Sen. Scott Wiener blasts ‘extreme’ local control of housing issues

State Senator Scott Wiener on Wednesday blasted what he called
“extreme local control” for hampering housing production in
California, but said he’s optimistic about the future.

“We’ve told cities you can do whatever you want,” the San
Francisco Democrat told a packed meeting of the Rotary Club of San
Jose on Wednesday afternoon.

With many housing proposals generating intense pushback from
nearby homeowners and the years it typically takes to see a project
to completion, Wiener acknowledged that there is “a big political
incentive not to do meaningful housing work.”

But the senator — perhaps best known for his proposal to get
rid of zoning restrictions near major transit lines — also told
the room full of developers, lawmakers and others that how the
state approaches housing will ultimately determine whether
California “continues to be a thriving economy” and affect
everything from climate change to the diversity of communities.

The former San Francisco supervisor pointed to education as a
model, where local communities have a good deal of control but the
state also dictates some standards. Instead, he said, the state has
allowed cities to use restrictive zoning, burdensome impact fees
and extended approval timelines to limit the number of homes being
built.

“Over and over again we’ve made it harder and harder to
build housing,” Wiener said, adding that housing production has
declined even as the state’s population has climbed.

And he criticized Washington, D.C., for not doing enough to push
more affordable housing construction, saying, “The federal
government has been AWOL since Ronald Reagan was president.”

The state still needs to streamline some things — like the
California Environmental Quality Act, commonly known as CEQA,
Wiener said. Opponents of various housing proposals have tied up
developments in court for years using sometimes dubious
environmental objections.

“We’re trying,” Wiener said.

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But Wiener said he’s encouraged by recent changes at the state
level, such as legislation he put forward that requires cities that
haven’t met their state housing goals to streamline approval for
some proposed projects, and a push across the state to make it
easier for residents to build backyard granny flats. He also
applauded the passage of a
statewide rent cap law
.

“It’s still shocking to me we passed it,” Wiener said,
adding that the idea wouldn’t have been politically viable five
years ago.

“It is a very, very hard issue,” Wiener said. But, he
continued, “I am an optimist.”

Source: FS – All – Real Estate News 1
Sen. Scott Wiener blasts ‘extreme’ local control of housing issues