Op-Ed: Revised SB 50 Could Make Silicon Valley Livable Again

When I was 15 years old, my family lost everything.

My family had done everything we thought we were supposed to: bought a house, opened a small business and contributed to the community while my parents, both of them immigrants, became American citizens. In the wake of the financial crisis and ensuing recession which sent shockwaves throughout the economy, we lost our small business and, eventually, our home. We struggled to hold onto our piece of the American dream.

These experiences inspired my passion for public service and my decision to now run for Campbell City Council. They’ve also shown me that the newly amended version of SB 50 has a crucial role to play in helping address our region’s affordability crisis.

While approving housing and shaping development is the role of local governments, the scale of the housing crisis in the South Bay and in California is so extreme that it warrants extraordinary measures, ones that allow cities to work hand in hand with the state to meet our housing needs.

For those who followed the previous iteration of the legislation, a study of the amended version is worthwhile. It demonstrates that the state would work together with good faith actors while holding all localities accountable toward meeting our shared state housing goals. A two year grace period allows cities to craft and submit thoughtful housing plans which take into account the unique character of a community.

Coming from a low-income, working-class background that shaped my passion for public service, I know better than most that there’s a place for affordable housing in new development, lest we risk hollowing out the vibrant core of our diverse South Bay communities. Thoughtful progressive critics of previous versions of the bill voiced concerns about displacement, which is why I’m pleased that the amended version prioritizes 40 percent of new affordable housing units for current residents who live within a half mile of a given development.

As the clock runs down on our opportunity to address the climate crisis, SB 50 will be an essential tool for our state to meet ambitious carbon reduction goals. Without building housing which strengthens and relies upon a robust public transit system and is located near high-quality jobs, meeting these goals will be impossible.

Sitting on the Board of Directors of the Campbell Historical Museum, I have firsthand insight into how important our historical districts are, both in Campbell as well as in other small Bay Area cities and towns. These areas help give the West Valley region and the South Bay its unique character. The new form of SB 50 takes this into account and has exceptions for historical districts, as well as giving cities the flexibility to mandate that new development fit the aesthetic character of a neighborhood.

There’s no more important work for a council member than to articulate and realize a vision for the future of a community. My vision is one where our local cities maintain their unique character, yet are welcoming to new families and young professionals as well as longtime residents. It’s one where working families and those who are more well-off work hand in hand to make their neighborhoods better.

SB 50 can help us meet the needs of this moment in our state’s history. We can’t wait.

Sergio Lopez is a nonprofit leader and candidate for Campbell City Council. He graduated from Yale, works in youth leadership and civic engagement, and sits on the Board of Directors of the Campbell Historical Museum Foundation. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].

9 Comments

  1. > Coming from a low-income, working-class background that shaped my passion for public service, I know better than most that there’s a place for affordable housing in new development, lest we risk hollowing out the vibrant core of our diverse South Bay communities.

    What a pompous gasbag.

    All he is saying is that cheap housing is more desirable than expensive housing and — oh by the way — the foraging “masses” should some how or other “induce” (coerce, pressure, force, intimidate) housing providers to GIVE housing or housing concessions to HIS tribe members. (“current residents who live within a half mile of a given development”).

    Nothing about what his tribe members are going to do to participate in the housing market to EARN their housing. Only that SOMEONE ELSE is going to provide it for the tribe.

    A tribal shaman inciting tribal warfare.

  2. Whatever. This is just weird. Instead of repeating the mantra of “SB-50! SB-50!” explain how on earth this is suppose to make life better for anyone beyond developers. This valley is already bursting at the seams; how does shoving more units into it do ANYTHING for traffic, mass transit, schools, lack of open space and parks, water resources, etc? None of these issues are ever addressed. It is always all about the housing, which somehow leads to a better future, never mind the details.

    • That’s because the powers that be have declared a “CRISIS”. So of course, since we have a “CRISIS”, all rationality gets thrown out the window because the only thing that matters is that we solve the “CRISIS”.

