Juan Reynoso, MUP/MPH 2020
Organization: Office of Assemblymember Todd Gloria, Sacramento, CA
Sponsor: Joint Center for Housing Studies Community Service Fellowship
“Given that this past week was a major legislative deadline for each state house (the Assembly and the Senate) to pass bills over to the opposite house, I had the opportunity to witness hundreds of bills be debated on the Assembly floor. The most startling debate was the one that involved a housing bill, AB2923. The bill would require the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit district (BART) to adopt transit-oriented development (TOD) zoning guidelines for projects on BART-owned land within a half-mile of any BART station. Within the legislature, it was sometimes referred to as “Baby SB827”.
On the floor, members of both parties stood up and spoke in opposition to this bill arguing that the state should stay out of local matters. Despite the progressive leaning of the California legislature, the contentious debate over AB2923 clearly demonstrated to me that California has very strong undercurrents of opposition to state housing mandates and that much progress still needs to be made in order for the state to fully tackle its housing crisis. Fortunately, the bill was able to garner enough support to pass the Assembly with a slim majority and is now working its way through the Senate.
One factor that may change the state housing mandate equation though is the race for a new Governor. Although there were not any housing-related propositions on the statewide ballot, housing and homelessness was a top issue debated in the Governor’s race. In fact, Gavin Newsom (the top vote getter in this Tuesday’s primary election) has laid out a bold “Marshall Plan” to expand housing development to 3.5 million new housing units by 2025— a figure that would require California to roughly quadruple annual housing production.
This effort would be accomplished through a series of policy changes which include: Expanding state affordable housing funding, creating a State Homelessness Secretary to oversee an Interagency Council on Homelessness, and revamping the state tax and funding systems to reward cities that produce housing and punish those that fail. Since Newsom carries significant political capital and is widely expected to defeat John Cox in the general election, his commitment to housing affordability is a promising sign for alleviating California’s housing crisis.”