Dear Palo Altans 

I want to bring your attention to the proposed Senate Bill 35 (SB 35), which would pre-empt local discretionary land use authority. It would provide approvals of multifamily developments that meet inadequate criteria by using “ministerial” actions, bypassing the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and public input.

I urge you to write to our Senator Jerry Hill and Palo Alto City Council. (See below for a sample letter provided by the California League of Cities, which is officially opposing this bill.) Please write ASAP.

While SB 35 is made out to address the state’s housing needs, it would nevertheless be virtually impossible to build affordable housing because SB 35 requires that all housing built under this mandate must ensure that the “prevailing wage” requirement is included in all contracts, including subcontractors, for the performance of the work. Low-cost housing will not be low cost to build.

On average, “affordable housing” costs approximately $500,000 - $600,000 per unit to build around the Peninsula. Requiring affordable housing to be built exclusively by union workers will mean that the units will not be “affordable” without taxpayer subsidies. Taxpayers = we residents mostly. The ramifications due to these developments will be huge, including traffic congestion; parking issues; overburdened city services such as the use of public parks and open space, schools and so much more.

SB 35 will have significant impacts on our communities and many other communities in California.  The author of the bill redefines the geographic terms “suburban” and “urban” in order to subject communities to fast-track “by-right rule,” fostering high-density housing. Under his definition, even a village is an “urban cluster” which could mean that even cities such as Los Gatos, Saratoga, Woodside and Portola Valley could be designated as “urban”, thereby allowing big-time developers to build without the pesky environmental review or public engagement and input. Palo Alto, under the leadership of the past and present pro-development Council majority, has made certain that Palo Alto fits under the “urban” criteria.

Former San Francisco Supervisor, now Senator, Scott Wiener, is the author of SB 35 and is strongly supported by construction trades unions. SB 35 is one of many bills trying to exploit the affordable housing crisis to the benefit of the author’s financial supporters at the expense of residents.

What can you do?

1)  You can use the sample letter of opposition on the California League of Cities website, .

  • In the highlighted CITY OF CITY, please enter "resident of City of Palo Alto".
  • Scroll down to the yellow highlighted section and enter any specific examples of the impact of this bill on your city/town (delete the highlighted text)

2)   Write letters declaring that this bill, SB 35, violates your democratic rights and it must be OPPOSED. Email addresses as follows:

3) The sample letter below is a reduced and edited version of the sample letter from the California League of Cities opposing SB 35. Feel free to copy and use it instead.

Dear XXXX,

I am a resident/citizen of the City of Palo Alto and I am writing in opposition of Senate Bill 35 (Wiener) and urge you to oppose SB 35.

SB 35 would pre-empt local discretionary land use authority by making approvals of multifamily developments that meet inadequate criteria into “ministerial” actions thereby bypassing the California Environmental Quality (CEQA) and public input.

Eliminating opportunities for environmental and public review of major multifamily developments goes against the principles of local democracy and public engagement. Public hearings allow members of the community to inform their representative of their support or concerns. SB 35’s purported “streamlining” in the context of SB 35 does not allow for the democratic process and will only increase public distrust in government and additional ballot measures dealing with growth management.

Please oppose Senate Bill 35: It is not fitting under the basic guidelines that help govern how democracy work – Equity, Representation, Freedom and Justice.



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