Historic Bills Change CA Development Laws Part 1

Historic Bills Change CA Development Laws Part 1

By: Alexandra M. Jack, Esq. and Meghan M. Dunnagan, Esq.

September 28, 2021

While in office, Governor Newsom has signed “16 CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) reform bills to streamline state laws to maximize housing production,” hoping to lower the housing shortage, make homes more affordable, and reduce homelessness.1 The Newsom Administration also “created an inventory of all excess state land and…has launched partnerships with California cities to develop affordable housing on that land.”1

Newsom recently signed two new bills to allow for an easier approval process for home development. Specifically, the California Housing Opportunity and More Efficiency (HOME) Act creates an easier process for homeowners wishing “to build a duplex or split their current residential lot.”1

This three-part blog series will cover recent Senate Bills (SB) 9 and 10. Today we are focused on one of two new Government Code sections added by SB 9. The second blog will discuss the second new Government Code section added by SB 9, as well as summarize SB 10. As you might imagine, public response to these bills has been mixed. The last blog in this series will cover some of the pro and con arguments for these new bills.

Senate Bill 9 – Government Code § 65852.21

Senate Bill 9 added §§ 65852.21 and 66411.7 to the California Government Code. Section 65852.21 provides criteria for developing two units on a single-family residential lot within a City or urbanized unincorporated area (previously not permitted under single-family zoning). Among other requirements, such a project:

  1. cannot negatively impact low-income housing;
  2. must be on land that is zoned single-family residential;
  3. cannot be land within a historic district, included on the State Historic Resources Inventory, or within a legally designated county/city landmark or historic property or district;
  4. one unit must be owner-occupied for a minimum of three years after the development;
  5. the rental term of the additional unit must be more than 30-days;
  6. if there is an existing structure on the land, the development cannot cause more than a 25% change of the existing exterior walls (local agencies are permitted to adopt different standards); and
  7. the units must be a minimum of 800 square-feet (sf).2

If all the applicable statutory requirements are met, local agencies must ministerially approve the proposal.2 While any development project that has plans of 10 or more units must be approved through the standard development process, SB 9 includes key changes to the permitting process for smaller projects to further the goal of speeding up development approval.2

First, because the approval is ministerial, development projects under this section would be exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act, although a building official could still deny the permit if there was clear evidence of a specific unmitigable adverse impact.2

Second, the government agency does not have to hold public hearings for coastal development permit applications for housing developments and urban lot splits as originally required under the California Coast Act of 1976.2
Stay tuned for the next blog post in this series where we continue to review Senate Bills 9 and 10.

The information presented in this Article is not to be taken as legal advice. Every person’s situation is different. If you are facing a legal issue of any kind, get competent legal advice in your State immediately so that you can determine your best options.

Source Notes
1 Governor Newsom Signs Historic Legislation to Boost California’s Housing Supply and Fight the Housing Crisis, Office of Governor Gavin Newsom, Sept 16, 2021, https://www.gov.ca.gov/2021/09/16/governor-newsom-signs-historic-legislation-to-boost-californias-housing-supply-and-fight-the-housing-crisis/
2 Senate Bill 9

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