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Governor’s Proposal to Streamline Housing Development Limits Local Review of Projects

Governor Brown recently announced a new proposal to streamline housing development in California. In order to be eligible for the streamlined process, projects must restrict a percentage of units for affordable housing. The required percentage varies depending on the level of affordability and proximity to transit priority areas. All projects that seek to qualify for the streamlined process are required to restrict at least 20 percent of units for individuals who earn 80 percent of the area median income. However, projects located in transit priority areas are subject to lower thresholds. Namely, these projects are required to either restrict ten percent for lower income individuals or five percent for very low income individuals.

In addition to the affordability requirements, projects must also meet certain specific statutory criteria. When projects meet the statutory criteria, they are permitted by right. To begin the process, a developer must submit its intent to utilize the streamlining authority and certify that the project meets all of the statutory criteria described below:

  1. The development is consistent with the city or county’s general plan and zoning standards;
  2. The project site is immediately adjacent to urban uses;
  3. The proposed development is a multi-unit housing project for which the developer has recorded a land-use restriction that is
    a) for at least 30 years,
    b) is enforceable by a public agency or any member of the public, and
    c) meets the specific affordability thresholds depending upon the level of affordability and proximity to a transit priority area; and
  4. The project site does not include specific types of environmentally sensitive conditions.

As stated above, development projects that meet the stated criteria would be permitted by right and, thus, local agencies would have limited review authority. Local agencies would still have design review authority; however, such review could not exceed 90 days. Further, local agencies would also have the right to challenge a developer’s determination of general plan and zoning consistency. To do so, local agencies must provide developers with written documentation identifying which standards the project is inconsistent with and why. A challenge must be provided to a developer within 30 days of the submittal of a project or else the project would be automatically deemed compliant with the general plan and zoning standards.

The Governor’s proposal was included as part of the state budget, which is set for consideration on June 1st. If you wish to comment on the proposal, you should contact your legislature prior to June 1st. We will monitor the proposal and provide you with continuing updates.