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Sac'to Senator Wiener (Authored SB35) Introduces New Bill -- SB 827 -- Offering Housing Developers Density Bonus/Exemptions From Various Req'ts Within Half-Mile/Quarter Mile From Transit

  • UPDATE: In a release, Sen. Wiener describes his bill as "Mandating Denser & Taller Zoning Near Transit"
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    (Jan. 4, 2018, 9:55 a.m., updated 3:50 p.m.) -- State Senator Scott Wiener (D, San Francisco) (who authored SB35) has introduced SB827, a bill that would give housing developers what it calls a "transit-rich housing bonus" for residential developments within a 1/2 mile radius of a "major transit stop" or a 1/4 mile radius of a "high-quality transit corridor" (all terms that it defines, below.)

    SB 827 would exempt projects that receive such bonuses from a number of requirements, including maximum controls on residential density or floor area ratio, minimum automobile parking requirements and design standards that restrict the applicant's ability to construct the maximum number of units consistent with any applicable building code, and maximum height limitations.

    UPDATE: In a release, Sen. Wiener describes SB827 as follows:

    [Sen. Wiener release text]

    SB 827 -- Mandating Denser & Taller Zoning Near Transit

    Co-authored by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by CA Yimby

    California continues to invest in public transportation, but too often the areas around transit lines and transit stops are zoned at very low densities, even limiting housing to single family homes around major transit hubs like BART, Caltrain, Muni, and LA Metro stations. Requiring low-density housing around transit makes no sense. Transit-rich areas are *exactly* where we should be putting dense housing. We must build more housing near transit so that we can reduce reliance on cars.

    Building dense and tall housing around transit is not only sound environmental, economic, and equity policy it is also one of California's most promising sources of new housing, according to a recent California analysis by the consulting firm McKinsey (LINK: https://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/urbanization/closing-californias-housing-gap?cid=eml-web). When we invest in transit, as we should, we need to make sure that the community at large is benefitting from this investment by having more access to housing near that transit.

    SB 827 creates density and height zoning minimums near transit. Under SB 827, parcels within a half-mile of high-connectivity transit hubs - like BART, Muni, Caltrain, and LA Metro stations -- and within a quarter mile of transit-heavy corridors will be required to have no density maximums (such as single family home mandates), no parking minimums, and a minimum height limit of between 45 and 85 feet, depending on various factors, such as whether the parcel is on a larger commercial corridor and whether it is immediate adjacent to the station. A local ordinance could increase that height but not go below it. SB 827 allows for many more smaller apartment buildings, described as the "missing middle" between high-rise steel construction and single family homes.

    [End UPDATE] .

    [Scroll down for further.]



    SB 827 specifies the following:

    • "High quality transit corridor" means a corridor with fixed route bus service that has service intervals of no more than 15 minutes during peak commute hours.

    • "Transit-rich housing project" means a residential development project the parcels of which are all within a one-half mile radius of a major transit stop or a one-quarter mile radius of a high-quality transit corridor. A project shall be deemed to be within a one-half mile radius of a major transit stop or a one-quarter mile radius of a high-quality transit corridor if both of the following apply:

      • (A) All parcels within the project have no more than 25 percent of their area outside of a one-half mile radius of a major transit stop or a one-quarter mile radius of a high-quality transit corridor.

      • (B) No more than 10 percent of the residential units or 100 units, whichever is less, of the project are outside of a one-half mile radius of a major transit stop or a one-quarter mile radius of a high-quality transit corridor.

    • "Major transit stop" has the same meaning as defined in Section 21064.3 of the Public Resources Code [which states "Major transit stop means a site containing an existing rail transit station, a ferry terminal served by either a bus or rail transit service, or the intersection of two or more major bus routes with a frequency of service interval of 15 minutes or less during the morning and afternoon peak commute periods."

    Sponsor

    Sponsor

    SB 827 goes on to state:

    (b) Notwithstanding any local ordinance, general plan element, specific plan, charter, or other local law, policy, resolution, or regulation, a transit-rich housing project shall receive a transit-rich housing bonus which shall exempt the project from all of the following:

    (1) Maximum controls on residential density or floor area ratio.

