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Senate Bill 4 – Affordable Housing On Faith And Higher Education Lands Act Of 2023
Senate Bill 4 allows applications for certain housing development projects that meet certain criteria to be streamlined for approval and not subject to a conditional use permit. The applications must meet certain criteria including specified applicants, location of the land, and type of project. The application for the housing development projects must be submitted by a qualified developer, which is defined as local public entities, as defined in Health and Safety Code Section 50079 or certain nonprofit corporations, limited partnerships, limited liability companies, religious institutions or independent institution of education, as defined in Education Code Section 66010, that meet certain criteria.
SB 4 outlines fifteen separate criteria that the housing development project must meet. The housing development project must be located on any land owned by an independent institution of higher education or religious institution on or before January 1, 2024. The housing development project cannot be adjoined to any site where more than one-third of the square footage on the site is dedicated to industrial use. One hundred percent of the units, exclusive of manager units, in an eligible housing development project must be affordable to lower income households, except that 20% of the units may be for moderate-income households, and 5% of the units may be for staff of the independent institution of higher education or the religious institution that owns the land. The units affordable to lower income households must be offered at affordable rent, as set in an amount consistent with the rent limits established by the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, or affordable housing cost, as defined the Health and Safety Code.
If all criteria are met, the housing development project will be eligible for a use by right, meaning it will not require a conditional use permit, planned unit development permit, or other discretionary local government review, and will not be a “project” that is subject to California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Use by Right).
SB 4 authorizes housing development projects to utilize the ground floor for certain ancillary uses including, but not limited to, childcare centers and facilities operated by community-based organizations.
SB 4 specifies that a housing development project that is eligible for approval as a Use by Right under the bill is also eligible for a density bonus, incentives, or concessions, or waivers or reductions of development and parking standards, except as specified.
SB 4 requires a housing development project to provide off-street parking of up to one space per unit, unless a state law or local ordinance provides for a lower standard of parking, in which case the law or ordinance applies. Local government are prohibited from imposing any parking requirement on a housing development project if the development is located within one-half mile walking distance of public transit, either a high-quality transit corridor or a major transit stop or within one block of a car share vehicle.
SB 4 requires a local government that determines a proposed housing development project is in conflict with any objective planning standards, as specified, to provide the qualified developer with written documentation explaining those conflicts within 60 days for a proposed housing development project containing 150 or fewer housing units or 90 days for a proposed housing development project containing more than 150 housing units. If the local government fails to provide the requisite documentation explaining any conflicts, the proposed housing development project shall be deemed to satisfy the required objective planning standards.
SB 4 authorizes local governments to conduct a design review; however, the design review must focus on compliance with the requisite criteria of a streamlined, ministerial review process. The design review process shall not inhibit, chill, or preclude a streamlined, ministerial approval. SB 4 requires local governments to issue a subsequent permit for housing development projects approved under the provisions of this act.
SB 4 will be repealed as of January 1, 2036.
SB 4 includes findings that changes proposed by this bill address a matter of statewide concern rather than a municipal affair and, therefore, apply to all cities, including charter cities. CEQA requires a lead agency, as defined, to prepare, or cause to be prepared, and certify the completion of an environmental impact report on a project that it proposes to carry out or approve that may have a significant effect on the environment or to adopt a negative declaration if it finds that the project will not have that effect. CEQA does not apply to the ministerial approval of projects. SB 4, by requiring approval of certain development projects as a Use By Right, would expand the exemption for ministerial approval of projects under CEQA.
(SB 4 adds and repeals Section 65913.16 of the Government Code.)