CSAC Bulletin Article

California State Senate Housing Working Group Releases Bill Package to Address Housing Shortage

May 21, 2020

Members of the California State Senate convened a housing working group earlier this the year to develop a bill package to address the housing shortage in California. Earlier this week, the Senate housing working group released the Senate Housing Production Package—a six-plank package aimed at increasing housing production across the state.

As a result of the short timeframe for bills to move through policy committees to meet legislative deadlines, these bills have been single referred and will only be heard by one policy committee even if they would have otherwise been considered by other committees with purview over them before moving to a fiscal committee or to the Floor.

CSAC will remain engaged with the working group as the bill package moves forward and will keep counties updated as additional details on these bills are released. An update on the package and other housing legislation will also be included in next week’s Housing, Land Use and Transportation Policy Committee meeting. A fact sheet for these bills, as proposed to be amended, is available here. The key elements of the bill package are included below.

Adaptive reuse of commercial sites – SB 1385 (Caballero). This bill allows housing on qualifying commercially-zoned sites, regardless of current local zoning. Amendments in print today extend protections under the Housing Accountability Act to projects pursued under this authority and make such projects eligible for a streamlined ministerial review under SB 35. CSAC has expressed technical concerns related to incompatible uses and ability to use these commercial sites to meet regional housing needs allocation (RHNA) obligations, but we are hopeful we can resolve those issues. Many counties already allow for multifamily residential development on commercially zoned sites. This bill will be heard in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee next week.

Small-scale neighborhood infill  SB 1120 (Atkins). This bill was recently amended to focus on a streamlined process allowing duplexes in single family neighborhoods, including lot splits and conversion of existing buildings. The bill will be heard next week in Senate Governance and Finance.

CEQA relief for large residential projects – SB 995 (Atkins). This bill was recently amended to extend the AB 900 environmental leadership program, which allows for streamlined judicial review of CEQA challenges to qualifying projects (details about the existing program are available here) to 2025 and lower the current $100 million project threshold to $15 million. This bill will be heard next week in Senate Environmental Quality.  

Streamlined rezoning for small multifamily projects  SB 902 (Wiener). This bill is already in print, but the duplex/four-plex language will be taken out in favor of the Atkins bill mentioned above. The remaining language allows a streamlined rezoning process on qualifying infill sites to allow up to 10 units without CEQA review. The infill definition being used in the bill means this program will have limited applicability to county unincorporated areas. The bill will be heard next week in Senate Housing.

Density bonus law changes – SB 1085 (Skinner). Amendments to this bill are forthcoming. This bill revises state density bonus law to provide additional incentives and concessions at lower levels of affordability; mostly for moderate income projects. The bill will be heard next week in Senate Housing. 

Relief to tenants and landlords – The proposal spearheaded by Senators Bradford and Hertzberg and included in the Senate Democrats budget framework will be considered to be part of this package. The proposal would create a Renter and Landlord Stabilization Program that would enable agreements between renters, landlords, and the state to resolve unpaid rents over a limited period. It would also make available short-term tax-credits to provide immediate value to landlords at risk of foreclosure. This proposal will be considered as part of the budget process.

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