The Milpitas City Council voted Tuesday 4-0 — with Mayor Rich Tran abstaining — to endorse Senate Bill 50 (SB50), a controversial housing bill that aims to allow more housing and denser housing near “job-rich” and “transportation-rich” city areas. That means parcels of land originally zoned for single-family homes near the city’s tech companies or BART station could be rezoned to hold up to four-family homes.
The bill, originally introduced by State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) has met opposition from tenants rights groups and low-income housing advocates, who fear the bill will do more for developers and tech companies than it will for affordable housing.
Milpitas councilors suggested additional amendments to their endorsement, among them a provision on height limits and parking restrictions for high-rise developments.
“If we keep debating if this bill is too controversial, it’ll come back and still draw controversy. That’s no reason to not support it,” said Councilmember Anthony Phan, hoping to draw support for the bill from the council. “Something we can all agree on is that housing needs to be more affordable.”
Supporters of the bill, including housing advocacy group California YIMBY, California Association of Realtors (CAR), and the Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH) argue SB50 will help close the state’s 3.5 million home deficit and reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by supporting building closer to transportation hubs.
“This is a critical issue that the state needs to address in a comprehensive way,” said Aaron Eckhouse of California YIMBY, who spoke to the council on Tuesday. “Many of these zoning reforms will help both of them [the CAR and NPH] achieve their missions of providing homes to all Californians, including affordable homes for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to live in our state.”
The most populous city in the state, Los Angeles, recently passed a resolution opposing the bill, with one Los Angeles councilor calling it a “handout for developers,” while the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted last month to oppose SB50 for the third time. On Tuesday, Albany and San Mateo joined Milpitas in supporting the bill.
“Milpitas is not a city that sits back and watches,” said Vice Mayor Bob Nunez, as he urged his fellow councilors to support SB50. “We help shape the future of this county. And to do that we have to remember to step up at the beginning.”
Wiener’s latest amendments to the bill allow cities to opt out of certain provisions of SB50 if they promise to build as many homes as the law would require. The changes would increase cities’ ability to keep some multi-unit housing out of neighborhoods that now consist of single-family homes.
“Local officials see the carnage California’s anti-housing policies have created,” tweeted Wiener after Milpitas endorsed the bill on Tuesday. “They’re voting to be part of the solution.”
Senators will vote on the bill later this month. If SB50 makes it out of the senate, the assembly will need to approve it by the end of August.
Photo: State Senator Scott Weiner; from his website.