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].