Cities oppose Senate housing plans

California city leaders have long prided themselves on the growth plans and housing requirements tailormade for their cities. Gilroy has its own growth measure passed in 2016: Measure H.

Now municipalities across California fear their planning could be put to an end if the state Housing Crisis Act of 2019 passes in the California Assembly and moves back to the Senate. The bill, introduced by state Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), would suspend local housing regulations for 10 years and create time limits for processing housing permits.

The bill’s introduction was the majority party’s response to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call in his February State of the State address for municipalities to build more affordable housing options. However, city officials in neighboring Morgan Hill worry that the Housing Crisis Act as written would cause a strain on infrastructure and put an end to years of community planning, including local voter-approved Measure S growth control restrictions.

Gilroy Community Engagement Coordinator Rachelle Bedell said city staff was not aware of the Gilroy City Council taking any formal position on the bill.

SB 330 began as a senate bill in the California Senate and has now moved to the State Assembly. There have been amendments made to the bill in the assembly, so if it’s passed in the assembly it will go back to the senate for another vote.

Morgan Hill Mayor Rich Constantine sent a letter on behalf of the city to Skinner along with copies to the  Assemblymember for the 30th District, Robert Rivas and District 17 State Sen. Bill Monning.

“Morgan Hill is committed to quality market-rate and affordable housing and believes that the general concepts in the bill are worthy, although under the proposed legislation, the city would no longer be able to enforce its voter-approved growth control measure. This very measure is responsible for achieving one of every eight units in town, as permanent deed-restricted housing. Unlimited growth in Morgan Hill, which is still a developing city, places a great strain on the City’s infrastructure,” read the letter.

Monning has expressed his support for Skinner’s bill, while Rivas said he has not yet made up his mind. The assembly committee hearings on the Housing Crisis Act of 2019 were scheduled for June 19 and July 10. If the committees endorse the bill on July 10, there will be a floor vote on Aug. 11. If the bill is passed through the assembly, then the amended version will go back to the senate for another vote.

The bill is currently in the assembly’s Housing and Community Development Committee and is then scheduled to go to the Local Government Committee.

In an emailed statement Monning told this paper, “While I appreciate and respect the City of Morgan Hill’s opposition to Senator Skinner’s Senate Bill (SB) 330, I joined with the region’s legislative delegation in supporting the bill because the state is in the midst of a historic housing crisis. Low- and middle-income families throughout California are not able to find affordable housing, and SB 330 is a proposal that will remove barriers to constructing housing stock we so desperately need.”

Rivas said he’s listening to constituent concerns when it comes to the bill, and said he is set to review it in the Local Government Committee of the Assembly.

In a press release from Skinner’s office, Skinner said the bill is necessary. “California’s housing crisis has reached historic levels. The state ranks 49th in the nation when it comes to housing units per capita, and the housing crisis is estimated to cost the state $140 billion a year in lost economic output,” Sen. Skinner said. “The acute shortage of housing also has sent prices skyrocketing, displacing residents from their homes and deepening the state’s poverty and homelessness crises.”

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