  3. “The new form of SB 50 takes this into account and has exceptions for historical districts, as well as giving cities the flexibility to mandate that new development fit the aesthetic character of a neighborhood.”

    OK, please spell out the specifics…can a ten unit condo still pop into the middle of an R1 neighborhood?

    I’m skeptical because the previous mindset in SB50 was akin to carpet bombing – indiscriminately place high density housing anywhere without consideration of a range of locale and site specific circumstances.

    A more strategic approach to development would look at an area and assess available sites for development and tailor solutions to produce new housing while respecting existing residents as much as possible.

    In San Jose, there is still A LOT of land still undeveloped or underdeveloped.

    These underutilized locations should be priority sites for new housing, well before unleashing an SB-50 enabled Developer free-for-all where a ten unit condo suddenly pops up in the middle of an R1 neighborhood.

    If a State law was needed, I’d argue it’s not the broad SB50, but a specific law to compel Counties and Cities that land bank and do not make measurable progress toward housing at the sites they own to either develop or sell.

    Exhibit A: Santa Clara County who holds hundreds of acres of land in the undeveloped category, in some cases for decades, that could be used for housing. All of it near transit.

  4. Candidate Lopez, Thank you for the op-ed. I have not read AB50 and do not know what is in it. But I support it if it will make living in CA livable ahain because to do so it would have the following provisions.

    A – Require all employers and landlords to access the e-verify system to ensure only citizens and qualified immigrants can work and live in CA. This would free up roughly 500,000 units and raise working class wages 20%+.

    B – It disqualifies all CEQA lawsuits withing the UGB and it extends the UGBs of all the major population counties to thier counties borders. This would free up much needed land while reducing red tape costs, which amount to 40% of total, and drive a building wave enough to make every starter home in the area ~$250k.

    C – Make voucher available so minority parents can control the education of their children to reduce the 30% opportunity gap created by the CA public school system and the unions which protect them.

    D – That no bonds or CA statewide department of something is created to implement A-C, allowing the increase in property tax and disposable income to be used to improve the states infrastructure.

    If this is what AB 50 is, you have a difficult road ahead because the entire Dem apparatus, from the Governor to the union rank and file, and 60% of the CA voters are profiting tax deferred from it remaining unlivable.

  5. Kulak, none of what you said is apart of SB50. The bill takes away local jurisdictions rights and allows developers to build to a specific standard. This is a way for the state to get around the NIMBY attitude where local elected get voted out if they support development or aren’t voted in if they say they will. The housing crisis is because we don’t have enough housing. It is that simple. This bill will allow housing to be stuff, in specific areas, all over the state and the local jurisdictions can’t do anything about it. I am conservative, but I see this as a great opportunity for the state. This bill has many things wrong with it, but the idea is solid and we need the housing all over the state.

    The way this Op-Ed is worded disguises what is proposed. It is very progressive and many parts of this bill were not mentioned. We have to take some good with the bad. This bill isn’t written to help developers. The author has a history of being anti-business. The author of this Op-Ed is using this as a piece flaunt his progressive ideals, but isn’t being very forthcoming. This kid is damn near a socialist. He wants to take from those who have worked for it and give it to those who haven’t. He has a Robinhood mentality. It is ok to steal from those who have more than me because they have more and I want more.

    • > The housing crisis is because we don’t have enough housing. It is that simple.

      No. It’s that too many people DON’T WANT TO PAY for the housing quality and location THAT THEY IMAGINE THEY DESERVE.

    • Jonas, Thank you for the clarification. I agree the situation in CA can only be addressed by difficult action which addresses supply and/or demand. City councils are only one impediment, as I mention CEQA and other regulations significantly increase the costs in overhead and land costs. Santa Clara county has a relatively low population density compared to othe population centers globally.

      Candidate Lopez, If you really want to make life livable again in CA, only allowing the state to step on city councils will not be enough. The powerful who control thoses councils have a way of imposing their will at the state level as well. Your opportunity is to attack the problem at its core, which is supply, demand and equal access to the tools of opportunity, which CA and the current regime of progressive leaders are not failing miserably at.

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