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McGuire vows to push forward with shelved housing bill

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A landmark bill to spur housing development statewide, including near transit centers such as the North Bay’s commuter train line, will be revived next year after being shelved this week by a committee chairman, state Sen. Mike McGuire said Friday.

McGuire, who co-authored Senate Bill 50, said he intended to work through summer and fall to improve the legislation, which seeks pave the way for denser residential development near job centers and transit stops. The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday dealt the legislation a critical blow by designating it a “two-year bill,” a move that blocks it from advancing until January.

In a lengthy interview Friday, the Healdsburg Democrat and former Sonoma County supervisor said it was unclear what specific changes were needed to secure the approval of the appropriations committee and its leader, Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge. McGuire expressed his desire to work with both supporters and opponents to find common ground while insisting that some version of the controversial bill must be passed to increase housing production.

“This is the most important housing legislation in decades, and we all have to compromise to be able to get this job done,” said McGuire.

“The strategy of ‘no’ no longer works when it comes to housing legislation,” he said, adding that he thought “no neighborhood should see dramatic change, but every neighborhood should see some change.”

McGuire cited a state report from 2018 that showed California needed to create 1.5 million new homes by 2025 that its poorest residents could afford.

A separate study published earlier this month by the California Housing Partnership, a nonprofit created by the state Legislature, estimated that Sonoma County alone needed about 16,300 more affordable rental units to meet current demand.

“We have a massive challenge facing this economy, and that’s the lack of workforce affordable housing,” said McGuire, the assistant Senate majority leader.

Committee chairmen such as Portantino have full authority to decide whether a bill passes or not out of their committee.

McGuire said that, to his knowledge, Portantino had not requested any specific amendments.

Portantino did not respond to a request for an interview Friday about Senate Bill 50 and the decision to delay the bill.

He told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday he was particularly concerned with provisions that could add denser housing in existing neighborhoods served by bus routes.

Proponents are mulling changes to the bill to ensure that a share of units in certain housing developments be set aside as affordable, and tweaks to address concerns over local parking requirements and development near bus lines, McGuire said.

If the bill’s proponents amend the current version, they would have to shepherd the bill to the full Senate by the end of January, which McGuire described as the slowest time of the legislative year.

SB 50 was forged through a compromise with its main author, Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco.

That deal allowed the bill to make key progress, and though McGuire was heartened to have a supporter of SB 50 in Gov. Gavin Newsom, he acknowledged that Thursday’s legislative maneuvering had dealt the bill a clear setback.

But, McGuire said, “that is not going to stop us from continuing.”

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