Op-Ed: SB 827 is a Gentrification Bomb

California Bill will Incentivize Gentrification of Already Vulnerable Neighborhoods
Dyan Ruiz, Joseph Smooke | 03/30/2018


There’s a new bill in California ready to set off the biggest gentrification bomb the state has ever seen. Introduced by California Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco and northern San Mateo County, Senate Bill 827 allows the state to override and approve new zoning for residences around a major transit hubs and corridors-- so buildings near transit can be taller and more dense.

Seems like it’s using all the buzzwords of good urban planning. So what’s wrong with this bill?

#1 Gentrification

It’s going to cause gentrification and displacement in already vulnerable communities-- working class neighborhoods and communities of color.

If your landlord decides to cash in and tear down the building you’re renting-- you’ll have no real recourse. Sure the developer or landlord is supposed to help you under the new bill, but without any existing or future enforcement, how effective do you think that will be?

Once those new buildings come up, the luxury prices are going to increase rents in the area by creating a new comparable value. And there’s no requirements for affordability for these new buildings that this bill will incentivize.

And no, the trickle down theory that building a bunch of new expensive housing will make things cheaper for everyone in some fantastical future, doesn’t work in this bill or any developer incentive.

#2 Less People Taking Transit

SB 827 will eventually lead to less people taking transit. Why? As gentrification does its thing, it’ll mean wealthier people moving into transit-rich areas. And lower income people moving out.

Studies have shown that when property values around transit hubs go up, less people use public transit. Why? Because rich people like to drive, or take Uber, or tech shuttles. They don’t use public transit, they like private modes of transportation.

Meanwhile, the priced out former residents that actually use transit are going to have move far away, and probably commute long hours to their work or their old neighborhood.

#3 Free Value

SB 827 gives value to landowners and developers. Just by signing the bill, Senator Wiener automatically increases the value of land around transit. The more you can build on land, the more it’s worth. They don’t even have to build on that property to realize that new value.

#4 Deregulation

SB 827 overrides local controls-- which means that developers will automatically get more height and density just by asking for it. And deregulation means more profit. 

You better believe they’re not going pass the savings on to the people actually buying the condos or renting the units. They’re going to pocket the extra profits for themselves or their shareholders.

So you might get kicked out of your home, your neighborhood will probably get gentrified, and less people are going to be taking public transit. And for what? So that landowners can get instant added value on their properties and developers get more profit? Sounds like bad public policy.

For more, read our extensive analysis on People Power Media. I’m Dyan Ruiz for People Power Media.