    (2) Minimum automobile parking requirements.

    (3) Any design standard that restricts the applicant's ability to construct the maximum number of units consistent with any applicable building code.

    (4) (A) If the transit-rich housing project is within either a one-quarter mile radius of a high-quality transit corridor or within one block of a major transit stop, any maximum height limitation that is less than 85 feet, except in cases where a parcel facing a street that is less than 45 feet wide from curb to curb, in which case the maximum height shall not be less than 55 feet. If the project is exempted from the local maximum height limitation, the governing height limitation for a transit-rich housing project shall be 85 feet or 55 feet, as provided in this subparagraph.

    (B) If the transit-rich housing project is within one-half mile of a major transit stop, but does not meet the criteria specified in subparagraph (A), any maximum height limitation that is less than 55 feet, except in cases where a parcel facing a street that is less than 45 feet wide from curb to curb, in which case the maximum height shall not be less than 45 feet. If the project is exempted from the local maximum height limitation, the governing height limitation for a transit-rich housing project shall be 55 feet or 45 feet, as provided in this subparagraph.

    (C) For purposes of this paragraph, if a parcel has street frontage on two or more different streets, the height maximum pursuant to this paragraph shall be based on the widest street.

    SB 827's full text as introduced is visible at this link.

    Sponsor


    On December 13, 2017, Sen. Wiener wrote the following on his Facebook page:

    We need to do better building housing that is neither high-rise nor extreme low density (like single family) - basically, smaller apartment buildings in what are currently low density areas. This "missing middle" housing makes a big difference - allowing lower-cost density near transit while retaining a neighborhood's human scale. Smart zoning adjustments to low-density neighborhoods to allow this kind of housing will go a long way toward making housing more affordable and sustainable. [Comemnts on a Dec. 9 Washington Post article.]

    Senator Wiener's SB35 (enacted into law in 2017) is a complex bill detailed by LBREPORT.com here that significantly impacts land use decisionmaking locally. In general terms, in specified circumstances where SB35 applies, it neuters the public's grounds for objecting to a multi-unit housing project's significant impacts under the CA Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), erases city-adopted parking requirements for such developments and substitutes Sacramento standards with minimal or no parking required in some circumstances, and requires City Hall to approve certain multi-unit housing-developer sought projects if they otherwise fit within the maximum allowed objectively stated standards in the City's General Plan (including Land Use Element) or zoning.

    Sponsor

    Sponsor

    For reasons still not fully explained publicly, the City of Long Beach failed to oppose (remained "neutral" with "watch" position) on SB35 and other housing-developer related bills (supported by Sacramento Dem-leadership) despite a LB Council-approved 2017 "state legislative agenda" reciting that the City would oppose Sac'to legislation damaging to local control. The City Council's Mayor-chosen "State Legislation Committee" (Austin, Mungo, Gonzalez) approved the 2017 state legislative agenda in January 2017 and sent it to the Council which approved it in April 2017,..but the Council's State Legislation Committee then failed to meet from Jan. 10 until November (when the Sac'to legislative session had ended), effectively letting SB35 and similar Dem leadership-backed housing bills advance to enactment without City of Long Beach opposition. A few months ago, Councilman Austin (term limited in the 8th Council district) indicated to LBREPORT.com that he's considering a run for state Senate [if incumbent state Senator Ricardo Lara (D, LB-Huntington Park) is elected Insurance Commissioner in November.]

    While the state legislation advanced, LB city staff simultaneously advanced a density-promoting Land Use Element (LUE) revision without publicly discussing the advancing bills' impacts on the LUE's proposed changes. The LUE, with accompanying density increase maps and an Urban Design Element, is now expected to reach the Council for voted direction in the coming weeks and months.

    State Senator Ricardo Lara (D, LB-Huntington Park), state Senator Janet Nguyen (R, SE LB-west OC) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (NLB-Lakewood-Paramount) voted for SB 35. Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell (D, Long Beach-San Pedro) was one of a handful of Democrats who voted "no" on SB35 although he supported other bills in the Dem leadership-backed housing package.

    Developing.

    Sponsor



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