Don't Blink - Senate Bill 1 is Coming


Senate Bill 1 will give new unelected bodies powers of taxation and eminent domain. Suburban neighborhoods can be deemed blighted to be replaced by high density housing.
Posted by Richard Hall , January 01, 2014

Should we return to high density housing?

Last year many of us were shocked by the enactment of Plan Bay Area. Now we face an even greater threat - Senate Bill 1. In the excellent BBC TV show "Doctor Who" one of the doctor's most fiendish opponents are the "Weeping Angels" (pictured). Whenever you blink these fiendish stone statues creep up on you and send you to a different time period.

Senate Bill 1, if enacted, could send us back to Dickensian London - dark days where those with lower incomes were relegated to living in crowded conditions in inner city high rises. Meanwhile the one percent, the only ones able to afford it, could escape to wealthy suburbs on trains.

Senate Bill 1 is just like the weeping angels. While none of us were looking on May 28th it was passed by the state senate. Then on September 9th it was passed by the state assembly. It lies on the Governor's desk - now all that remains is for Governor Brown to sign it into law. If we blink - it will become law, unless we act.

Senate Bill 1 is the work of State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg - you remember, the senate leader who receives campaign donations from the construction industry, developers, builders' unions, train manufacturers...

Senate Bill 1 has passed the State Assembly, all that remains for it to become enacted is for Governor Jerry Brown to sign and enact it. Senate Bill 1 is up there with Plan Bay Area. In fact I must correct myself, this is far, far worse than Plan Bay Area.

UPDATE (Jan 1st 8:50pm):
I've been reliably informed that SB1 was modified and consequently must be voted on by the state senate before it goes to Governor Browns desk for signature. This means we have an additional chance to stop SB1 if we contact State Senators - you can find links to all their contact forms here.

Simply send each senator an email using the form, clearly asking them to vote against Senate Bill 1 and explaining why. (Unelected bodies being given powers of eminent domain and taxation, vague definition of "blighted", flawed assumptions that transit is greener than cars and light trucks...)

What's All the Fuss with Senate Bill 1?

Here is a picture of the future under Senate Bill 1... (warning, R rating!)

- A city mayor or county supervisor forms a new joint powers authority called a "Sustainable Communities Investment Authority" (SCIA), they appoint elected officials to serve on the SCIAs board.

- If you live within 1/2 mile of a bus that runs every 15 minutes, or the SMART train or Caltrain in a single family home neighborhood your neighborhood can be targeted by the SCIA as inefficient land use and "blighted" as it is not high density multi-family housing. Almost everyone reading this in Marin (apart from some Steve Kinsey constituents in Western Marin) is therefore affected - I have seen the map with these 1/2 mile radiuses and it covers almost all Marinites.

- The SCIA can then wield the power of eminent domain to purchase unused, for sale or even occupied land in order to build high density multi-family housing - that it deems to be efficient land use.

- The SCIA can then impose local taxes on us to pay not just for the eminent domain purchases but to help the land developer build by subsidizing the building of high density housing.

- In order to meet criteria in SB1 allowing imposition of local taxes the SCIA must impose "a sustainable parking standards ordinance" that restricts parking in transit priority project areas to encourage transit use to the greatest extent feasible". Yes you read that right, "to the greatest extent feasible". This could mean anything from reducing available parking, to introducing parking permits and parking meters.

Are you outraged? Can you believe this is even being considered in 2014 America? Don't believe me - the read the full analysis of Senate Bill 1.

How Can You Help Stop Senate Bill 1?
Unfortunately our state legislators were asleep at the wheel and the State Assembly passed this bill. They blinked. The one remaining act able to preventing enactment is Governor Jerry Brown's veto.

This means that in the next few days, if you object, you can do one of the following:

1) Most Effective - Write a Letter to Governor Brown
Take the copy of the letter that I wrote and adapt it.

