Huge Crowd Opposes SB 50 at a Los Angeles Town Hall

In Housing, legislature, News, SB 50 by Jill Stewart

Temple Beth Am in Pico-Robertson drew an overflow crowd last night as 340 opponents of Senate Bill 50 condemned a radical state law, quietly flying under the radar in Sacramento, that would ban single-family zoning in California, force 8-story towers on communities, and gentrify affordable rental areas in Los Angeles.

Hosted by two rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods, South Carthay and Carthay Square, the town hall drew angry residents from across Los Angeles. The crowd burst into explosive applause when asked to vote California legislators out of office who support SB 50.

SB 50 is no typical bill. It not only aims to rid California of thousands of thriving single-family neighborhoods, but it financially rewards developers to buy out and replace homes and rental buildings — with 8-story luxury apartment towers containing just a handful of affordable units.

L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz, Coalition to Preserve L.A. Director Jill Stewart, Tenants Union member Carmen Bordas O’Connor, Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch and South Carthay Neighborhood Association President Brad Kane, got cheers and thunderous applause.

Koretz said SB 50 will “devastate single-family homes” across Los Angeles, and Stewart said its author, state Sen. Scott Wiener, “is a true believer who says single-family homes are immoral and yards take up too much space.”

Teacher and Tenants Union member O’Connor begged her state legislators to strongly oppose Wiener’s bill, noting that it will price out renters, devastating families who rent their apartments and are trying to move up in life. “Please just stop it,” she pleaded. Kane urged the overflow crowd to “vote them out!” if L.A. County state legislators back the drastic bill.

Believed to be unprecedented in U.S. history, SB 50 has received only muted press coverage in California. As a result of media disinterest, few Californians have heard of SB 50. The lack of press interest, in what would normally be a widely shared and frequent Page One story, has forced neighborhoods and community groups to try to get word out. An SB 50 map showing its effects on every street in California has gone viral.

SB 50 is a potentially destabilizing social experiment in which the state would hand over most zoning and planning decisions to developers, stripping communities of any voice — an anti-transparency concept that critics note will most seriously harm those lacking power.

The bill is being forced on Southern California by Silicon Valley legislators who represent wealthy, land-poor areas in which “people who make $120,000 a year are happy to rent a bunkbed in a garage,” as one powerpoint explained to the crowd.

The standing-room-only audience agreed with speaker after speaker who called SB 50 a Silicon Valley Bay Area bill being forced on vast regions to the south who don’t have tech billionaires, don’t have far more jobs than housing, and don’t lack room to grow.

The crowd gasped when told about SB 50’s most recent amendment — to wipe out almost all single-family zoning in California, and let developers buy out and demolish those homes to make way for luxury four-plexes averaging just 400 to 500 square feet. The tiny micro-units can’t house people with children and are widely seen as blatantly anti-family, as is much of Senate Bill 50.

In one of Wiener’s numerous attempts at veiling the outcome of his bill, he insists that no homes will be “demolished” — because developers must leave three walls standing after gutting houses to make way for four-plexes.

SB 50 would disrupt California’s thriving working-class communities from East Los Angeles to Santa Ana, and displace thousands of families. Yet lead author Wiener of San Francisco, and co-author Mike McGuire of the Wine Country, represent two of the wealthiest regions in the world.