Nearly Every California City and County is Subject to SB 35 Streamlining Provisions for Housing Projects
The Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has released a statewide list of California jurisdictions that are subject to some form of residential development streamlining under SB 35 (Gov. Code, § 65913.4). Only 13 cities and counties have met their regional housing needs targets for the current reporting period. A total of 377 cities and counties are subject to SB 35 streamlining for "qualified" housing development projects that include affordability restrictions on at least 10% of the project's units (affordable to households making below 80% of the area median income). These jurisdictions include most of Southern California, such as the unincorporated areas of the counties of Riverside and San Diego, the cities of San Diego, Palm Springs, Huntington Beach, and Temecula, just to name a few. The remaining 150 jurisdictions on HCD's list must provide streamlining for qualified housing projects providing at least 50% of the units as affordable for income restricted households. The complete list may be accessed here.
Multifamily housing developments in jurisdictions that are subject to SB 35 may be eligible to receive streamlined, ministerial approvals if all qualifying criteria are met. For example, the project site must be located in an infill area with at least 75% of the perimeter adjoining parcels developed with urban uses. Additionally, the site must be zoned for residential or residential mixed-use development and the project must comply with all objective planning and design review standards. SB 35 streamlining does not apply to projects located within certain areas, such as the Coastal zone, prime farmland or farmlands of statewide importance, high or very high fire hazard severity zones, earthquake fault zones or floodplains. In addition to providing a certain amount of affordable housing units, qualifying projects with more than 10 units are subject to prevailing wage and/or skilled labor requirements.
A significant benefit of streamlining is that the city's or county's project approval process is ministerial, rather than discretionary, which means that environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) may be avoided, along with CEQA litigation. Although most of California's local governments are now subject to state-mandated streamlining for qualified projects, it is unclear how the streamlined approval process will unfold in practice given the number of exclusions and the prevailing wage and skilled labor requirements. Jackson Tidus is monitoring HCD's release of draft implementation guidelines (expected Spring 2018) and the housing projects proceeding under the SB 35 streamlining process.