Northern News

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A publication of the American Planning Association, California Chapter, Northern Section

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Sen. Scott Wiener introduced two new housing bills

Excerpts from an article by Bianca Bruno, Courthouse News Service, February 18, 2021

On Feb. 18, “California state Senator Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, introduced two new pieces of housing legislation aimed at giving teeth to local zoning rules to help boost the critically missing supply of multifamily housing units and ensure laws already on the books are being implemented effectively. [His] Senate Bills 478 and 477 … round out the state senator’s 2021 legislative housing package.

SB 478, the Housing Opportunity Act, aims to ensure locally zoned density and state housing laws are not undermined by restrictive lot requirements [that] make building multifamily units impractical in areas [otherwise] zoned to allow them. [It] sets minimum … FARs … and minimum lot sizes for land zoned for duplexes to 10-unit buildings.

“Wiener said … the rules represent the ‘wonky’ type of ‘housing nerd concepts’ which ‘are profoundly important because these are two issues and two strategies that far too many cities use to make it impossible … to actually build to that zoning.’ … The proposed legislation would not raise the height limit or otherwise change the way a parcel is already zoned, [just] ensure housing could actually be built to the allowable density.

“Current state laws already preempt local FAR regulations for accessory dwelling units. SB 478 would require an FAR of 1.5 on multifamily-zoned lots.

Senate Bill 477, the Housing Data Act, strengthens California’s housing data collection so the state and local governments can better understand the impact of housing laws already on the books and take stock of what’s working and what isn’t. … The data would be collected as part of a new accountability unit implemented by Governor Gavin Newsom in the state Department of Housing and Community Development.

“Local governments will be required to submit additional data to [HCD] as part of their annual progress reports … [specifically] regarding the location and number of development permits approved, building permits issued, number of units constructed, [and] information related to building applications submitted under accessory dwelling unit statutes.”

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