Here's the letter that I sent to Governor Brown for you to adapt (Google Docs)

Don't send an identical version:
- put your address at the top
- rephrase it (we don't want dozens of cloned letters)
- shorten it
- be sure to sign it
- MAIL IT QUICKLY before the Governor signs SB1 into law.
-mail it to:

Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

2) Next most Effective: Call Governor Brown's Office
Here's the phone number: (916) 445-2841

It would be good for the governor's office to be inundated with calls from concerned California voters. Explain your concerns. Ask him to veto the bill. Demand that this bill is better publicized and that there is proper public outreach.

3) Email - Easiest, but least Effective
Email Governor Brown. Leverage the content in my letter above.To email the governor use this form. Select "OTHER". Request a reply. Then in the subject put "Please Veto Senate Bill 1 (SCIA)" (or something to that effect).

Alternatively instead of using the form you can email the governor at .

Cc Your State Assemblyman
I would also encourage you to send a copy of your letter to your state assembly representative:

If you live in Marin or Sonoma this is Marc Levine - we need to ride Marc who actually voted for Senate Bill 1. My understanding is that he did not fully understand this bill. He is also under pressure to vote for this bill from his party's leader. Use this form to contact Marc Levine.

If you live elsewhere find your state assembly representative using this map of state assembly districts which links you to your representative's website. Their website should have a contact form.

Why On Earth are they Pushing Senate Bill 1?
Senate Bill 1 is being pushed for a range of reasons:

1) To Fight Climate Change
Like other green legislation SB1 is based on the questionable, if not flawed concept of transit oriented development. This is flawed as it presumes transit creates less greenhouse gas emissions than cars and light trucks. However here is the real present day US emissions situation:

- transit achieves 36.2 passenger miles per gallon on average (assumes average vehicle occupancy of 1.67 passengers per vehicle based on the National Household Travel Survey, 2009)
- cars and light trucks achieve 43.9 passenger miles per gallon

As you may know by now the higher the mpg or passenger mpg the lower the greenhouse gas emissions. So a higher mpg figure is better.

What's even more important is that not only are cars and light trucks already cleaner than transit, they are getting cleaner at a much faster rate. In the San Francisco region (metropolitan area) Forbes reports that one in ten new cars sold is a hybrid so the emissions for cars are even better than portrayed by the national figures presented above.

2) To Help the Construction Industry
The construction industry is one of Darrell Steinberg's greatest campaign donators. Steinberg is the author of SB1. SB1 states:

"The construction industry has been one of the sectors hardest hit by the economic downturn of recent years. Creating incentives for construction can help restore construction and permanent jobs, which are essential for a restoration of prosperity."

But if one looks at the actual US Department of Labor state figures for California in 2013 now one can see that construction industry employment is growing at a near consistent 5% (year on year) - this seems very healthy. The Associated General Contractors of America 2013 report shows California as gaining the most construction industry jobs of any state.

3) Steinberg's Donors?
While one can never directly join the dots, here's a quick breakdown of Steinberg's donors:

- Public Sector Unions $587,585; this group benefits as public works helps build the infrastructure (roads, water mains, sewers...) for new high density housing
- Railroads $45,000; this constituent group is achieving dividends through a major over-emphasis on rail instead of buses to serve Steinberg's new "sustainable communities". Includes BNSF Railway
- Building Trade Unions $445,160; need I elaborate here?
- Real Estate $201,929; likely developers
- Finance - major donors include Citigroup, Deloitte and Touche, Price Waterhouse Coopers, KPMG

4) Reducing Commute Times for Employees
I have yet to figure out how flooding areas with high density housing, on flimsy evidence that there will be reduced auto usage, will in any way reduce commute times. It would seem that with the road system nearing capacity, and per capita transit ridership dropping despite massive investments in transit since the 1980s, that this is a recipe to really jam up the Bay Area.

5) More Affordable Housing & Transportation
We saw what happened with Plan Bay Area. That plan also sought to achieve the same savings. However it actually increased the amount of income lower and lower-middle income workers needed to spend on transportation from 66% to 69%.

