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Legislation Introduced to Dramatically Alter Local Planning

January 26, 2018
Before the ink was barely dry on the comprehensive 15-bill housing package that took effect on Jan. 1, Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) introduced another housing bill that takes away local discretion and authority. 
SB 827 would exempt certain housing projects from locally developed and adopted height limitations, densities, parking requirements, and design review standards.
Opposed by the League, SB 827 would undermine locally adopted General Plans, Housing Elements (which are certified by the Department of Housing and Community Development [HCD]) and Sustainable Community Strategies (SCS). The measure would allow private for profit housing developers and transit agencies to determine housing densities, parking requirements, and design review standards within one-half mile of a “major transit stop,” or along a “high-quality transit corridor,” which could be miles away from an actual bus stop.
Local governments under SB 827 would lose their ability to enforce well balanced land use policies that reflect the needs and desires of the communities within these designated areas. City leaders are acutely aware of the challenges of gentrification and displacement that can be associated with rapid development, making locally crafted planning documents critical elements of community involved sustainable growth.
Unfortunately, SB 827 would give developers and transit agencies, who are unaccountable at the local level, the power to exempt themselves from locally developed and adopted building height limitations, densities, parking requirements, and design review standards. Under the measure, developers would be given the means to generate additional profits without any requirement to construct affordable housing units.
Given that the significant changes to California’s housing law have only been in effect for a few weeks, the Legislature’s focus should not be on passing more bills that seek to change the rules for housing construction, but rather assist HCD with implementing the new laws. In addition, HCD is understaffed and seeking a significant budget augmentation to hire additional personnel. As a result, HCD has only begun to solicit stakeholder input and involvement, and it will be many months before it issues guidelines.
The League is committed to collaboratively working to find solutions to the housing supply and affordability crisis gripping many areas of the state. While there is still more work to be done, the Legislature, housing developers and cities all need adequate time to fully understand and digest the many changes to California housing law.
Additionally, the League remains committed to supporting the $4 billion Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond Act that will be on the November 2018 ballot. If approved by the voters, the bond will provide much needed funding to support veterans and affordable housing programs statewide.
How Your City Can Help
It is critical that cities ensure that city voices are heard by making calls to key Legislators and submitting letters of opposition.
The League has drafted a sample letter cities can use, which is available at www.cacities.org/billsearch by plugging SB 827 into the search function. The full bill text is also available along with the League’s letter of opposition.

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