THE VIEW FROM HERE-California has a housing deficit approaching 4 million homes, and our housing shortage is a huge threat to our state’s diversity, economy, environment, and quality of life. I introduced SB 827 to create more opportunities for housing where we need it -- near public transportation. SB 827 increases housing density near transit while still retaining significant local control.
Yesterday, I introduced amendments to SB 827. The amendments address a number of issues, including setting affordable housing requirements in cities that don’t have local affordability requirements, refining the definition of transit corridors to focus on high-quality, all-day bus service (not just rush hour service), strengthening demolition controls to exclude properties where there has been an Ellis Act eviction, removing the bill’s 85-foot height allowance (that height is typically steel construction, which is very expensive) in order to focus the bill on 45–55 foot wood frame buildings, and limiting the bill’s height increases to rail, subway, and ferry stops (with bus stops still triggering density increases, though not height increases).
The amendments also delay implementation of SB 827 in order to give local communities time to plan and enact their own requirements for denser development near public transit. The full list of amendments is below.
SB 827 bill has triggered a robust and passionate discussion about housing in California, and I appreciate all the feedback we’ve received, including from critics who have engaged thoughtfully on the bill. We have worked with both supporters and opponents on these amendments, and we will continue to work with anyone committed to solving our housing shortage as we move through the legislative process. We will bring more housing to our state if we work collectively on solutions.
SB 827 Amendments:
- Ensure an affordable housing component to every development except the very smallest: Any project approved with an SB 827 zoning bonus must comply with a local inclusionary housing requirement, if there is one. If a community does not have a local inclusionary housing requirement, the following applies, based on the size of the project. These inclusionary housing percentages are based on the existing requirements in the State Affordable Housing Density Bonus law.
- 50+ units and >25% square footage is office: 20% total (10% very low-income + 10% low-income)
- 50+ units (without office): Developer can choose between 20% low income or 11% very low income
- 25–50 units: Developer can choose between 13% low income or 7% very low income
- 10–25 units: Developer can choose between 10% low income or 5% very low income
- Restrict demolitions: No demolition permit may be issued on properties that have had an Ellis Act eviction recorded in the last five years. (The bill already allows communities to adopt and enforce their own demolition controls.)
- No net loss: Similar to the state density bonus, there shall be no net loss of affordable units through SB 827. In the rare occasion that rent-controlled or subsidized affordable housing is removed, and in addition to the Right to Remain Guarantee for tenants already contained in the bill, the developer must replace each of these units with a permanently affordable housing unit on a 1:1 basis.
- Adjust height restrictions: Around rail and ferry stations, buildings up to 55’ tall are permitted in the first ¼ mile and 45’ in the second ¼ mile. There is no building height increase around qualifying bus lines, but parking and density restrictions will be relaxed.
- Redefine qualifying bus stops: The bill is amended to ensure that transit stops have consistent, high-quality transit during the week and on weekends, from early morning to late night. Specifically, on weekdays, qualifying bus stops must have average service intervals of 15 minutes during peak 3 hours between 6–10 a.m. and 3–7 p.m. and have 20-minute average service intervals between 6 a.m.-10 p.m. On weekends, qualifying bus stops must also have average service intervals of 30 minutes from 8am-10pm.
- Delay implementation: The operative date of SB 827 is January 1, 2021, such that local governments have time to conduct studies, update inclusionary housing ordinances, and adopt specific transit-oriented development plans. During this time, a city may not reduce or eliminate residential zoning designations that would have the effect of limiting the number of parcels where SB 827 is applicable. A local government may apply for a one-time, one-year extension if they can prove to the Housing and Community Development Department that they have made significant good-faith progress.
- Adjust parking minimums: A city may not enforce parking minimums within ¼ mile of rail or ferry; however, a city may enforce up to .5 spots/residential unit outside of the first quarter mile or around bus stops, which matches requirements in state density bonus law. A developer must provide recurring monthly transit passes to all residents at no cost.
- Establish residential threshold: Any project approved with an SB 827 zoning bonus must be at least two-thirds residential by square footage.
(Scott Wiener is a California State Senator from San Francisco who is the author of SB 827. This piece previously appeared on Medium.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.