vowed to pass local ordinances to mirror the contents of what the State Senate rejected.

A disappointed Scott Weiner vowed to reintroduce  SB-50 or something like it later on this year.  He is supported in  this effort  by Pro Tem leader Toni Adkins (D-San Diego and a frustrated Gavin Newsom who has made construction of new housing a top priority of his administration.

Fortunately there is strong opposition to California’s progressive political leaders who subscribe to the “Build it and they will come” approach.  One such person is Susan Kirsch, founder of Liveable California. This organization was started by a group of angry citizens in San Francisco 3 years ago to oppose Weiner’s housing bills including SB 827 and later 50. Since then Livable California has expanded their ranks throughout the State.

Kirsch, who has since left the organization to carry out her crusade in other directions, believes “even with our victory getting  sb-50 defeated, we have to be mindful of the dangers of this and other new laws the legislature is cooking up.

A major narrative she desires to change is the unobstructed green light Sacramento wants give  to developers to build what they want, where they want regardless of the impact on those who live nearby. “ Kirsch is concerned that “unchecked growth generated without local input would place a heavy burden on cities that are facing unfunded liabilities and additional public employee pension obligations  given to them by the State.”

To combat Sacramento’s efforts to increase their influence on formulating the State’s housing policies Kirsch advocates “continuing to organize  against Weiner’s and  his colleague’s  legislation on a local level while at the same time providing viable opposition at the polls to politicians who ignore their constituents.

Kirsch’s narrative of SB-50 saying neighborhoods over 50 years  are “bull dozeable” ended up being a wake-up call for moderate Democrats in the State Senate who were fearful of facing their constituents,  had the legislation passed.

So where was the California GOP in all of this?  The answer is AWOL.  Focusing primarily with fund raising for a few selected races, the Republican Party has chosen to stay out of taking strong stands on important issues such as  formulating housing policies.  It is a shame because if voters are ever going to need an alternative from Democratic control, they must be given a reason to do so.

SB-50 is a prime example of an area where Republicans should be resonating their views for all to listen   Their message to be screaming on every street corner  is “Local control, Local Control. Curb the power of Sacramento!”  The GOP might also consider sending out fliers to independent and selected constituencies presenting their views on sales taxes, public employee pensions, transportation, education,  Sanctuary Cities, and  the flight of well paying jobs leaving California.

The fact is that Republican voters comprise less than a quarter of those registered in California today.  With each passing year having fewer voters in their ranks, a regime change is long overdue for  those leading the GOP. 

Indicative of this alarming trend is the defection of former Republican office holders to be Decline to State (DTS) or even Democrats. One can’t blame these conservative refugees.  If they want to get elected, having Republican listed as your political party is the kiss of death in most metropolitan areas.  If this alarming trend is to change, voters will need to be educated of what values and political philosophy the California GOP actually stands for.

A good place to start is with being identified with opponents of SB-50 and whatever else Gavin Newsom, Toni Adkins, Scott Weiner, and the rest of the gang in Sacramento is formulating from their Progressive bunker in the Capital.


Richard Eber studied journalism at the University of Oregon. He writes about politics, culture, education restaurants, and was former city and sports editor of UCSB Daily. Richard is president of Amerasa Rapid Transit, a specialized freight forwarder.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.

Get Headlines free  SUBSCRIPTION. Keep us publishing – DONATE


0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments