Pasadena-Area State Senator Pulls Plug on Controversial Housing Bill SB-50, For Now

Published : Friday, May 17, 2019 | 5:07 AM

Pasadena-area State Senator Anthony Portantino announced Thursday that further consideration of SB 50, a controversial housing bill some local civic leaders feared would change Pasadena for the worse, was being held for the year, but would come back before the Senate in 2020.

The proposed bill would create far-reaching changes in zoning rules across California, preempting local land use controls to allow for swaths of land dedicated to single-family homes to be eligible for bigger developments and requiring cities to allow super-sized housing projects near transit.

Portantino told Pasadena Now “there were legitimate height and density concerns about its impact on cities with bus and rail lines, historic preservation, and unintended consequences for creating a disincentive for expanding light rail.”

“This effort needed to be paused for further conversation,” he said.

Developers reacted with disappointment. But Pasadena Councilmembers reached for comment and the leader of an important local preservation group said they were relieved, at least for now.

Mayor Terry Tornek pulled no punches.

“It was overreach and a complete state preemption of traditional, local land use controls,” Tornek said. “I’m glad that it’s not going to happen at least this year. But the issue hasn’t gone away.”

In part that’s because SB-50 reflects a current viewpoint that’s “become a kind of a Jihad against single-family housing … there’s a point of view that that’s identified single-family housing as the source of all of our housing problems,” Tornek said.

Pasadena Heritage Executive Director Sue Mossman was “absolutely thrilled” with the postponement.

“Certainly everybody is concerned about the creation of more housing. California needs it,” Mossman said. “This particular bill had too many flaws and in our opinion was too disrespectful of local jurisdictions.”

Councilmember Andy Wilson said important revisions must be made to SB-50 before it is acceptable.

Wilson pointed to a set of recommendations the Pasadena City Council sent by a delegation to Sacramento which called for changes respecting historic landmark districts and a more neighborhood-specific formula when it comes to allowing taller, denser housing near transit stops.

Pasadena’s plan offers “much more reasonable, thoughtful approaches around how to put density in areas that make sense without blanketing parts of our city,” Wilson said.

Pasadena has been “prolific” in producing new housing, he said, so the state should acknowledge good work of like cities and put pressure on other cities which haven’t increased housing stock.

“I think it needs to be more targeted and more thoughtful and recognize … Pasadena is already doing its fair share,” Wilson said.

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