Senate Bill 827 | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photos by Adrian Scott Fine/L.A. Conservancy

Senate Bill 827

Senate Bill 827: Wrong for Preservation 

In January, Senator Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Senate Bill 827 (SB 827). It was most recently amended on March 1, 2018. While still early in the legislative process (we anticipate the bill going to the Transportation and Housing Committee sometime in April), SB 827 is generating a heated discussion across California and especially throughout greater Los Angeles.

At its core SB 827 is attempting to address the escalating statewide affordable housing crisis by easing local land use controls and directing new, high-density housing development along transit lines.

The Conservancy and others who have come out in opposition believe the bill, as currently written, will have dramatic unintended consequences, including curtailing transit infrastructure investments and expansion, incentivizing and increasing the speculative value of land near transit, and displacing low-income residents in existing rental units. Most importantly, the bill will potentially destroy the character and livability of entire older and historic neighborhoods.

At its essence, SB 827 seeks to automatically increase zoning densities and building heights for “transit-rich” housing projects along “high-quality” transit lines. As defined in the bill, a transit-rich housing project is “a residential development project the parcels of which are all within a 1/2 mile radius of a major transit stop or a 1/4 mile radius of a stop on a high-quality transit.” High-quality transit lines include corridors with bus services that have no more than 15-minute intervals during peak commute periods, which equates to large areas of nearly every city. 

As a result, older single-family neighborhoods are ground zero for this bill which instead favors an across-the-board increase in density and up to 45 to 85 feet in height, depending on the width of the street. This translates to an eight-story-high apartment building within a quarter-mile of a major transit stop or transit corridor, or a building of four-to-five stories within a half-mile of a major transit stop or a transit corridor.

While the intent may be good, the bill is highly problematic, as it assumes a one-size-fits-all solution and blunt, statewide fix that outstrips local authority and planning, and does not recognize the diversity of development statewide let alone throughout greater Los Angeles. It lumps all cities together and ignores concerted efforts some are making in providing affordable housing through thoughtful planning efforts.

SB 827 ignores the strides cities are making in allowing for increased density and implementing new tools and recently-enacted statewide legislation, such as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).  

If enacted, the bill would pose a significant an immediate threat to older and historic neighborhoods. It will circumvent local planning laws and up-zone large swaths of land area and exempt parts of projects from discretionary review, even those currently afforded protection and design review through local historic districts (Historic Preservation Overlay Zone HPOZ in Los Angeles) and other forms of overlay zoning. The vast majority of older neighborhoods will be at serious risk.

Current opposition to the bill far outweighs support, including from the League of California Cities, the Coalition for Economic Survival, the California Preservation Foundation, and many other local, regional and statewide groups that have expressed strong concerns about SB 827.

In March 2018 the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to oppose the bill. The Conservancy attended to speak out in opposition to the current version of the bill. 

Throughout California and greater Los Angeles we need to provide increased density and transit-oriented development that also offers high-quality and affordable housing, but SB 827, as currently written, is the wrong tool for the job.

We will keep you posted as soon as we have more details, including the date that SB 827 will go before to the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.