California state legislators seek to boost transit-oriented housing

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A bill introduced by California State Senators Scott Wiener, Nancy Skinner, and Assemblyman Phil Ting aims to promote housing developments located near major transit stops and corridors. By granting developers permitting shortcuts and exemptions from limits on, for example, density and floor area ratio (FAR), SB 827 could add millions of new residences nearby California’s public transit hubs.

The bill defines “transit-rich housing projects,” those that stand to benefit if the measure is implemented, as “a residential development project the parcels of which are all within a one-half mile radius of a major transit stop or a one-quarter mile radius of a high-quality transit corridor.” In addition to exempting such projects from maximum controls on density and FAR, the legislation would waive parking requirements, as well as ease height limitations.

If approved, the measure may improve housing affordability across the state. Furthermore, it may help boost public transit ridership as transit-oriented density increases and more residents gain easier access to major, convenient transportation stations.

Currently, California has approximately 1.16 million transit-oriented housing units. According to a McKinsey report on the benefits of transit-oriented development, California has the potential to add up to 3 million transit-rich units with measures comparable to those in the proposed bill.

In commenting on the bill and his goals, Senator Wiener said that “[California has] a severe housing shortage and part of the problem is that core areas with transit access don’t allow much housing. That creates sprawl, huge commutes, and it’s not sustainable.”

The measure, he added, will likely be heard in committee by March and voted upon by the fall.