Legislative Update – October 2018

As of midnight September 30th, Governor Brown took final action on all pieces of legislation, closing out the 2017-2018 legislative session and his last bill signing cycle as Governor. This year saw over 900 bills make their way to the Governor’s desk, many of which were hotly contested and led to lively debates amongst members, proponents, and opponents. While 2017 was viewed as the housing-heavy legislative year and one that caused a significant amount of “housing fatigue”, we did see quite a few additional housing-related measures make their way through the process this year; many of which were successfully signed by the Governor and chaptered into law. We saw bills dealing with everything from Regional Housing Needs Allocation numbers, to transit oriented development on BART owned property. Additionally, we can be sure that the November election and the current ballot measures will bring new challenges and opportunities for additional legislation to address housing and transit oriented issues next year. 

Below is a list of this year’s housing bills. As you will notice, of those that made it to his desk – all were successfully signed!

The Governor signed the following bills of interest:

  • 8/28: AB 3194, by Assemblymember Tom Daly, strengthens the Housing Accountability Act and limits local jurisdictions’ ability to deny a proposed development project consistent with the area’s objective general plan standards. 
  • 9/27: SB 765, by Senator Wiener, which clarifies ambiguities to Senator Wiener’s SB 35 from last year. SB 35 established a streamlined approval process for infill projects, with two or more residential units, in localities that have failed to produce sufficient housing to meet their Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) numbers. SB 765 makes a number of clarifications, most importantly: 
    • Long term affordability: clarifies that a developer is required to record affordability covenants of 55 years for rental units and 45 years for ownership units included in the development
    • HCD Determination: This bill clarifies that HCD’s determination of whether a jurisdiction is subject to streamlining shall be based on the jurisdiction’s latest Annual Progress Report (APR).
    • CEQA Streamlining: this bill exempts from CEQA the lease, conveyance, or encumbrance of land owned by the state or local jurisdiction for housing for very-low, low-, or moderate income households.
  • 9/30: AB 686, by Assemblymember Santiago, addresses housing discrimination and would require a public agency, as defined, to administer its programs and activities relating to housing and community development in a manner to affirmatively further fair housing, and to not take any action that is materially inconsistent with this obligation.
  • 9/22: AB 1804, by Assemblymember Berman, establishes a limited exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for multi-family residential and mixed-use housing projects meeting specified conditions, expanding an existing exemption for infill projects within cities to apply in unincorporated areas that are within the boundaries of an urbanized area or urban cluster. Essentially, this measure simply expands an existing CEQA exemption to affordable developments in unincorporated communities within the Census-designated urbanized area or urban cluster.
  • 9/28: AB 2035, by Assemblymember Mullin, is a follow-up measure to AB 1598 (Mullin), which was signed into law in 2017, allowing cities and counties to create Affordable Housing Authorities to fund the promotion and development of affordable housing through local tax increment financing, without raising taxes.  This bill clarifies AHA law to ensure tax increment financing for affordable housing can be implemented.
  • 9/30: AB 2923, by Assemblymember Chiu was very controversial, which is most likely the reason the Governor waited until the last day to take any action! AB 2923 rezones BART-owned land to increase housing supply near quality transit.  Lighthouse provided regular updates on our private conversations with Senators and Assembly members, representing areas outside of the bay area, to Assemblymember Chiu and the sponsors of the bill throughout the process. Despite Senator Glazer and Assemblywoman Baker’s vehement opposition to the bill, we were able to surprise them by pulling votes from the Moderate Democrats as well as Republicans like Senator Anderson,  and Assembly members Chen and Maienschein, who overcame their “precedent setting fears” and broke rank from their caucuses to support the bill.
  • 9/30: SB 828, by Senator Wiener and co-sponsored by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and Bay Area Council, addresses flaws in the current RHNA assessment methodology by: Standardizing the Department’s process for calculating existing housing need by using data on vacancy rate, overcrowding, and housing cost-burden
    • Prohibiting planners from considering existing housing shortages as a basis to justify a low housing allocation
    • Requiring housing cost-burden to be considered by the Department as an indicator of an unhealthy housing market
    • Requiring regional governments to include more detailed data about the state of housing relative to other throughout the country comparable regions
  • 9/30: AB 1771, by Assemblymember Bloom. Can be viewed as the counterpart to SB 828 (above) as it deals with another component of RHNA. This bill requires Council of Governments to consult with HCD when developing their Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) methodology and revises the objectives required to be addressed in the RHNA plan. It additionally requires the plan to include an objective to increase access to areas of high opportunity for lower-income residents, while avoiding displacement and affirmatively furthering fair housing
  • 9/29: AB 2753, by Assemblymember Friedman, makes changes to the density bonus application process by requiring a city, county, or city and county to provide a developer, at the time an application for a density bonus is deemed complete, a determination as to the following:
    • The amount of density bonus for which a development is eligible;
    • If the applicant requests a parking ratio, the ratio for which the applicant is eligible; and
    • If the applicant requests incentives, concessions, or waivers or reductions in development standards, whether the applicant provided adequate information for the city, county, or city and county to make a determination as to those incentives, concessions, or waivers or reductions.

Provides that the determination made in 1), above, is based on the development project at the time the application is deemed complete and the city, county, or city and county shall adjust the amount of density bonus and parking ratios awarded based on any changes during the course of the development

  • 9/29: SB 1227, by Senator Skinner, requires cities and counties to grant a 35% density bonus when an applicant for a housing development of five or more units seeks and agrees to construct a project that will contain at least 20% of the total units for lower-income students in a student housing development. It limits proof of income status to eligibility of financial aid and further requires the developer to provide proof of master lease agreement with at least one institution of higher education.

We are thrilled to see the number of housing measures that made it through the Governor’s office this year. However, we know that there is still a lot of work to do and we are ready to continue to advocate for affordable homeownership measures, such as the affordable homeownership tax credit, to benefit our affiliates and those you serve. By building upon this year’s momentum, strengthening our partnerships with various housing advocates, and preparing for a new Governor, we can look forward to increasing our success next year.