Latest bill to boost housing statewide takes a step forward

If enacted, the measure would require cities like LA zone for more land for housing

Senator Scott Wiener and a multifamily property (Credit: Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects)
Senator Scott Wiener and a multifamily property (Credit: Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects)

A bill aimed at drastically increasing housing development statewide passed the Senate this week, and if enacted, would require cities like Los Angeles to zone more land for residential construction.

Called Senate Bill 828, the measure passed Tuesday, 23-10 vote, and now heads to the Assembly.

Currently, California law requires cities and counties to zone enough land to meet 100 percent of the local housing need. Under SB 828, that would increase to 125 percent.

The bill would apply to land suitable for residential development, including vacant lots, residential lots that could be upzoned, sites owned or leased by government bodies, and nonresidential sites that could be rezoned.

Few cities and counties meet the existing requirement for residential zoning, and the law is rarely enforced. If local officials failed to comply with SB 828 requirements, that law would bar them from rejecting any residential project proposed on suitable land.

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SB 828 was drafted by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who also wrote the controversial SB 827 bill that would have allowed for more dense housing development. The measure was killed in its first Senate committee hearing in April. Wiener is expected to return next year with a new version of the bill.

The current draft of SB 828 is scaled down from a version that would have required local governments to zone for twice as much housing as needed locally.

In order to avoid pricing out potential residents, SB 828 requires local officials to zone for the need at “for all income levels.” Officials would also be required to review that periodically, such as when they update their general zoning plans.

Both SB 828 and SB 827 are meant to address California’s housing shortage, which by some counts requires millions of units of housing be built to keep up with demand.

L.A. in particular is facing a growing affordability crisis, which local lawmakers and activists have tried to address in numerous ways, including a pilot program that pays homeowners to build so-called “granny flats” on their properties.