California Housing Crisis Podcast: Will Sen. Scott Wiener’s SB 50 succeed this year?

Metro riders disembark at Expo/La Brea Station in Santa Monica in September
Metro riders disembark at the Expo/La Brea Station in Santa Monica in September. Senate Bill 50 aims to increase apartment construction near mass transit stops.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

By the end of January, one of the most contentious housing bills in the country will have advanced further in the legislative process than it’s ever has — or fail yet again.

State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) has reignited his push to pass Senate Bill 50, which aims to radically increase housing growth in California by allowing the construction of mid-rise apartment complexes near transit stops and fourplexes in single-family neighborhoods.

On this episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast,” we discuss the three-year history of Wiener’s efforts and the latest changes to the bill, which would give cities and counties more flexibility in where they can boost density in their communities.

Wiener is our guest and we ask him about the two major centers of opposition to SB 50: advocacy groups representing lower-income communities of color, which believe SB 50 would exacerbate the displacement of residents in gentrifying neighborhoods, and suburban activists worried about changes in the character of their neighborhoods.


By legislative rules, SB 50 must clear the state Senate by Jan. 31. If it does, the bill will be debated in the Assembly later this year. If not, the bill is unlikely to be revived until at least 2021.

Gimme Shelter,” a biweekly podcast that looks at why it’s so expensive to live in California and what the state can do about it, features Liam Dillon, who covers housing affordability issues for the Los Angeles Times, and Matt Levin, data and housing reporter for CALmatters.

You can subscribe to “Gimme Shelter” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Soundcloud, Google Play and Overcast.