Week 4 debate paper (for dr. noorfatima)


Examination and Debate of California Senate Bill 50 (SB 50)

The purpose of this assignment is to 1) examine real policy through the lens of this course, and 2) challenge our bias or beliefs by arguing a side that you may not fully connect or agree with. As public servants, often, we must cut through politics and the human-drama to present matters that are fact based and compelling. In practice, staff usually must provide analysis and review of various topics to support the decision-makers process. I utilize the debate format to also ensure that critical analysis and deeper exploration is part of the task. I don’t want you to simply present just facts, but also to make a compelling argument to support your assigned position. 

Summary: This bill would have preempted local zoning control around transit stations and employment centers as well as required minimum four-plex residential zoning statewide. The intent was to intensify residential development in transit station zones to decrease housing cost overtime. The bill attempted to provide tenant protection provisions to prevent demolition of existing housing. It also exempted communities with population under 600,000. 

Why: Senator Scott Weiner introduced this bill as a response to the California housing affordability crisis, particularly in urban centers. The bill has a long history anchored in the objective to address increasing housing centered near transit that would inspire the creation of more affordable housing units. 

Who: The bill was hotly debated and opposed by mayors in the urban areas of San Francisco and Los Angeles, suburban landowners, and anti-gentrification activists as it was accused of being a bill that would only yield more luxury housing, and not actually address the housing crisis. In particular, the bill was criticized for being harmful to low-income and less privileged populations. Proponents included scholars, national pro-housing activists, and Silicon Valley tech leadership. 


You are In Favor of this Bill. You are assigned the task to compose a paper supporting the bill’s merits with justification for your points. Your paper could be used by Legislative aides to support the debate on the Senate floor.  

Your papers should be 4 pages in length with a reference page. Many resources, including the bill language, are included with the assignment but you can/should conduct your own research to support your analysis. I expect to see 3-5 references to support your work. 

Reading Resources:

Bill Text and History can be accessed here:


Reading References – this is in no way a complete list so please embark on your own research: 

1. “Upzoning California: What are the Implications of SB for Bay Area Neighborhoods?” by Anna Cash, Mirim Zuk, and Ian Carlton, April 2019. Published by the Urban Displacement Project.  Accessible here: https://www.urbandisplacement.org/sites/default/files/images/sb50_udp_mapcraft_policybrief.pdf

2. “The Political Battle over California’s Suburban Dream” by Laura Bliss, 2019. Published by City Lab. Accessible here: https://www.citylab.com/equity/2019/04/california-affordable-housing-bill-sb50-single-family-zoning/586519/

3. “The Last Days of SB50, California’s Doomed Upzoning Bill” by Laura Bliss, January 2020 published by City Lab. Accessible here:  https://www.citylab.com/equity/2020/01/california-sb50-vote-affordable-housing-zoning-law-transit/605767/ 

4. “The Housing Bill is Dead. Long Live the Housing Bill?” by Jill Cowan, Conor Dougherty and Nellie Bowles. January 2020. Published by the New York Times. Accessible here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/31/us/california-senate-bill-50.html

5. “California bill to dramatically increase home building fails for the third year in a row” by Liam Dillon and Taryn Luna, January 2020. Published by the Los Angeles Times. Accessible here: https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-01-29/high-profile-california-housing-bill-to-allow-mid-rise-apartments-near-transit-falls-short

6. “Closely Watched California Housing Bill SB 50 Now Officially Dead” by Eric Baldassari, January 2020. Published by KQED News. Accessible here: https://www.kqed.org/news/11798945/__trashed-4

Suggested Approach: 

· Start with an outline: 

1. Introduction or “Hook” to state your position

2. Background

3. Main Body of Argument supported in fact

4. Conclusion

5. Final Summary

· Do your research and compile references to support your argument position: You can utilize the instructor provided readings or research on your own. Suggest that you have at least 3-5 sources to support your position

· Outline how your will utilize your facts/data within the body of your argument

Debate Tips and Guidance: 

Feel free to do your own referencing on this but here are some resources for developing an argumentative essay: 

“Complete Guide to Debating: How to Improve your Debating Skills” by Gini Bequire, August 2018. Accessible Here: https://virtualspeech.com/blog/guide-to-debating

“How to Write a Good Argumentative Essay: Easy Step-by-Step Guide” by MasterClass, August 2019. Accessible here: https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-write-a-good-argumentative-essay#what-is-an-argumentative-essay

“How to Write a Good Argumentative Essay Introduction” by Sohelia Battaglia. Accessible here: https://education.seattlepi.com/write-good-argumentative-essay-introduction-1484.html

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