A bill that would dramatically overhaul local zoning rules in cities across California hasn’t even been debated in Sacramento yet, but it’s already creating a stir and bringing national attention to the state’s housing shortage.
Senate Bill 827, proposed last month by Senator Scott Wiener, would establish statewide standards for the height, density, and required parking for new residential projects close to public transportation.
Under those standards, projects within a half-mile of a major transit stop—or within one-quarter-mile of a “high quality transit corridor”—could rise four to eight stories, and developers would no longer be required to build parking.
Cities could still regulate the design of projects and establish their own zoning rules for properties close to transit—as long as those rules didn’t conflict with the minimum standards established under the proposed bill.
What would that mean for Los Angeles? To answer that question, the Policy Club, a recently formed group of tech and public policy professionals, created an interactive map showing which parts of the city would be affected by the legislation.
Sourced from public data, the map shows where local rules regulating parking, density, and height would be overridden, should the bill be passed into law. It’s possible to cycle through the map’s layers to see where changes in each category would occur—or to look at all three categories to get a fuller view of the citywide scope of the changes.
The makers of the map point out that height requirements in many areas would be unaffected by the new policy; instead, the removal of regulations on parking and density would have the most impact on what types of projects could be built in transit-accessible areas.
Developers have long complained that minimum parking requirements make housing more expensive to construct—and that those costs are then passed onto future residents in the form of higher rents or sale prices.
Meanwhile, owners of properties in single-family neighborhoods near transit would have more leeway under the bill to build duplexes, triplexes, and even small apartment buildings in those areas.
The Policy Club notes that developers could and probably would include some parking in new projects. They would also be free to build smaller projects than what would be allowed under the measure.
Juan Lopez, a member of the Policy Club, tells Curbed that the group decided to make the map in order to counter “disinformation and hyperbole” about the bill’s potential impact.
Opposition to the measure has been swift and fierce. Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, who represents several LA neighborhoods that would be affected by the bill told the Los Angeles Times it was “the worst idea I’ve ever heard.”
In an email to members, the Crenshaw Subway Coalition called Wiener “a modern-day Andrew Jackson,” arguing the bill would lead to mass displacement in low-income communities.
In his own explanation of the bill, Wiener says the legislation is intended to bring down the cost of housing (by making it easier for developers to build more of it) and to help the state meet its climate goals (by making transit more accessible to residents).
Opponents don’t see it that way. In a tweet, Crenshaw Subway Coalition director Damien Goodmon argued the bill would pave the way for demolition of smaller, but affordable developments, that would then be replaced with larger, market rate projects.
The Sierra Club sent a letter to Wiener arguing the bill could lead to more pollution by fostering local opposition to new transit projects.
But the measure has also received broad support from many urban planners and housing advocates. Writing for Legal Planet, UC Berkeley and UCLA law professor Ethan Elkind called Wiener’s bill the piece of legislation he’d “been waiting for since I started following land use and transit in California over a decade-and-a-half ago.”
In the same article, Elkind acknowledges that the bill “faces an uphill battle to passage,” but argues that it’s a good starting place for a larger conversation about housing and climate issues now affecting much of the state.