Tech heavyweights Benioff, Mayer and Stoppelman enter state’s housing battle

By : bizjournals – excerpt

Tech titans are gathering to support Gov. Jerry Brown’s “as of right” proposal to reduce approvals needed for new projects that include affordable housing, even as some local elected officials have opposed the bill.

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, Yahoo Inc. CEO Marissa Mayer and former Disney CEO Michael Eisner are among dozens of tech and business leaders who support the bill, in a letter from the Bay Area Council, the largest local business group.

Other supporters include SV Angel venture capitalist Ron Conway, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman and Max Levchin, founder of Affirm and Paypal. (Disclosure: Mary Huss, publisher of the San Francisco Business Times, is a member of the Bay Area Council’s Board of Trustees and is also listed as a supporter.)

The bill would remove discretionary reviews from projects with 20 percent affordable housing or 10 percent near transit, which could cut down the often multi-year approvals process for new development.

“The companies represented by these CEOs employ hundreds of thousands of workers statewide who are suffering because of the state’s epic housing shortage,” said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, in a statement.

“The lack of supply and resulting skyrocketing rents and home prices are taking a particularly steep toll on those at the lower rungs of the economic ladder who cannot compete for housing in this market and are being evicted, dislocated and marginalized,” said Wunderman.

Another supporter, Sam Altman, president of the prominent startup incubator Y Combinator, which provided early funding to Airbnb, Dropbox and Reddit, also wrote a blog post in support of the legislation.

“I believe that lowering the cost of housing is one of the most important things we can do to help people increase their quality of life and to reduce wealth inequality,” he wrote. “A huge part of the problem has been that building in the Bay Area is approved by discretion; even when developments comply with local zoning, they can still be vetoed or stalled by local planning commissions, lawsuits, or ballot measures.”… (more)

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