New bill would expand controversial California housing law – Orange County Register

Hoping to build on efforts to approve much-needed affordable housing across California, Senator Scott Wiener on Monday announced plans to expand a controversial state law that forces cities to approve certain projects.

Senate Bill 35 — one of Wiener’s signature achievements — rocked the state building process when it passed in 2017, sparking fierce opposition from some city leaders and residents who claimed Sacramento had too much control over what types of housing were allowed in them neighborhoods.

But it has also helped thousands of new homes get through a permitting and permitting process that can otherwise be difficult enough to stymie projects. Now Wiener wants to make the changes permanent by removing the sunset clause for SB 35, which is due to expire in 2025. He also proposes changes that would expand the scope of the law.

“California needs millions of new homes, and we must give cities and builders all the tools to make those homes a reality,” he said in a press release.

SB 35 requires cities to grant simplified approval to certain projects that include affordable housing — and those projects are immune to environmental lawsuits, which opponents often use to stop or delay construction. The law only applies in cities that have not approved enough housing to meet state guidelines — including most California cities.

Between 2018 and 2021, developers proposed 18,000 housing units under SB 35 — including 13,000 low-income units, Wiener’s team said, citing preliminary data from UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation. Of these, more than 11,000 were approved. Nearly 2,000 units were added under the law in San Francisco alone. New bill would expand controversial California housing law – Orange County Register

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