By David M. Greenwald
Sacramento, CA – While supporters have called SB 35 “an essential tool for streamlining housing in California,” the so-called Builder’s Remedy remains extremely controversial, as it is at the center of a fight between the state and Huntington Beach.
This year, Senator Scott Wiener, who authored SB 35, introduced SB 423 which removes the sunset of SB 35, which is set to expire at the end of 2025. It also expands that law’s ability to deliver mixed-income housing developments and broadly benefit construction workers through changes to SB 35’s labor provisions.
Senator Wiener explained that, according to data from UC Berkeley’s Terner Center, they found in the first four years the bill was in effect, 18,000 units of housing have either been approved or are in the process of being approved under SB 35, and “three-quarters of those units, are below market rate.
“We are desperately in need of new homes in California. We are short millions of homes,” Senator Wiener said. He added, “SB 35 is a good government measure that will allow us to accelerate home construction. It’s very simple. If you meet all the rules, you meet the zoning and setbacks and designs and everything else, you, you get your permit without a hyper-politicized, chaotic, process that can take years, uh, and lead to litigation because anyone who has an attorney can challenge you.”
This week, SB 423 was passed out of the Senate Housing Committee and is now headed to the Senate Governance and Finance Committee.
According to the League of California Cities, which strongly opposes the bill, “SB 423 would expand SB 35 to nearly all cities, including those in the coastal zone. It would also allow the state to approve housing developments on property it owns or leases and prohibit a city from enforcing its inclusionary housing ordinance if the income limits are higher than those in SB 35.”
Further, it argues that SB 35 “forces cities to approve certain multifamily housing developments without public input or environmental review. The law includes several notable requirements and exemptions.”
According to their statement, California Cities opposes SB 423 for the following reasons:
Overarching laws like SB 423 undermine local efforts to spur housing construction. No other set of laws requires cities to spend millions of dollars developing complex, multiyear plans with their residents, which are then ultimately overridden by the state every year.
While it may be frustrating for some developers to address concerns about traffic, parking, and other development impacts, those directly affected by such projects have a right to be heard. Public engagement often leads to better projects. Removing public input will only further increase distrust and slow construction down even further.
The state will never produce the number of homes needed with a state-driven, by-right housing approval process. What is really needed is a sustainable state investment that matches the scale of this long-term crisis. Targeted, ongoing funding, like the annual $3 billion investment Cal Cities is calling for, is the only way to get Californians off the streets and keep them in their homes.
But California YIMBY believes that SB 35 has worked.
According to CEO Brian Hamlin noted that his organization “works to make California affordable for everyone to live, work, and raise a family” and called SB 35 “one of the most powerful pro-housing laws of modern California history.”
He said, “SB 35 has led to the development of thousands of homes affordable to low income Californians across our state, along with good paying jobs for construction workers, including some of the men and women behind me today. By streamlining the approval of affordable housing, SB 35 makes it faster, cheaper, and easier for low income housing developers to deliver the homes we need in our cities and towns while creating good jobs in our communities.”
Hamlin added, “California needs millions of new homes for people of all incomes, at all stages of life.” He said, “I am confident that when the legislature passes this bill, and the governor signs it into law, that SB 423 will turbocharge the construction of mixed-income housing, just as SB 35 did for subsidized affordable housing.
According to a release from Senator Wiener’s office, SB 35 works by granting streamlined approval—also known as ministerial approval—to certain housing projects proposed in areas that are out of compliance with the state’s housing planning process, RHNA.
These projects are granted ministerial review, which means that CEQA does not apply and cities are prohibited from applying discretionary processes.
For projects that are covered by SB 35, permits must be issued in 3-6 months, depending on the size of the project.
To qualify for SB 35, projects must be:
- Multi-family (at least 2 units)
- Located on an infill site
- Comply with objective zoning and design standards,
- Meet minimum affordability requirements, and
- Meet other locational and demolition restrictions.