San Francisco state Sen. Scott Wiener describes his SB 827 -- the lightning-rod legislation that has stirred statewide debate over housing policy with its mandate for intense development near transit -- as "a very aggressive bill."
But he has also been consistent in calling the bill, which would override key aspects of local zoning throughout the state and require cities to allow multi-story apartment or condo buildings within a half-mile of train stops and a quarter-mile of busy bus routes, as a work in progress.
The latest proof of that: Wiener introduced a second round of extensive amendments as the legislation moves toward a make-or-break committee hearing sometime in the next two weeks.
"I've said from the beginning ... that we welcome constructive feedback, not only from supporters but from critics of the bill," Wiener said Tuesday. "And over the last few months we've gotten some really amazing from people, including my colleagues, advocates, members of the community, local elected officials."
The bill, introduced in early January and sponsored by pro-development "Yes In My Back Yard" activists backed largely by tech sector money, has aroused intense opposition among city officials and community groups throughout the state.
Supporters frame the measure as an urgent response to California's growing housing affordability crisis, and one that makes wise use of investment in transit. Opponents criticize it for imposing state control over local planning decisions and as an instrument that could make displacement and gentrification in the state's major cities worse.
Wiener's first round of amendments, introduced last month, sought to calm displacement concerns by adding language to preserve local protections against evictions and building demolitions. The senator also added provisions requiring a right of return and payment of relocation expenses to tenants forced from their homes by development permitted under the bill.
With opposition continuing and the legislative clock ticking -- under state Senate rules, the bill must clear the Transportation and Housing Committee by the end of the month -- Wiener brought out a second round of amendments late Monday.
The revised bill scales back one of the its key density requirements, eliminating a provision that would have required local jurisdictions to permit buildings at least 85 feet tall on major streets near train stations, ferry terminals and along the busiest bus routes. The new height requirement would be 55 feet on those streets.
The amendments also add a more detailed description of the commuter bus lines that would define many of the areas that would qualify as "transit-rich" high-density development corridors.
The bill would also developers who build "transit-rich" projects permitted under the bill to pay for monthly transit passes to all residents in those new buildings.
Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Wiener's SB 35, an ambitious bill that seeks to streamline the permit approval process for affordable housing in cities that have lagged behind goals set in state law.
Wiener says winning passage of SB 827 will be a tougher fight.
"This bill is harder than SB 35, first because we don't have a whole housing package put together by the (legislative) leadership and the governor this year," Wiener said. "We're a little bit more on our own ... the bill is not guaranteed to move forward."