California is in the midst of a deep housing crisis and many local governments are motivated to increase neighborhood density, and others are required by state law to do so. However, due to the lack of adequate statewide standards, along with burdensome and outdated regulations, some California cities are able to find loopholes to prevent denser housing from becoming a reality.
Sen. Scott Wiener’s housing legislation, Senate Bill 478, recently passed the Senate Governance and Finance Committee by a vote of 4-1. SB 478, the Housing Opportunity Act, ensures that local zoned density and state housing laws are not undermined by hyper-restrictive lot requirements that make it nearly impossible to build multifamily buildings in areas zoned multifamily.
Specifically, SB 478 sets minimum standards on floor area ratios (FAR) and minimum lot sizes for land zoned for missing middle housing (from three to 10-unit buildings). Current state law already pre-empts local FAR regulations from hindering the production of ADUs. when building an ADU, local FAR standards are void. SB 478 would simply require an FAR of 1 on lots zoned for three to seven units and an FAR of 1.25 on eight to 10 units rather than completely nullify them as is the case with ADUs. This legislation would apply in urbanized areas in multifamily residential or mixed-use zones.
SB 478 will also stipulate that localities cannot deny a project solely on the basis that the lot size does not meet requirements for minimum lot size. Additionally, localities will not be allowed to impose a lot coverage requirement that would preclude a housing development from achieving the allowed FAR.
Lisa Brown has decades of experience in corporate communications and marketing management with organizations including Coldwell Banker Residential, Grubb & Ellis, Marcus & Millichap, NAIOP, SIOR and ALM.
In those positions, she worked in conjunction with chief executive officers and chief marketing officers to create corporate messaging, cohesive branding standards, strategic marketing plans and thought pieces. Brown is a frequent speaker at industry events and an editing adjunct professor for an online course. She has a master’s degree in mass communications from San Jose State University.