Gov. Gavin Newsom had some catching up to do when he returned to California after three days in New York City spent touting his administration’s climate policy achievements at Climate Week NYC. On his desk: a stack of roughly 650 bills awaited his signature or veto before a Sept. 30 deadline.
Among the bills he signed almost immediately: a proposal to ban cities from requiring new developments near public transit to set aside space specifically for parking.
“Reducing housing costs for everyday Californians and eliminating emissions from cars: That’s what we call a win-win,” Newsom said in a statement.
For supporters of the bill, authored by Assemblymember Laura Friedman, a Burbank Democrat, it was a fitting conclusion to the governor’s week of climate advocacy. Advocates argue that the measure will allow for denser, less car-dependent homes and businesses, while also cutting the price tag of building them.
Ethan Elkind, director of the UC Berkeley School of Law’s climate program, said, “Parking requirements are a major obstacle to that type of development getting built. … It’s a no-brainer.”
But like any bill that touches on housing policy, local control or car culture, the debate drew strange coalitions to either side.
Supporting it: “Yes In My Backyard” activists, urban planners, Libertarians and environmental activists.
Against it: The regular anti-density activists, but also Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and some anti-poverty nonprofits who argued that parking is one of the regulatory requirements that can be eased to incentivize more affordable housing. (The bill’s backers argue that isn’t likely, and the governor said the state will make sure the law doesn’t undermine local affordable housing incentives.)
Friedman’s bill isn’t the most monumental housing proposal in recent California memory. But it’s a part of a distinct trend as the housing affordability crisis gets more attention. This year the governor also signed a bill allowing for the conversion of empty storefronts into apartments. Last year, Newsom green-lighted the construction of duplexes in most of the state’s neighborhoods. That followed a series of new laws making it easier for homeowners to build granny flats.
No wonder some YIMBYs are declaring a tentative kind of victory. In California politics, to be pro-housing now seems to be the mainstream position.
—Ben Christopher, CalMatters.org