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LA City Council Votes to Oppose Wiener’s Density Bill SB827

Updated: Saturday, March 31, 2018 – 10:35 AM

Correction: Wiener did not call single-family homes racist, said his office in a statement sent to the Courier.

“That’s untrue and there is no basis for that statement, as he has never said such a thing.”

Vice Mayor John Mirisch provided the following response to Wiener:

Thanks for the e-mail. 


Indeed, I have pointed out the supporters of SB827 believe single-family housing is inherently “racist” and will continue to do so, as it is important for the general public to understand the ideological basis of the bill.  A colleague from another city council confirmed that the bill’s co-sponsor, Nancy Skinner, had said she is co-sponsoring the bill because she believes single-family housing is inherently racist.  All you have to do is enter the Twittersphere, and you will find a multitude of SB827 supporters and “Yimbys” who in no uncertain terms make it clear that the goal of SB827 is to eliminate or drastically reduce “racist” single-family housing.

Furthermore, the “Yimbys” and other supporters of SB827 continue to disparage those whom they see as growth-resisters as “racists,” and Senator Wiener himself has been fairly liberal in his use of the word “racist” to describe opponents of the bill.

While I appreciate that Senator Wiener has recently tweeted that he himself grew up in a single-family house, that factoid would hardly seems to confirm or indicate a lack of bias against that form of housing.  How Senator Wiener grew up is not necessarily relevant to his current views: individuals who have grown up in, for example, pro-gun families might favor gun control as an adult.  Clearly, actions speak louder than words: SB827 would eliminate more than 90% of single family housing in San Francisco, more than 50% in Los Angeles, and somewhere in between that in Beverly Hills, literally destroying our Community.  And, yes, I write the word “Community” with a capital “C” because I believe in the centrality of community as the basic, most elemental form of humans’ living together; the concept of community is an extension of the concept of family.  SB827 would not only destroy Beverly Hills, but a multitude of unique communities throughout the state.

Furthermore, Senator Wiener has himself written the following, which fits into the “single-family housing is racist” narrative:

“Severely limiting density around transit perpetuates an ugly American reality: that restrictive low-density zoning has historically been a tool to exclude people of color, especially African-Americans, and poor people from neighborhoods. Indeed, low-density zoning—banning apartment buildings—was invented shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racially restrictive zoning laws were unenforceable.”

When it comes to Beverly Hills, the irony of this statement is that most of the people who actually live in our City today were excluded from doing so under the covenants which were in effect in the very early years.  Some things, thank goodness, do change for the better.

Nobody is suggesting that the housing crisis in California is unreal.  But SB827 is an “operation successful, patient dead” pseudo-solution which would break down and destroy communities.  As I’ve said, it’s like trying to cure psoriasis with an appendectomy.  Instead, we should look to a variety of real solutions, including a focus on preserving existing housing stock and protecting tenants by empowering communities and cities to be able to pass additional tenant protections, which we can’t do unless we repeal the Costa Hawkins and Ellis Acts.  We should re-instate Development Agencies, which the state yet again in overreach mode and in its unquenchable desire for yet more revenue, shortsightedly eliminated.  A major focus of development agencies should indeed be housing.  As I’ve mentioned to Senator Allen, with the help of Sacramento, counties, cities and communities should be  engaging in major land-banking for public purposes.  Sacramento should help empower local agencies in negotiations with Big Developers, rather than giving it away.  We should create publicly owned banks, as I have proposed for LA County or the SCAG region (as a JPA which cities and other governmental agencies could voluntarily be a part of) for the financing of housing, infrastructure and transportation.  Once we take greed and the profit-motive out of the equation, there is so much more that we could be doing do deal with any variety of matters of public policy, including housing, working towards real value-for-money solutions.

It’s a shame Senator Wiener is not working to empower local communities to work towards local and regional solutions such as these, but instead is wasting his time pushing a bill which would effect the single largest wealth transfer from the public to the private sector in California history (as former LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky perceptively pointed out: SB827 is not a housing bill; it’s a real estate bill).  Not to mention that the bill takes an arrogant and intolerant view towards how the people throughout or wide-ranging state should live.  While the kind of density the bill dictates may be an ideal form of living for some, everything from single-family housing to ultra-dense urban living has its place within our dynamic state. One-size certainly doesn’t fit all in our diverse state, and the continual attempts from Sacramento politicians to dictate how individual communities should live is simply another reason, as I mentioned at the installation, why the state constitution should be amended to reflect the principles of subsidiarity, localism and decentralized self-government.

In short, if you want to clarify that the “single-family housing is racist” narrative is one espoused by many supporters of SB827, including one of the bill’s co-sponsors, and is well within the ideological wheelhouse of Senator Wiener’s own statements (see above), but that he claims he has never directly made the statement, “single-family housing is racist,” then you should feel free to make that distinction.  Based on all of the above, it’s not, quite frankly, a distinction I’m buying.  Personally, I feel it’s necessary to point out the ideological basis of a bill which would intentionally eliminate a vast majority of single-family housing, thereby destroying communities, in significant portions of the state, using transit (not to mention a regressive, rather than forward-thinking notion of transit) as an alibi.  Transit needs to serve urban planning, not the other way around; but, then again, this is just one more aspect of SB827 which is so hopelessly misguided.


Posted: Tuesday, March 27, 2018 – 3:32 PM

The Los Angeles City Council has voted to oppose legislation proposed by State Senator Scott Wiener to intensify development around what the proposal terms “transit corridors” — anywhere within a half mile of a bus stop that has four buses per hour.

The legislation, which would affect nearly every neighborhood in Beverly Hills, would 8-10 stories of multi-family units in those areas, which would not be subject to any of the current zoning restrictions, such as single-family homes. Wiener calls single-family homes “racist.” Locally, Vice Mayor John Mirisch has become an ardent activist in opposition to this critical bill. 

 (CNS) – The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to opposed proposed state legislation that would allow developers to build housing projects near rail stations or bus lines that are taller or denser than local zoning laws permit.

Senate Bill 827 could significantly reshape neighborhoods in urban areas all over the state by overriding local zoning laws, but a resolution introduced by Councilman David Ryu and approved on a 14-0 vote contended the bill is too broad in scope and would effectively elimiate “the ability for the city to engage in planning self-determination.”

SB 827 is proposed by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, as a way to fight the state’s housing shortage and encourage public transportation over automobiles to improve the environment. Aside from overriding local laws governing height and density limits, developers could also build with no parking minimums and limited design review, including in single-family neighborhoods.

“We can have all the electric vehicles and solar panels in the world, but we won’t meet our climate goals without making it easier for people to live near where they work, and live near transit and drive less,” Wiener wrote on Twitter about SB 827.

City Council President Herb Wesson said last week he had spoken to Wiener about the bill.

“Even though I commend the senator for wanting to do what he believes is right in his mind, I just think that we as a city need to step up and we need to be engaged and we need to deal with our housing crisis, and we need to stop putting it off and it is our responsibility,” Wesson said.

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