This Thursday, May 27, 2021, photo shows an empty shopping cart in an empty parking lot at the closed Sears in Buena Park Mall in Buena Park, Calif. California state lawmakers are grappling with a particularly 21st-century problem: What to do with the growing number of shopping malls and big-box retail stores left empty by consumers shifting their purchases to the web. A possible answer in crowded California cities is to build housing on these sites, which already have ample parking and are close to existing neighborhoods. Even before the pandemic, big-box retail stores struggled to adapt as more people began buying things online. In 2019, after purchasing Sears and Kmart, Transformco closed 96 stores across the country, 29 in California. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
(AP) — With California facing a housing shortage, some state lawmakers want to make it easier for developers to build houses on commercial sites. A bill that cleared the state Senate last week is aimed at the growing number of closed shopping malls and big box retail stores. It would let developers build houses on those sites without going through the hassle of changing local zoning. Another bill will would pay local governments to change zoning to let developers build affordable housing. Housing advocates love the idea, but are concerned a requirement that such projects use skilled labor that usually means union members will drive up prices.