It would seem that our legislators just want us to build until they deem housing to be "affordable". They won't tell us where the finish line is - we should just keep building and boiling the ocean.

A New Years Resolution

So as you and your children write thank you letters for what you received as gifts this year, why not add one more letter to your outbound mail: a letter to our state's governor that not only demonstrates how much value you place on where you live now, but seeks to preserve the quality of life for all of us and our children in the years to come. Perhaps you're already in front of a keyboard right now, start writing...

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.
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Comments + Leave a Comment
Bob Ratto December 31, 2013 at 04:55 PM
Great job Richard. It was easy to modify your letter, I took it from Google Docs, put it in Word, did my edits, put in mail-took all of about 5-8 minutes start to finish...Have a great New Year
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Richard Hall December 31, 2013 at 05:10 PM
Thanks Bob. Yes this is the one "thank you" letter that everyone in the Bay Area should be sending in the New Year.
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Tina McMillan December 31, 2013 at 06:02 PM
Thank you!! SB1 is a terrifying abyss of muddled concepts wrapped in Green Paper that suggest a permanent fix to everything from climate change to poverty. Just imagine one government agency with the power to decide land us and planning decisions simply based on their existence. In 2012 in an effort to resurrect the RDA's which were closed to save 1 Billion in tax revenues and redirect them to schools and the general fund, Steinberg and DeSaulnier authored these bills: ==========================================

SB1220 DeSaulnier and Steinberg Housing Opportunity and Market Stabilization Trust Fund Act The bill would make legislative findings and declarations relating to the need for establishing permanent, ongoing sources of funding dedicated to affordable housing development. and ==========================================

2012 SB1156 Steinberg Sustainable Communities Investment Authority Vetoed by Brown This bill linked the reduction greenhouse gases with transit-oriented development and the creation of walkable communities.


SB1 goes much further because it will need to generate 1 billion in tax revenues to recreate the closed RDA's and to add a brand new branch of state government. As you read through the bill it is unclear where the revenues will come from and how they will affect Governor Brown's attempt to balance a budget that still lacks the funding for local schools to buy new textbooks to teach the new Core Curriculum Standards.


Please, if you do anything in the New Year, write to Brown to say NO to SB1.e
Susan Kirsch December 31, 2013 at 07:33 PM

Thanks for making it easy to take action. Some people like the quote "Where there is no vision, the people perish," but with SB1, it's more appropriate to think "Where there's no action, the people perish.'

Al Dugan January 01, 2014 at 01:47 PM

John Parnell January 01, 2014 at 03:00 PM
Thanks Richard. Another good article & call to action. I misunderstood the status of SB1. I thought Steinberg had shelved it. I didn't realize it had passed both houses & was awaiting Gov. Brown's signature.

Tina McMillan January 01, 2014 at 03:22 PM
That's why its so important to keep letting Gov Brown know that this level of regional planning and redirection of tax revenues is not in the state's best interests. If you look at the two previous bills they were much more focused. Brown vetoed one and the other didn't get enough votes. We don't know how much pressure there is to pass it. We do know that Levine and Leno voted yes.

Stephen Nestel January 01, 2014 at 03:34 PM
Richard, Thanks for taking the time to write this. SB-1 is THE MOST important legislation this year to stop. It provides UNLIMITED powers of eminent domain to local governments to redevelop suburbs WITHOUT THE CONSENT of the Local people. It must be stopped. It is most certainly Unconstitutional and a immoral affront to our democracy.

Mimi Steel January 01, 2014 at 05:04 PM
I agree with everything that Richard says with one minor exception. Before this bill goes to the Governor, it has to pass the STATE SENATE. What happened last year was that the bill was passed by the State Senate and sent to the Assembly. The Assembly made some significant modifications and they ran out of time to reconsider in 2013. So the first step is to CALL YOUR STATE SENATOR and tell them to vote NO. Hopefully we can head this off at the pass.

