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Suburbs in and around Carlsbad. Senate Bill 50 calls for allowing for unlimited density near “high-quality” transit and “job-rich” areas, which the City Council opposes. Courtesy photo
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Carlsbad officials dig in against senate housing bill

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has corrected the title for State Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose). The previous version incorrectly listed his title as a State Assemblyman.

CARLSBAD — The City Council has formally sided against one of the most controversial bills in front of the California state legislature.

Senate Bill 50, authored by State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) has pitted cities against the state in a battle to retain local control over planning, zoning and housing.

During its April 16 meeting, the Carlsbad council voted unanimously to oppose the bill during a presentation from California Strategies & Advocacy, LLC, the city’s lobbying firm, on its legislative platform.

“It doesn’t show much popularity here,” Mayor Matt Hall said.

The bill calls for allowing for unlimited density near “high-quality” transit and “job-rich” areas; requires low-income housing in new development; a 55-foot height limit with unlimited density and no minimum parking requirement within one-half mile of a major transit stop; and up to three density bonus incentives.

According to Kathrina Gregana, a legislative advocate for California Strategies, the bill would apply to the Carlsbad Village and Poinsettia stations, but not along any bus routes as those are not classified as high quality.

Another issue with the bill is the definition of “job-rich” and “high-opportunity” areas. Much of the council targeted the vague definition, although it does not provide any clear specifics and how it would be applied.

Councilwoman Cori Schumacher said another issue with the bill centers on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and taking away a community’s ability to “weigh in” on development.

Gregana said the SB 50 could allow developers to bypass CEQA and some of the local processes and force the cities to expedite or have no say at all.

Councilwoman Priya Bhat Patel said the high limits were a major concern.

“The height limits and how astronomical that could be for our community,” she said. “Being a coastal city, I think that is something that is important for us.”

However, there is another set of bills the council will follow with a close eye regarding housing, land use, transportation and redevelopment. Those bills, SB 4, 5, and 6, which are authored by State Sens. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) and Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg).

The council did not support or oppose any of the three bills, instead opting to monitor the bills for any future amendments.

SB 4 calls for a streamlined approval process for housing projects within one-half mile of a transit station with a coastal zone exclusion; 15-foot height bonus over the maximum allowed by a city within the half-mile radius; eliminates parking requirements; streamlining fourplexes; and requires prevailing wages and project labor agreement (PLA) for projects with more than 50 units.

SB 4, according to California Strategies’ report, would apply to the two transit stations in the city, although the firm noted there are compliance concerns with the Growth Management Plan.

SB 5, the Affordable Housing and Community Development Investment Program, would provide for up to $2 billion for affordable housing, transit-oriented projects, infill development, neighborhood revitalization and restoration and protecting communities from sea-level rise. In addition, the bill would establish processes for applications, distribution of funds and accountability measures.

SB 6 would require the Department of General Services to create a public and searchable database of local land available for development.

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Casandra Tompkins April 21, 2019 at 1:41 pm

Kudos to the Carlsbad City Council for taking a stand on this. This should be a local decision. Carlsbad has done a phenomenol job including affordable houses in new developments.

Steve April 22, 2019 at 12:05 pm

Carlsbad is just following California law when they build affordable housing in new developments. Nothing to congratulate them on they don’t have a choice.

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