Buffy Wicks was breastfeeding her four-week-old daughter in her fifth floor Capitol office when she saw on television her fellow lawmakers were finally about to vote on one of the few remaining housing bills that really mattered.
Wicks, only a month removed from a C-section, raced with her newborn down to the state Assembly chamber to make one last plea for her colleagues to pass SB 1120. Following in the footsteps of a 2019 Oregon law, the proposal would have forced California single-family-only neighborhoods to allow duplexes and, in some cases, four units.
If only 5% of eligible single-family-homes were converted under the proposal, nearly 600,000 new units could be created in a state desperately short of housing, according to a UC Berkeley analysis. Despite a pandemic-induced recession, the median home in Alameda County — which includes Oakland, Richmond and other East Bay cities represented by Wicks — was still fetching over $1,000,000 in July.
“It’s the simplest way we can have density that still adheres to neighborhood character,” said Wicks on the Assembly floor, bouncing her infant daughter on her chest. “So please, please, please pass this bill. And I’m going to go finish feeding my daughter.”