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California tech executives back bill to increase homebuilding near transit

Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian is one of more than 100 tech executives backing housing legislation from Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)
Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian is one of more than 100 tech executives backing housing legislation from Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

More than 120 top executives of California tech companies and venture capital firms are supporting high-profile state legislation aimed at dramatically increasing housing production.

The executives, including Marc Benioff of Salesforce, Logan Green of Lyft, Jeremy Stoppelman of Yelp, Alexis Ohanian of Reddit, Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Reid Hoffman, who co-founded LinkedIn, said that the state’s housing crisis makes it hard to recruit and retain employees and is pushing tech firms to relocate out of the state.

“The lack of homebuilding in California imperils our ability to hire employees and grow our companies,” the group said in a letter dated Wednesday to Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), the author of Senate Bill 827. “We recognize that the housing shortage leads to displacement, crushing rent burdens, long commutes, and environmental harm, and we want to be part of the solution.”

Wiener’s bill would eliminate most local zoning restrictions near L.A. Metro stops and other transit stations around the state, allowing for a significant increase in new housing development in those areas. The legislation would allow local governments to impose four- to eight-story height limits depending on how close a neighborhood is to a transit stop.

Wiener introduced the legislation earlier this month, and it already has attracted strong reaction.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo endorsed the bill over the weekend.

By contrast, other local government officials warn that it would change their cities too much. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín has called the legislation “a declaration of war against our neighborhoods.” Some community activists in South Los Angeles argue the measure would speed gentrification by incentivizing high-end construction.

SB 827 has yet to be scheduled for a committee hearing.

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