Recently Signed Housing Bills Relevant to the Profession of Architecture

As we all know, California is facing a housing crisis. The 2022 Statewide Housing Plan estimated that California needs to build approximately 2.5 million units of housing over the next eight years. The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) estimates show that the state will need 180,000 new units of housing each year just to keep up with existing demand, including 80,000 units for low-income residents. However, California only averages less than 100,000 new units a year.

As a result, housing prices in our state have soared, topping the $800,000 mark for the first time in history. At the same time, over half of renters are spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, with 80 percent of low-income renters spending more than 30 percent.

In an attempt to address this crisis, Governor Newsom recently announced his signing of a number of bills that make up his 2022 housing and homelessness package. A list of those bills with summaries can be found here. Below are a few bills of note.

Updates to ADU Laws

AB 2221 (Quirk-Silva) – This bill clarifies and expands requirements for approval of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and junior dwelling units (JADUs). Specifically, it does the following:

  • Requires a permitting agency to “approve or deny” an application to serve an ADU or JADU within 60 days. If a permitting agency denies an application for an accessory dwelling unit or junior accessory dwelling unit, the bill requires a permitting agency to return in writing a full set of comments to the applicant with a list of items that are defective or deficient and a description of how the application can be remedied by the applicant within the same timeframes.
  • Expands the definition of “permitting agency” to any agency that might issue a permit to a project applicant, not just the planning department.
  • Adds front setbacks to the list of local development standards that local governments cannot impose if they would preclude construction of an attached or detached ADU.
  • Clarifies the following: a) An ADU can be attached to or located in a detached garage; b) Local ADU ordinances do not supersede state ADU laws.

SB 897 (Wieckowski) – This bill makes numerous changes to the laws governing accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and junior accessory dwelling units (JADUs). Specifically, it does the following:

  • Adjusts the minimum height limits that a local agency may impose, as follows: 16 feet height limitation for a detached ADU on a lot with an existing or proposed single family unit; 18 feet height limitation for a detached ADU on a lot with an existing or proposed multifamily dwelling unit; 18 feet height limitation for a detached ADU within one-half of one mile walking distance of a major transit stop or a high-quality transit corridor; + additional 2 feet to accommodate a roof pitch on an ADU that is aligned with the roof pitch of the primary dwelling unit; and 25 feet or the height limitation in the local zoning ordinance that applies to the primary dwelling unit, whichever is lower for an ADU attached to the primary dwelling unit.
  • Prohibits a local agency from denying a permit for an unpermitted ADU because of a building standard violation unless it is a health and safety violation.
  • Specifies that construction of an ADU does not constitute an occupancy change under the local building code or trigger a requirement that fire sprinklers be installed in either the ADU or the primary dwelling unit.
  • This bill would require a local agency to review and issue a demolition permit for a detached garage that is to be replaced by an accessory dwelling unit at the same time as it reviews and issues the permit for the accessory dwelling unit.
  • Clarifies the following: a) Standards imposed on ADUs must be objective; b) Any requirement for a zoning clearance or separate zoning review for either attached or detached dwellings will be constructed in compliance with all other local building standards.

AB 916 (Salas) – Prohibits a city or county from requiring a public hearing as a condition of reconfiguring existing space to add up to two bedrooms within an existing dwelling unit.

Adaptive Reuse of Commercial Facilities

AB 2011 (Wicks) – Enacts the “Affordable Housing and High Road Jobs Act of 2022” to create a ministerial, streamlined approval process for 100% affordable housing projects in commercial zones and for mixed-income housing projects along commercial corridors, as specified. The bill would also impose specified labor standards on those projects, including requirements that contractors pay prevailing wages, participate in apprenticeship programs, and make specified healthcare expenditures.

Specifically, the bill does the following:

Allows housing to be built by-right in infill areas currently zoned for office, retail, and parking uses.

  • Housing that is 100% affordable to lower income households will be allowed anywhere in these areas that is not on environmentally sensitive land or on or next to industrial land.
  • Mixed-income housing will be focused along commercial corridors that are wide enough to accommodate density and new transit. At least 15 percent of the units would be required to be affordable to lower income households.
  • For rent projects could, alternatively, provide at least eight percent of the units for very low-income households and five percent for extremely low-income households.
  • For sale projects could, alternatively, provide 30 percent of their unit for moderate-income households.

SB 6 (Caballero) – This bill enacts, until January 1, 2033, the Middle Class Housing Act of 2022, establishes an expedited process to allow residential development on existing developed lots currently zoned for commercial office, retail, or parking, such as strip malls or large “big box” retail spaces. This bill requires the development of residential units at a minimum density to accommodate affordable housing, abide by existing local planning and development ordinances, pay workers union wages, and prioritize the use of a skilled and trained workforce (although the law provides an “off ramp” if fewer than two bidders bid for a contract under the “skilled and trained workforce” requirement).

Specifically, the bill does the following:

  • Allows residential development on parcels zoned for commercial retail, office, and parking.
  • Requires housing development to meet or exceed the density deemed appropriate to accommodate affordable housing.
  • Expands the state’s ministerial housing approval process to include commercial properties.
  • Subjects the development to labor requirements, local inclusionary ordinances, and other local zoning, parking, and design ordinances.

A more detailed breakdown of AB 2011 and SB 6 can be found here.

SB 1695 (Santiago) – This bill requires that any notice of funding availability issued by HCD state that adaptive reuse of a property for affordable housing purposes is an eligible activity as long as it is for an affordable multifamily housing loan program. This bill defines “adaptive reuse” as the retrofitting and repurposing an existing building to create new residential units.

Parking Requirements:

AB 2097 (Friedman) – This bill prohibits public agencies from imposing or enforcing parking minimums on developments within ½ mile of a major transit stop, as specified. Allows a city or county to impose minimum parking requirements on developments located within one-half mile of public transit if the city or county makes written findings within 30 days stating that not imposing minimum parking requirements would have a substantially negative impact, as specified.

The legislative process is not the only place housing policy is being considered in California. In fact, there are 52-housing related measures on local ballots throughout the state this election. According to the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkely, “the issues covered in these measures vary widely, including votes on changing local land use approvals, creating new sources of revenue for local housing initiatives, and establishing new or expanding existing tenant protection policies.”

AIA California is working to ensure that architects have a seat at the table to proactively lead positive changes in housing. We will continue to do all that we can to ensure that architects can use design to impact our communities for good and improve the quality of life in California.

More information on the bills in the Governor’s housing and homeless package can be found here.


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