Planners for SB 50: Sign Our Open Letter!

M. Nolan Gray
3 min readApr 7, 2019

Are you…

  • …a practicing city planner?
  • …a member of the American Planning Association?
  • …a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners?

Do you support SB 50?

If so, please consider signing our open letter to the California Chapter of the American Planning Association, which has wrongly decided to oppose SB 50. Read the full text below. A Google Doc can be found here; we will start adding signatures on Monday, April 8.

To the California Chapter of the American Planning Association:

We the undersigned represent a national coalition of practicing urban planners, members of the American Planning Association (APA), and members of the American Institute of Certified Planning (AICP). Although we differ on a range of questions, we are united in our view that the California APA Chapter’s opposition to Senate Bill 50 (“SB 50”) does not reflect our considered judgment as planners. On the contrary, given the gravity of California’s housing affordability crisis and the thoughtful design of this legislation, we urge the California APA Chapter to switch its official position on SB 50 to “Support.”

California is in the midst of a severe housing affordability crisis, brought on in no small measure by the state’s system of local land-use regulation. Many of California’s transit- and job-rich communities are locked in amber, with mechanisms like single-family zoning and excessive discretionary review blocking the construction of needed housing. This has driven housing costs to unsustainable levels, in turn displacing vulnerable communities, perpetuating racial and economic segregation, and giving rise to destructive “supercommutes.”

This status quo is plainly indefensible. Thankfully, SB 50 is narrowly tailored to address this crisis by requiring that cities allow multifamily housing where it is needed most: near transit and jobs. As designed, the legislation not only adds desperately needed housing but would add it in a way that facilitates walkable, multi-modal, sustainable lifestyles. Furthermore, this legislation wisely incorporates protections for tenants at risk of displacement and communities historically marginalized by our profession. All things considered, SB 50 reflects the “best practices” of contemporary planning.

While we can appreciate some of the California APA Chapter’s constructive feedback on SB 50, opposition to this legislation on the basis of minor procedural concerns is inappropriate. The incongruence between what we all agree SB 50 gets right and the California APA Chapter’s stated concerns leaves many us shocked by the chapter’s decision to oppose this legislation. The California APA Chapter can and should pursue these some of these requested reforms, either as amendments to the bill or in follow up legislation, but a position of “Oppose Unless Amended” is irresponsible and unjustified.

As planners, we have an ethical and professional obligation to “expand choice and opportunity for all persons, recognizing a special responsibility to plan for the needs of the disadvantaged and to promote racial and economic integration.” Toward this end, we the undersigned write to express our personal support of SB 50, and we respectfully ask that the California APA Chapter revise its position with regard to SB 50 to one of “Support.”


[We will start adding signatories on April 8th]

cc: Senator Scott Wiener, Governor’s Office; Governor’s Office of Planning and Research; Members of the California State Assembly; Members of the California State Senate

Join the growing movement: sign today!

M. Nolan Gray

the once and future city planner // research director at california yimby // author of "arbitrary lines" ❤️