SB 330 Seeks to Speed Up Housing Production

The Housing Crisis Act of 2019 (Senate Bill No. 330; Senator Skinner) goes into effect on January 1, 2020 and expires on January 1, 2025. It aims to address the statewide housing crisis by limiting the number of public hearings for new housing developments and reducing the timeline for permit review, placing limits on permit processing, limiting fees and exactions, and making it more difficult for local jurisdictions to deny or modify housing projects. To summarize, the Act:

  1. Provides more certainty for housing developers by prohibiting local agencies from:
  • Requiring compliance with an ordinance, policy or standard adopted after a “preliminary application” is submitted, except under limited circumstances, such as where compliance is necessary to avoid or substantially lessen an otherwise significant impact under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
  • Imposing or enforcing design standards established on or after January 1, 2020, unless they qualify as objective (as defined in the Act).
  • Imposing new or increased development impact fees, unless an automatic annual adjustment based on an independently published cost index referenced in the legislation establishing the fee.
  1. Prohibits caps, moratoriums and density reductions by disallowing agencies from:
  • Reducing permitted housing density to below that allowed on January 1, 2018.
  • Imposing moratoriums (or similar restrictions) on new housing development unless the Department of Housing and Community Development agrees that it is necessary to protect against an imminent public health and safety threat.
  • Limiting the total number of housing units in a local jurisdiction, unless approved by the voters prior to 2005 for a “predominantly agricultural county.”
  1. Shortens the approval process
  • No more than five public hearings may be held on a housing project (if it complies with applicable objective general plan and zoning standards) and the overall timeframe for review and approval (or disapproval) under the Permit Streamlining Act is reduced.

The Act adds and amends various California Government Code sections, including the Permit Streamlining Act (Cal. Gov’t Code Section 65920 et. seq.) and the Housing Accountability Act (Cal. Gov’t Code Section 65589.5 et. seq.). It applies to “housing developments,” which include mixed-use projects with two-thirds or more of the square footage dedicated to residential use. Protection is limited under the Act. The vesting protections lapse if construction is not commenced within two and a half years from the date of final project approval (which period would be stayed during litigation) and/or the residential square footage or number of units is increased by 20 percent or more after the preliminary application is submitted, exclusive of any increase resulting from a density bonus. See the full text of the Act for additional provisions not summarized here (e.g., relocation assistance requirements).