by Ben Wynd
SACRAMENTO, CA – California State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) continues his push for new housing—especially student housing—in California with the introduction of Senate Bill 886 here at the State Capitol.
Essentially, the bill allows streamlining of university housing via shortening the CEQA review process. The student housing crisis has already been a critical issue in the state, but truly came to a head with the UC Berkeley freshman enrollment saga.
Emphasis on passing the bill has largely been a result of that event, and has activated more students around the state.
On May 3, 2022, Michelle Andrews talked about her involvement in pushing forward SB 886. Andrews is the UC Davis College Democrats president, as well as the legislative director for ASUCD External Affairs, and is working closely with Senator Wiener and other college housing advocates across the state to ensure this piece of legislation is passed.
How has SB 886 progressed since it was first introduced/you first got involved?
“The most recent thing that happened is that it passed unanimously through the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. For the past couple months that was our main goal, getting it through the committee. Amendments made in committee addressed a lot of the concerns the opposition may have had.
“There now needs to be at least one public hearing for each project, buildings must be LEED platinum certified, net zero greenhouse gas emissions, among other alterations, Since the end of February, what we’ve been mostly working on is just making sure that we have as many students voicing their support for it as possible. We’ve been getting a lot of pro-housing groups to support it, along with the Cal State Student Association, and the Student Senate for California Community Colleges.
“We got a couple more co-authors, such as Assembly members Medina, Mullin, and Hueso. Us as students, we’ve been doing a ton of lobby meetings with a lot of legislative offices to put it on their radar. We want to make sure that when it comes time for a floor vote, they know about it. At this point we’re expecting the Senate floor vote before the end of the month, and then it will hopefully move smoothly to the Assembly.”
What do you think the bill’s bipartisan and unanimous support says about this issue?
“I think it shows that student housing is not partisan at all. It affects students regardless of what party they might affiliate themselves with, and regardless of what party their representatives are. Housing insecurity is something that unites people regardless of what they believe in when it comes to politics. Having the support of Democrat and Republican senators really showed the commitment that our elected representatives have to advancing our work to end the student housing crisis.”
“It showed that it’s a timely issue, and that everyone understands the need for it now. It’s really encouraging to see the bipartisan support, and we’re expecting it to continue to have a lot of bipartisan support. We’re hoping as many representatives as possible don’t see this as a political issue, but as one of basic rights.”
What has it been like working with Senator Wiener?
“Working with him has been awesome because he understands students and he’s worked really hard to be directly connected with us and be involved in conversations with us. With a lot of elected representatives, it can feel like they’re almost enigmas that you can’t really reach. That’s not the case with him. That’s been really helpful in the process because it feels like we have a true ally in the fight.”
What’s something you’ve learned about housing in the last couple months?
“I didn’t necessarily realize how complex when explaining a housing policy that appears simple like CEQA exemptions, how many arguments you have to be prepared for when presenting to a committee. One of the things I got to see in our work with Senator Wiener and his team was thinking of every single argument either in favor or against [the bill]. We would ensure we had the points, evidence, and data to back it up. I’ve definitely learned a lot about housing policy, but more so what it takes to get a bill across the line. It’s a lot more than people see.”
Has Davis’ proximity to Sacramento changed its role in passing SB 886 and other legislation? If so, how?
“1000% it has. The fact that we can just get in a car and drive to Sacramento on a short notice really changes the game for us. We’re basically the only UC campus that is able to do that. It’s a big responsibility for us because a lot of the time Davis has to represent all of the UCs. It’s also beneficial for things Davis specifically wants to push for because we are the faces that they see.
“Sure it’s effective to lobby someone over Zoom, but it’s a whole different ball game when you’re able to do it in person. The other campuses tell us they’re jealous of how close we are to Sacramento because they have to put in a whole travel plan to come up for one day. It makes it really easy for us to have a huge impact.”
What are the next steps you and your peers are taking to pass this bill?
“The next step for the bill in general is going through the Appropriations Committee. After that it goes for a Senate floor vote. We’re ready to meet with any senators that have expressed concerns. We’ve begun to meet with Assembly members about the bill because we want to have those temperature checks ready. At that point, all the amendments are in so we don’t have to guess what they are anymore. We’ll continue having meetings to ensure it smoothly moves past committees and the floor vote too.”