- Proposed legislation introduced last week to the California state Senate would eliminate certain restrictions for housing developers that build within a half mile of a major transit hub, such as a train station, or within a quarter mile of a bus corridor.
- New projects would have to follow minimum height requirements that vary from 45 to 85 feet, depending on their distance from transit and the street's width.
- Developers meeting the transit-rich housing criteria would not have to comply with minimum parking requirements, certain design standards and other limitations.
Until recently, housing supply and affordability generally were viewed as local issues. But more municipalities are banding together to create solutions when faced with the reality that housing issues rarely stay neatly contained within one city's borders. Last month, 14 Boston-area cities formed a regional housing partnership, and in Utah, the Salt Lake City Council passed a housing plan and then called on neighboring governments to do the same to prevent the regional spread of high housing costs.
The California proposal takes the collaborative solution model up a notch by applying the concept to the entire state. Housing certainly is a major concern for the state, considering it has more than half of the country's most expensive metro areas, including San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles. The legislation would be a way for the state to work around some of the cities' restrictive zoning laws to allow for greater density and speed up building construction. One particular target is San Francisco's restrictive zoning structure, which even limits some areas around transit hubs to single-family homes.
This bill will likely draw opposition from various protectionist groups that fear it would create overly dense urban areas teeming with skyscrapers. Because San Francisco, for example, is already thick with transit options and has buses in nearly every neighborhood, the legislation would allow for massive densification throughout most of the city. While the plan might affect housing for the positive, it has the potential to negatively impact other areas — resource distribution, waste and pollution, to name a few.
This bill is unlikely to be the silver bullet that completely turns around California's housing situation — as the state senator who introduced it fully acknowledged — but it could slow the breakneck pace at which prices are climbing.