Capitol Alert

Want to live near your job and mass transit? Most Californians do, too

Several weeks after state lawmakers killed a bill to allow more housing near transit and job centers, a new poll shows most Californians support the idea.

Most Californians want the state to force cities and counties to allow more housing near transit and job centers, according to a poll the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California released Wednesday.

The news comes after state lawmakers tabled a bill to do just that. San Francisco Sen. Scott Wiener’s Senate Bill 50 would have stripped cities and counties of zoning authority around rail, bus and ferry stops and areas with high job concentrations. It aimed to allow taller, denser housing developments in those areas.

The survey found 62 percent of Californians favor making local governments allow more multi-family housing near transit and job centers. It didn’t ask about the bill specifically and didn’t ask respondents about the details of the legislation, which would have applied different rules in different counties.

Wiener has vowed to try again and said he’s “100 percent committed” to moving the legislation forward next year.

“We need to do things differently when it comes to housing,” Wiener said last month. “We’re either serious about solving this crisis, or we aren’t. At some point, we will need to make the hard political choices necessary for California to have a bright housing future.”

The 15 largest counties in the state, including Sacramento, would have been most affected by the law. In those counties, the state would set zoning standards that generally allow for apartments and taller residential buildings within half a mile of rail and ferry stations. The same requirements would have applied within a quarter mile of some regular bus stops and job centers

It would have allowed four-unit buildings throughout the state generally wherever single-family homes are permitted. But it included provisions aimed to prevent demolition of existing single-family homes in favor of multi-unit complexes.

The survey also found 61 percent support Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to link transportation funds with housing production.

Starting in 2023, Newsom’s plan calls for California cities and counties that aren’t making plans to build affordable housing to lose transportation money generated by the state’s recent gas tax hike. It’s one of his tactics to pressure local governments to ease the state’s housing shortage by allowing more construction.

“Our state’s affordability crisis is undermining the California Dream and the foundations of our economic well-being,” Newsom said in a written statement. “Families should be able to live near where they work. They shouldn’t live in constant fear of eviction or spend their whole paycheck to keep a roof overhead.”

Several Democratic lawmakers have criticized Newsom’s plan, arguing Californians voted to keep the gas tax increase in place based on the promise that the funds would be used for roads in their communities.

Most California adults say housing costs are a financial strain, according to the PPIC survey. Nearly two-thirds say homelessness is a problem in their area.

Newsom’s proposed budget includes $1 billion in spending to help homeless people. Roughly three-fourths of Californians support that plan, according to the survey.

“Californians across party lines view homelessness where they live as a big problem,” PPIC President Mark Baldassare said in a statement. “The governor’s plan to spend a billion dollars on this issue has strong support.”

The PPIC surveyed 1,713 adults in California by phone in English and Spanish from May 19-28. The survey results have a 3.3 percent sampling error.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

Sophia Bollag covers California politics and government. Before joining The Bee, she reported in Sacramento for the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times. She grew up in California and is a graduate of Northwestern University.
Support my work with a digital subscription