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Home » California SB 10 – How will this affect the zoning and development of housing projects in California

California SB 10 – How will this affect the zoning and development of housing projects in California

California SB 10 – How will this affect the zoning and development of housing projects in California

California SB 10 (Senate Bill 10)
Which Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law on September 16th, 2021, will take effect on the 1st of January, 2022. And this provides that local agencies may adopt an ordinance to allow up to 10 dwelling units on any parcel at a height specified in the ordinance if the parcel is located within a transient rich area or urban infill site. Pursuant to SB 10, the adoption of such an ordinance would be subject to the California Environmental Quality Act, which is CEQA. Let’s take an in-depth look at how this bill will affect you and your community.

California Senate Bill 10 (SB 10) Explained
The law provides some increased stability for pro-housing cities to move forward with potentially substantial unzonings without being held up by CEQA’s processing delays and litigation. However, since SB 10 exempts only the rezoning process without providing any CEQA exemption, ministerial approval, or by-right approval process for the actual housing itself, the law will have to provide or have a limited effect in this significantly advancing housing approvals.

Approval of actual housing development would remain subject to CEQA in many jurisdictions that require discretionary permits for new housing, and so SB 10’s process is likely to have its greatest effect in localities that choose through their own codes to adopt by-right or ministerial permitting of code-compliant housing developments.

Provisions of SB 10.
In adopting an ordinance pursuant to SB 10, a local agency must declare that the zoning ordinance is adopted pursuant to SB 10 clearly demarcate the areas that are zoned pursuant to this section and make findings that the increased density supports the agency’s duty to affirmatively further fair housing. A local agency that approves a zoning ordinance pursuant to SB 10 shall not subsequently reduce the density of any parcel subject to the ordinance. Up to two accessory dwelling units or junior ADUs, that’s JADUs, would be permitted on each parcel, and these would not count towards the 10 unit threshold. An ordinance enacted pursuant to this legislation may override a local initiative restricting zoning, if the ordinance is adopted by two-thirds of the legislative body approving the ordinance.

Limitations of SB 10.
It does not apply to parcels in a very high fire severity zone, nor would it apply to parcels in open space, park, or recreational areas, or lands approved by the voters. A project may not be divided into smaller projects to avoid the limitations of SB 10. The authorization only extends through January 1st, 2029.

What are some other considerations of SB 10?
Under SB 10, the local agency’s approval of any ordinance to allow 10 units in any qualifying site would be exempt from CEQA, but the approval of the actual process that projects conform to the newly adopted zoning may still be subject to CEQA unless the local ordinance provides for ministerial processing or the project is exempted by another law or local ordinance. Some projects may be able to qualify for Class 3 “small structures” CEQA exemption, and Class 32 urban infill exemption or another CEQA exemption, but the projects may be unable to use the commonly applied General Plan or Community Plan exemption since it requires that an Environmental Impact Report, that’s an EIR, has been prepared for the applicable plan, and SB 10 exempts that rezoning from CEQA. Moreover, if an applicant seeks to build more than 10 units on a parcel that has been rezoned through SB 10, such as through the density bonus law, SB 10 prohibits the project from qualifying for any other CEQA exemption, ministerial or other right processes that would otherwise apply. Applicants and local governments should carefully analyze whether and under what circumstances SB 10 is the proper vehicle to advance planning for housing and to advance project approvals.

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