Letters to the Editor: SB 50 failed because it was a draconian solution to the state’s housing shortage


To the editor: Your editorial lamented the demise of Senate Bill 50, legislation that purported to promote affordable housing, and called for constructive alternatives. In a column, George Skelton acknowledged that SB 50 was “a bit heavy-handed, utopian and unrealistic” and echoed the call for constructive alternatives.

How about this?

Start with a full-court press to identify vacant and under-utilized commercial and industrial properties that could be developed or adapted for affordable housing. Creative incentives to do so.

Levy a tax on vacant high-end apartments and homes built by speculators. Collect it.

Toughen policies on issuing permits that require some affordable housing or gesture to that end. Enforce them.


All feasible efforts should be made to address affordable housing without destroying the neighborhoods that make our cities distinctive and livable. We owe it to our past and our future to be better stewards of our built environment.

Shelley Wagers, Los Angeles


To the editor: It is ironic that nine state senators from the Los Angeles area played a key part in defeating SB 50, which would have increased housing supply and therefore affordable units. Unlike other major cities, where you would be hard pressed to find apartment buildings that have fewer than four stories, L.A. has very low-density apartment areas.

As a major world city, Los Angeles is unique in that 87% of apartment buildings have fewer than 10 units (73% have five units or less). Simply put, if we can provide effective programs to deal with tenant displacement and focus development around transit, we can add multifamily units in the 25% of the city already zoned for higher density.

With a two-year window to implement its own plan and avoid SB 50 rules, L.A. could have preserved its single family zoning while still meeting its housing production goals and help make housing more affordable for all of us.

Daniel Tenenbaum, Los Angeles


The writer is a commissioner for the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles and a member of the advisory board of the California Apartment Assn. of Los Angeles.


To the editor: SB 50 was not the only proposal for solving our housing crisis. Los Angeles County cities took a viable alternative to SB 50 author Sen. Scott Wiener late last year that required density for all cities, mandated a minimum 25% affordability component to protect our most vulnerable residents, and required a new funding source from the state. It was never considered.

The bill’s fatal flaws, which left L.A. County’s senators no choice but to withhold their support, were as follow.

SB 50 was unaccountable. It gave away local planning and zoning decisions to developers, who are unaccountable to voters.

SB 50 was unfair. It gave arbitrary carve-outs on the densest housing developments to regions outside L.A. County.

SB 50 was confusing. It created a duplicate and unclear planning process on top of the complex Housing Element process cities are required to develop.


SB 50 was incomplete. It failed to require affordability protections in all developments.

SB 50 was unsustainable. It did not provide a funding source for cities to sustain long-term density or any additional infrastructure costs.

I know fixing the state’s housing crisis is not easy, but I hope that the failure of SB 50 will open a collaborative process between cities and all legislators to develop realistic and viable solutions to the state’s housing crisis. Residents expect and deserve that.

Juan Garza, Bellflower

The writer is mayor of Bellflower and president of the Los Angeles County Division of the League of California Cities.