June 2020

The California legislature has spent the last four years passing sweeping housing bills in an effort to make a dent in the State’s severe housing shortage and 2020 may prove no different. Here are the housing bills to watch for the remainder of this legislative session:

SB 902 (Weiner) – This bill would authorize local jurisdictions to update the zoning on any parcel to up to 10 units per parcel if the parcel is transit rich, jobs rich, or in an urban infill area. Local jurisdictions could adopt such an ordinance notwithstanding local restrictions, including restrictions enacted by voter initiative. Adoption of the ordinance would be exempt from CEQA. This bill was most recently amended on May 21, 2020 and is headed to Appropriations Committee.

SB 1120 (Atkins, Caballero, Weiner) – This bill would require a two unit residential project be considered ministerially (without discretionary review or hearing) in single family zones so long as such project meets certain standards, including that it would not demolish or alter an existing affordable unit or rental unit. It also requires ministerial approval of parcel maps for urban lot splits, which would then allow for ministerial approval of projects on each lot – up to four units. As such, projects would be ministerial and CEQA would not apply. This bill was most recently amended on May 20, 2020 and is set for hearing in the Appropriations Committee on June 9th, 2020.

SB 1085 (Skinner, Caballero) – This bill would make a variety of revisions to the Density Bonus Law, including specifying that units built pursuant to a local inclusionary housing requirement be included in the total number a units a density bonus and associated incentives and concessions are based upon. Further, a development containing twenty percent or more moderate income rental units (those 30% below market rate) would now qualify for a density bonus when previously only for-sale moderate units qualified. The bill also proposes to eliminate the reasons for which a local jurisdiction could refuse to grant certain incentives and concessions. This bill was most recently amended May 27, 2020 and is set for hearing in the Appropriations Committee on June 9th, 2020.

SB 1385 (Caballero, Rubio) – This bill allows for cities to approve residential development on “neighborhood lots” zoned for office or commercial retail and that are vacant or no longer viable (no existing tenants on 50% or more of its total square footage for a period of three years prior to application). Commercial retail has experienced a decline as consumer needs are met online and COVID-19 has only exacerbated this reality. This bill aims to open up previously developed commercial land to residential or mixed uses. This bill was most recently amended May 20, 2020 and is set for hearing June 9th, 2020.

AB 2580 (Eggman) – This bill would require local jurisdictions to ministerially approve a development application to convert a non-residential hotel into multifamily housing. The existing structure must vacate for at least six months and the proposed multifamily project must meet certain income requirements, such as five percent for extremely low income households and fifteen percent for low income. The project would be required to pay prevailing wage. This bill does not apply to the coastal zone. It was last amended May 20, 2020 and is currently held under submission.

SB 995 (Atkins, Weiner, Caballero, Rubio) – This bill expands the streamlined California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process available under the Jobs and Economic Improvement Through Leadership Act of 2011, making the process available to smaller housing projects with fifteen percent low income affordability. This bill was most recently amended June 2, 2020 and is set for hearing in the Appropriations Committee on June 9, 2020.

AB 3279 (Friedman) – Housing projects are often met with opposition and delayed due to CEQA challenges. This bill attempts to further streamline CEQA lawsuits and it originally proposed a shortening of the timeframe to file a CEQA petition and complete briefing to 60 days each. The reduction in time to file a petition, however, has already been struck from the bill. Further, this bill encourages courts to hear a CEQA case within 270 days of the date of filing of an appeal. This bill was last amended in the assembly on June 4, 2020.

Our office will continue to track these bills. From the perspective of some legislators focused on finding an end to the California housing crisis these bills are not as aggressive as the state may need, although passage of any would mean another discernible step toward additional housing. We will need to wait and see if they survive opposition from League of California Cities and other local jurisdictions that often fight against top-down zoning regulations.   As creating additional housing becomes more streamlined it should help open up opportunities for landowners that would otherwise shy away from such development due to the unknown time and cost associated with building housing today.

Olivia K. Marr, Partner


(Direct) 805.966.7199


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