SAN FRANCISCO -- Bigger, taller apartment buildings surrounding your neighborhood BART station? More than 100 California tech leaders are enthusiastically saying yes, please.
Tech titans including the CEOs of Salesforce, Twitter, Lyft, Yelp and Mozilla on Wednesday signed a letter applauding SB 827, the controversial bill Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, proposed earlier this month. The bill would usurp cities' building rules by requiring them to allow denser housing developments within a half-mile of transit hubs such as BART, Caltrain and Muni stations, and within a quarter-mile of bus lines.
On Wednesday, 130 tech executives and venture capital partners said they "solidly support" the plan in a letter addressed to Wiener.
"The lack of homebuilding in California imperils our ability to hire employees and grow our companies," the leaders wrote. "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."
The sky-high cost of housing in the Bay Area has made it hard for local tech companies to recruit and retain employees, leading many to ramp up hiring in other states, according to the letter.
Local employees who do stay face growing challenges. Many endure "punishingly long commutes," or spend half their income on rent, the leaders wrote. And Caltrain and BART don't necessarily help them shorten their commutes. SB 827 would change that, by opening the door for more people to live near near transit, according to the letter.
"California's housing shortage is a major threat to our economy," Wiener wrote in an emailed statement. "I'm glad these business leaders get it and are taking a bold stand for more housing."
But not everyone thinks the senator's proposal is a good idea. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin describes it as an "extreme reactive approach" to the housing crisis that will lead to more tear-downs and more evictions. State law exempts newer buildings from rent control.
"Why should we be incentivizing owners to find ways to force out tenants so they can jack up rents?" he asked.
Wednesday's letter is a product of the YIMBY movement -- a network of organizers who say "Yes in my backyard" to new housing development. The activists recently went around gathering signatures from tech executives in support of SB 827.
"I'm very excited to see employers stepping up to this," said Laura Foote Clark, executive director of YIMBY Action.
As tech companies pump money into the region and housing prices continue to rise, there's been a growing call for companies to take part in housing solutions. Google is heeding the call by backing the development of nearly 10,000 homes in North Bayshore, a plan approved by the Mountain View City Council last month. And Google is working on a 20,000-worker transit-oriented campus at San Jose's Diridon Station, which also may include Google housing. Meanwhile, Facebook is planning to build 1,500 homes on its expanded Willow Campus in Menlo Park.
Neither Facebook nor Google signed Wednesday's letter, but Facebook spokesman Jamil Walker said the company supports SB 827. A representative from Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Staff writer Katy Murphy contributed to this article.)
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