SB 7 could speed up housing, but it’s unclear how much it will help

By J.K. Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle, May 21, 2021

“Standing near Diridon Station in San Jose, where Google is planning to build a campus with 4,000 housing units, Newsom signed Senate Bill 7, which allows projects of more than $15 million to apply for an expedited review under the California Environmental Quality Act, which is often used by development opponents to slow down or kill new housing.

“The bill allows developers of housing, clean energy, and manufacturing projects to apply for a special status that requires planning officials to streamline them. Once a project qualifies, any lawsuit filed under the California Environmental Quality Act goes directly to an appeals court and must be resolved within 270 days.

“The legislation requires 15 percent of new housing units be affordable to low-income families and also that the projects be built with union labor. While San Francisco and Oakland developments are typically union jobs and require at least that amount of affordable units, those requirements may be a tough sell in outer parts of the Bay Area where housing is typically less expensive.

“[Matt Regan, a vice president with the pro-business group Bay Area Council, said,] ‘You are only going to see [the law taken advantage of] in the high-end coastal markets, not in the Inland Empire or Central Valley. You are taking a lot of California off the map in terms of where it will have an impact.’ ”

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