Sears and other vacant businesses could become housing under new bills

Peninsula Premier Admin

Two new housing bills are awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature. If passed, both would expedite the process for developers to build housing on commercially zoned land. “Frankly, in any housing development, the amount of time that passes in creating a project costs money. So every delay there is or every step in the process that takes more time means there’s additional cost to create the project. And that ends up being an impediment, especially in affordable projects where the money is scarce,” said Don Lane, the governing board chair for Housing Santa Cruz County. Senate Bill 6, by Salinas Sen. Anna Caballero, would expedite the process to permit housing in commercial zones if developers use some union labor. Assembly Bill 2011, by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, would also fast-track housing development on empty commercial zones, including bypassing the California Environmental Quality Act. However, developers are required to pay union-level wages and meet housing affordability requirements. Up until last week, the two bills were in opposition to one another. The main point of contention was the type of labor force to use and support. Senate Bill 6 does not require unionized workers but promises higher wages, while AB 2011 requires at least some unionized workforce. If both bills receive Newsom’s approval, there would be more opportunity than before to convert empty parking lots, storefronts and businesses throughout California into as many as 1.6 million housing units. “Many communities have seen vacant retail stay vacant for a really long time. And it doesn’t generate any revenue for the community. And then you start to see vandalism, graffiti, broken windows,” Caballero said. When it comes to building more housing, a common barrier faced by California cities is the amount of available land. “I think of Salinas as an island surrounded by green and blue water. We’re surrounded by green agricultural land, and that’s actually in the county. And it is protected in many cases, protected ag land,” said Lisa Brinton, a planning manager for Salinas. To address the issue of limited space, Salinas has already rezoned parts of the city into mixed-used spaces and looked to convert empty shopping lots into housing. Some possible locations include the vacant Sears, Kmart and Orchard Supply buildings and parking lots.

Two new housing bills are awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature. If passed, both would expedite the process for developers to build housing on commercially zoned land.

“Frankly, in any housing development, the amount of time that passes in creating a project costs money. So every delay there is or every step in the process that takes more time means there’s additional cost to create the project. And that ends up being an impediment, especially in affordable projects where the money is scarce,” said Don Lane, the governing board chair for Housing Santa Cruz County.

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Senate Bill 6, by Salinas Sen. Anna Caballero, would expedite the process to permit housing in commercial zones if developers use some union labor.

Assembly Bill 2011, by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, would also fast-track housing development on empty commercial zones, including bypassing the California Environmental Quality Act. However, developers are required to pay union-level wages and meet housing affordability requirements.

Up until last week, the two bills were in opposition to one another. The main point of contention was the type of labor force to use and support. Senate Bill 6 does not require unionized workers but promises higher wages, while AB 2011 requires at least some unionized workforce.

If both bills receive Newsom’s approval, there would be more opportunity than before to convert empty parking lots, storefronts and businesses throughout California into as many as 1.6 million housing units.

“Many communities have seen vacant retail stay vacant for a really long time. And it doesn’t generate any revenue for the community. And then you start to see vandalism, graffiti, broken windows,” Caballero said.

When it comes to building more housing, a common barrier faced by California cities is the amount of available land.

“I think of Salinas as an island surrounded by green and blue water. We’re surrounded by green agricultural land, and that’s actually in the county. And it is protected in many cases, protected ag land,” said Lisa Brinton, a planning manager for Salinas.

To address the issue of limited space, Salinas has already rezoned parts of the city into mixed-used spaces and looked to convert empty shopping lots into housing. Some possible locations include the vacant Sears, Kmart and Orchard Supply buildings and parking lots.

Contributed by local news sources

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