Tina McMillan January 01, 2014 at 07:16 PM
It looks like the authors moved the bill to the Inactive File. I believe due to redistricting Noreen Evans is our current representative and that there will be an election this fall to replace her.


"INACTIVE FILE The portion of the Daily File containing legislation that is ready for floor consideration, but, for a variety of reasons, is dormant. An author may move a bill to the inactive file if he or she wishes to take it up at a later date. Once a bill is on the inactive file, one day’s public notice is needed to place it back on the agenda." ==========================================

It may be worth writing to Brown, Evans and Levine to once again make clear that creating yet another government agency that will make land use and planning decisions for communities that will result in taxes being used to pay for these decisions is simply a recreation of the RDA with more power. DeSaulnier and Steinberg tried the same thing in 2012 and its likely they will keep trying. Levine and Leno both voted for this bill when it went through the first time. We need to ask ourselves why Levine is voting against the platform he ran under and who will run against him that actually is capable of independent thought.

Mimi Steel January 01, 2014 at 07:56 PM
Tina, Several people from Contra Costa County presented Gov Brown with a letter entitled "Declaration of Opposition to Stop SB1", signed by over 700 people from all around the State. As a followup to that letter, we are requesting that everyone call their State Senator starting Jan 6. Here is the link to the State Senators. Call as many as you can. Let them know that there is serious objection to this bill and we don't want it to go to the Governor. KILL THE BILL, NOW

Roger January 02, 2014 at 12:11 PM
Tina: It is nice to see you commenting on the San Rafael Patch. Were you kicked off the Novato Patch or did you just decide to leave due to the rude personal attacks?

novato 3per January 02, 2014 at 12:21 PM

Tina McMillan January 02, 2014 at 01:12 PM
Roger: Good to see you too. Without Brent it seemed like the distinction between passionate debate and personal attacks got buried. ===========================================

I think its best to write your own blogs with the new format. Richard's apply to all of us. Land use legislation and the ability to generate tax revenue to recreate the RDA's is what they have been trying to do since Gov Brown closed them. ==============================================================================

Novato is in a precarious position because our tax base is not covering costs. Did you get a chance to attend the North Redwood Charettes and read the retail leakage study? It's the first time in many years that the city has focused on our commercial development. I think we need to keep the momentum up. SB1 would shift it into housing rather than commercial retail.

johnlweber January 02, 2014 at 04:15 PM
Great job!!!! Except, we have to play the "Name That Political Party" game. I wonder which political party the players are in? Hmmm Since there's no mention of it, they must be Democrats. And what do you know? I'm right. The "Always Out for The Little Guy"..."Against Special Interests" Democrats. Great to live in a one party state!!!

Tina McMillan January 02, 2014 at 07:48 PM
DeSaulnier started out as a Republican when Pete Wilson appointed him to the Contra Costa county board of Supervisors in 1994 and over time became a Democrat. I think political party is less important than the division between the fanatical TOD/One Bay Area proponents and the more moderate advocates of an approach to land use that incorporates conservation and a balance between preserving the environment and creating jobs. The real danger is that both DeSaulnier and Steinberg keep authoring bills that will divert tax dollars into what will become the new RDA. Brown can only veto these bills for so long but if any were to get through it would have the same impact as SB375. If you get a chance read SB1. It has so many different things in it that it looks more like pork barrel legislation.

Stephen Nestel January 03, 2014 at 02:07 AM
Plan Bay Area is all about Money and Power. SB-1 gives these creeps unlimited power to make money off the taxpayers back with absolute authority and ability to redevelop with little oversight. It is not "if" corruption will happen again in the "new and improved" redevelopment agencies, it is how much will happen before we stop it. No government should have tyrannical rule over the citizens.

Sylvia Lacock Marino January 03, 2014 at 11:17 AM
State Senator deferred to cover the southern portion of Marin appears to be Noreen Evans Sacramento office - 916-651-4002 San Rafael office - 415-479-6612