California to speed up environmental reviews for resi projects

Projects must have at least $15M in investment, 15% affordable units

California Governor Gavin Newsom. (Getty)
California Governor Gavin Newsom. (Getty)

Small residential projects in California will have an easier time securing key environmental reviews, thanks to new legislation signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday.

Newsom signed a bill that allows privately financed residential projects with between $15 million and $100 million in investment to qualify for a streamlined environmental review process through 2025. At least 15 percent of the units at the project must also be classified as affordable.

Streamlined reviews are already available to larger housing, clean energy and manufacturing projects.

The bill was introduced in December by state Senator Toni Atkins “to speed up the costly and time-consuming review process without compromising California’s strict environmental standards,” according to a statement from Atkins’s office this week.

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Simplifying the process is California’s attempt at “cutting red tape to save time and remove barriers to production,” the governor said at a press conference announcing the bill’s enactment.

Newsom signed the bill at Google’s proposed mixed-use project in San Jose, which will create 4,000 housing units — a quarter of which will be affordable. The development, which also will include retail and office space, was approved for expedited environmental review in 2019.

California, suffering from a severe housing shortage, needs to build around 180,000 housing units per year to meet projected needs, according to estimates from the California Department of Housing and Community Development. Only 3 percent of California cities and counties are on track to meet California’s housing goals, with the rest trailing behind on granting construction permits.