The logic was simple. Faced with a chronic shortage of housing, the solution is to build more. With California showing continued population growth, more and more people are looking for places to live; meanwhile, housing construction has not kept pace, which means housing costs will continue to skyrocket. What we need now, says Governor Newsom, is to “pass a historic housing production bill.”
Senate Bill 50 (SB 50) offered precisely the kind of simple solution to this problem: more housing for more people. The horizontal growth that has characterized Southern California for generations has left many battling long commutes on an overburdened road system, polluting everyone’s air and decreasing quality of life. It has also increased housing scarcity and subsequently its cost, favoring the haves at the expense of the have-nots. Building dense housing along transit corridors addresses these mounting problems. SB 50 would have allowed developers to bypass locally-imposed housing density restrictions along transit corridors and near job centers, a process known as “upzoning.” The bill was authored by Sen. Scott Wiener, of San Francisco. Here in the Southland, of the fourteen state senators whose districts are wholly or partially within LA County, only two voted for SB 50: Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) and Connie Leyva (D-Chino). Ten Democrats and two Republicans voted against it.
Ultimately the bill failed, 18 to 15 with six abstentions. That means that of the 18 California state senators who voted against a law allowing more housing construction, 12 came from our own county.
Though SB 50 was not our initiative, we saw its great potential to make Los Angeles and all of California more liveable for more people. So we are committed to continuing advocacy for the values of the bill. We have to. The worst effects of years of anti-housing local policies are felt here, with our air dirtier, our commutes longer, and our housing more expensive. With greater LA suffering especially heavily from uncontrolled sprawl—as well as being home to those state senators putting up the strongest opposition to housing development—the battle is ours to fight.
It is also ours to win. This month, Abundant Housing LA will be welcoming a new organizer to our staff, further enhancing our ability to fight for a more liveable and sustainable Los Angeles. Having a full-time staff member dedicated to organizing will allow us to broaden and deepen our activism across this vast region. AHLA will be able to better confront the forces pushing to preserve the polluted and traffic-clogged status quo. SB 50 may be dead for now, but we and our pro-housing allies remain energized. The stakes are too high to do anything less than our best.
You can be part of the solution. On the 27th of this month, we will be hosting a general meeting at Angel City Brewery in the Arts District. This gathering is for everyone, including you! We need to show lawmakers who are supposed to represent us that housing matters. Our new staff members will be on hand and ready to answer your questions at a Q&A session. Come meet them, learn more about our mission, and about how you can be part of the movement to build a better LA.