Sustainable Development and Land Use Update 9.20.23

Allen Matkins


Governor Newsom signs bill to pave way for university housing. Critics say Berkeley’s People’s Park will be destroyed

Bullet Los Angeles Times – September 8

With the state facing a severe housing crisis, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law that will make it easier for universities and other housing developers to build housing and overcome lawsuits from local residents about potential noise problems resulting from the proposed occupants. Assembly Bill 1307 is a legislative response to a pitched legal battle between local residents and the University of California system about the noise that could be generated by residents of a proposed housing project at UC Berkeley where neighbors objected to the “unruly parties” that college students might host. The bill, which was signed into law on September 7, was drafted after a ruling by an appellate court in favor of the neighborhood group — Make UC a Good Neighbor. The passage of the bill means that the noise generated by future housing project occupants cannot be considered a significant effect on the environment under CEQA.


California Legislature passes bills removing roadblocks for new housing

Bullet The Mercury News – September 12

The California State Legislature passed two bills last Monday intended to streamline the approval of new housing projects, despite opposition from some communities arguing the bills will strip them of local control. The first, Senate Bill (SB) 423, would extend a 2017 state housing law (SB 35), which was otherwise set to expire in 2026. SB 35 provides for streamlined, ministerial (i.e., no CEQA) review and approval for qualifying housing development projects in cities that are behind on meeting state-mandated housing goals, as determined by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). Among other important changes, SB 423 would expand SB 35 to apply when a local jurisdiction fails to adopt a housing element in substantial compliance with state housing element law, as specified and as determined by HCD. Under that circumstance, the project sponsor would need to provide a minimum of 10% lower income units, as specified, or, in the San Francisco Bay Area, a minimum of 20% moderate income units, as specified. Therefore, this change could result in the increased production of mixed-income housing since as explained in our prior legal alert, multiple local jurisdictions are currently out of compliance (and could be out of compliance in future housing element cycles).

A second bill, SB 4, would allow religious institutions and nonprofit colleges to build affordable housing on their land, even if local zoning prevents it. SB 423 and SB 4 are both pending approval by Governor Newsom.

ADUs could be sold separately from homes under bill passed by California Legislature

Bullet San Francisco Chronicle – September 13

Two state bills that could boost construction of ADUs, or accessory dwelling units, moved to Governor Newsom’s desk on Monday. Assembly Bill (AB) 1033 would allow cities to decide whether property owners can sell ADUs separately, as condos, from the primary home. AB 976 would permanently ban local ordinances that require property owners to live in their ADU — effectively removing barriers that would otherwise prohibit ADUs to be used as rental properties. California has seen an increase in ADU construction over the past decade, as lawmakers have passed numerous measures to lower hurdles to building in an effort to address the state’s housing crisis. The state housing department said nearly 20% of housing units built in the state are ADUs today — that’s more than 20,000 new homes — compared to fewer than 800 ADUs built annually a decade ago.

San Francisco mayor signs new law that will reduce fees, boost city's housing production

Bullet MSN – September 14

San Francisco Mayor London Breed has signed a new law aimed to expedite the planning, approval, and construction of housing projects in the city. The legislation aims to temporarily reduce inclusionary housing requirements on new and already approved development projects and reforms, and defers and reduces other development impact fees in order to spur development projects and economic activity. According to the mayor’s office, San Francisco had one of the highest inclusionary housing requirements in the country, where developers were required to set aside 22 to 33% of their units for affordable housing, or pay an in-lieu fee. Under the new law, affordable housing obligations will be reduced to 12 to 16% for projects already in the pipeline, and 15 to 21% for new projects.

California must ban gas in new buildings, local officials tell Governor Newsom

Bullet Smart Cities Dive – September 11

Twenty-six local government leaders in California — including those from the cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Jose — are calling on Governor Newsom to urgently pursue statewide standards requiring new buildings to be all-electric rather than burn fossil fuels on site for uses such as cooking and space and water heating. The local leaders sent a letter to Newsom last Friday pointing to “significant challenges” caused by an April federal appeals court decision to overturn Berkeley, California’s first-in-the-nation ban on gas hookups in new construction. The letter recommends that California require zero-emission buildings through its existing mandatory green building standards code, an option suggested in the California Air Resources Board’s 2022 plan for achieving carbon neutrality.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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