(Editor’s note: this comment was worth creating as a standalone article that can generate its own conversation).
by Keith Echols
I’ve advocated for more affordable housing….actually public housing in the community and that market rate housing should be built if it pays for itself and provides a benefit to the community. There’s a bill that was passed about 4 years ago (SB 35) that streamlined the process for affordable housing to be built in the state. Now, I have my opinions on how affordable housing should be allocated (teachers, fire fighters, police, existing residents…etc…) but that’s another debate. The infill people will love this. It does not negate the difficulty in making infill density economically feasible….but at least for affordable housing the bureaucratic process has been simplified. So here’s how the bill goes:
SB 35 applies to cities and counties that have not made sufficient progress toward meeting their affordable housing goals for above-moderate and lower income levels as mandated by the State. In an effort to meet the affordable housing goals, SB 35 requires cities and counties to streamline the review and approval of certain qualifying affordable housing projects through a ministerial process.
HCD’s determination is based on whether the locality has issued fewer building permits than its pro-rata share of the regional housing need, by income level, for that reporting period. The “reporting period” is defined as either the first half or the second half of the regional housing needs assessment cycle (Section 65913.4(i)(10)) and is based upon the locality’s annual progress report (“APR”). This determination remains in effect until HCD’s determination for the next reporting period.
As of the date of this paper, the current Determination Summary represents Housing Element Annual Progress Report data received as of January 31, 2018. According to this data, 13 jurisdictions have met their prorated Lower (Very-Low and Low) and Above-Moderate Income Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) for the reporting period and are not currently subject to the streamlined ministerial approval process. All other cities and counties are subject to at least some form of SB 35 streamlining.
There are 378 jurisdictions that have made insufficient progress toward their Above Moderate income RHNA numbers and/or have not submitted their latest Housing Element Annual Progress Report (2016) and there are 148 jurisdictions that have made insufficient progress toward their Lower income RHNA numbers (Very-Low and Low income).
SB 35 requires cities and counties to streamline review and approval of eligible affordable housing projects through a ministerial approval process, exempting such projects from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”). This process does not allow public hearings to consider the merits of the project; rather, only design review or public oversight of the development is allowed, which must be objective and strictly focused on assessing compliance with criteria required for streamlined projects as well as objective design review of the project (Section 65913.4(c)(1).
Depending on the number of housing units proposed in the project, the jurisdiction has only a short timeframe within which to review the application to determine if it is eligible for processing under SB 35 (between 60-90 days). If it is determined that the project is eligible, SB 35 specifies the timeframes within which the jurisdiction has to make a final decision on the application (between 90-180 days).
ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA FOR THE SB 35 STREAMLINED, MINISTERIAL APPROVAL PROCESS
(a) Urban Infill. Are located in an urban area, with 75% of the site’s perimeter already developed (Section 65913.4(a)(2)(A) and (B)).
(b) Number of Units. Propose at least two residential units (Section 65913.4(a)(1)).
(c) Designated for Residential Uses. Have a general plan and/or zoning designation that allows residential or mixed-use with at least 2/3 of the square footage as residential use (Section 65913.4(a)(2)(C)).
(d) Location. Cannot be located on property within any of the following areas: a coastal zone, prime farmland, wetlands, very high fire hazard severity zone, hazardous waste site, delineated earthquake fault zone, flood plain, floodway, community conservation plan area, habitat for protected species, under a conservation easement, or located on a qualifying mobile home site (Section 65913.4(a)(6)).
(e) Demolition of Residential Units. The development would not demolish any housing units that have been occupied by tenants in the last 10 years; are subject to any form of rent or price control, or are subject to a recorded covenant, ordinance, or law that restricts rents to levels affordable to persons and families of moderate, low, or very low incomes (Section 65913.4(a)(7)).
(f) Historic Buildings. The development would not demolish a historic structure that is on a national, state, or local historic register (Section 65913.4(a)(7)(C)).
(g) Consistent with Objective Planning Standards. Must meet all objective general plan, zoning, subdivision and design review standards in effect at the time the application is submitted. Objective standards are those that require no personal or subjective (discretionary) judgment, and must be verifiable by reference to an external and uniform source available prior to submittal (Section 65913.4(a)(5)).
(h) Prevailing Wages. If the development is not in its entirety a public work, as defined in Government Code Section 65913.4(a)(8)(A), all construction workers employed in the execution of the development must be paid at least the general prevailing rate of per diem wages for the type of work and geographic area. (Section 65913.4(a)(8)(A)). This requirement does not apply to projects that include 10 or fewer units and is not a public work project (Section 65913.4(a)(8)(C)).
(i) Skilled and Trained Workforce Provisions. A skilled and trained workforce must complete the development if the project consists of 75 or more units that are not 100 percent subsidized affordable housing (Section 65913.4(a)(8)(B)). This requirement does not apply to projects that include 10 or fewer units and is not a public work project (Section 65913.4(a)(8)(C)).
(j) Subdivisions. Does not involve a subdivision subject to the Subdivision Map Act, unless the development either (i) receives a low-income housing tax credit and is subject to the requirement that prevailing wages be paid, or (ii) is subject to the requirements to pay prevailing wages and to use a skilled and trained workforce (Section 65913.4(a)(9)).
(k) Parking. The project must provide at least one parking space per unit; however, no parking may be required if 1) the project is located within a) one half mile of a public transit stop, b) an architecturally and historically significant historic district, c) one block of a car share vehicle station, or 2) on-street parking permits are required but not offered to the development occupants (Section 65913.4(d)).
(l) Mobilehome Site. The project site cannot be governed by the Mobilehome Residency Law, the Recreational Vehicle Park Occupancy Law, the Mobilehome Parks Act, or the Special Occupancy Parks Act (Section 65913.4(a)(10)).