Gov. Jerry Brown signs 3 bills to spur housing development, address homelessness

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Phillip Downey/File

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Gov. Jerry Brown recently passed three bills that tackle the housing shortage by increasing housing development near BART stations, addressing homelessness in the city of Berkeley and promoting student housing development throughout California.

Brown signed SB 1227 — a bill that was introduced by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley — on Saturday. The bill states that for developers to receive a 35 percent bonus, all units in the development must be used for students at an institution of higher education. Twenty percent of the units must be reserved for lower-income students, providing priority for students experiencing homelessness.

“Any increase in affordable housing for both residents in California and students is a step in the right direction. I don’t think that any one part of the solution exists in isolation,” said ASUC External Affairs Vice President Nuha Khalfay. “I know that SB 1227 puts in a lot of provisions for students.”

California’s existing Density Bonus Law states that housing developers may build up to 35 percent more units than local zoning laws permit if a sufficient number of units of affordable housing are included in the housing projects. Under SB 1227, 100 percent of student housing will benefit from the density bonus.

“For the first time, this creates a law facilitating affordable student housing in federal and state laws,” said City Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “This is the first law that makes it possible for students to have the opportunity to afford housing, along with providing opportunities for homeless students.”

AB 2920 was signed Sept. 26, allowing the city of Berkeley to place a measure on its election ballot to generate revenue to address homelessness in Berkeley.

Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, who authored AB 2920, said in a statement that the bill mainly aims to reduce homelessness in Berkeley. Thurmond also called for the additional funds generated by the ballot measure to be used to support community policing and provide mental health services.

AB 2923, which allows for the development of new homes on property adjacent to BART stations, was signed Sunday. Authored by Assemblymembers David Chiu, D-San Francisco, and Timothy Grayson, D-Concord, it encourages transit-oriented development, or TOD, near certain BART stations. According to a press release from Chiu, new standards for TOD are required to be implemented on BART-owned land “within a half mile of a BART station.”

The bill also requires local governments to update zoning limits to meet BART’s affordability and zoning standards. The law will take effect Jan. 1, 2019, according to Chiu’s press release.

While some BART board members supported AB 2923, the BART board officially took a neutral position on the bill, according to Jennifer Kwart, Chiu’s spokesperson.

“The bill addresses the housing crisis, as it not only increases housing and housing affordability, but it also helps with traffic congestion,” Kwart said.

Contact Thao Nguyen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @tnguyen_dc.