SACRAMENT – Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) housing legislation, Senate Bill 478, was passed by the Assembly by a bipartisan vote of 56-14 and the Senate by a bipartisan vote of approval of 30-6. SB 478 will now proceed to the governor’s office for final approval. It is sponsored by California YIMBY.
SB 478, the Housing Opportunities Act, ensures that when cities zone for small apartment buildings – between 3 and 10 units – these buildings can actually be constructed and are not effectively prohibited by extreme square footage limits and restrictive. Specifically, SB 478 establishes minimum standards on floor area ratios (FAR) and minimum lot size for these small apartment buildings. Excessively low FARs and excessively large minimum lot sizes are tools many cities use to undermine their own zoned density. As a result, cities give with one hand and take with the other, using these loopholes to effectively reverse local zoning.
Current state law already prevents local FAR regulations from impeding ADU production; when building an ADU, local FAR standards are zero. SB 478 would simply require a FAR of 1.0 on zoned lots for 3-7 units and a FAR of 1.25 on 8-10 units, rather than canceling them out entirely, as is the case with ADUs. This legislation would apply in urbanized areas in multi-family or mixed-use residential areas.
SB 478 also provides that cities cannot refuse a project solely on the basis that the lot size does not meet the local agency’s requirements for the minimum lot size. In addition, localities will not be allowed to impose a land coverage requirement that would prevent a subdivision from reaching the authorized FAR.
California is in the midst of a deep housing crisis, resulting in massive out-of-state migration, skyrocketing eviction rates, record levels of homelessness and poverty, and a growing class of super commuters in low income and middle class unable to find housing within several hours of their work. Many local governments in California are independently motivated to increase density in their neighborhoods, and others are required by state law to do so. However, due to the lack of adequate statewide standards and cumbersome and outdated regulations, some California cities are able to avoid liability and find loopholes to prevent denser housing from occurring. become a reality.
“Honesty in zoning is so important when it comes to solving our housing crisis,” said Senator Wiener. “The SB 478 is especially important given the transition from SB 9 and SB 10, because with these new opportunities for increased density, it is essential that loopholes and outdated regulations do not hamper progress. While SB 478 is simply adjusting our housing standards to be more consistent, it will have a big impact on how we build housing in California.
“Cities should not be allowed to use clever land use accounting tricks to block housing on properties where housing construction is legally permitted,” said Brian Hanlon, CEO of California YIMBY. “This bill will ensure that cities follow their own rules for housing density, which will translate into more housing for families who desperately need it.” “