March 29, 2021
From: Sustainable TamAlmonte
To: Honorable Senator Scott Wiener (Chair), Senate Housing Committee, State Capitol, Room 2209, Sacramento, CA 95814
Re: Oppose Senate Bill 8 (Skinner) “Housing Crisis Act of 2019”
Dear Chair Senator Wiener and Members of the Senate Housing Committee,
We urge you to vote “NO” on Senate Bill 8 (Skinner) - the “Housing Crisis Act of 2019”.
Senate Bill 8 extends and expands the Housing Crisis Act (HCA) of 2019. SB-8 extends the sunset of the Housing Crisis Act of 2019 by five years, from January 1, 2025 to January 1, 2030. The Housing Crisis Act suspends certain local governments’ restrictions on development of new housing and expedites the permitting of housing. SB-8 further expands the reach of the Act to include single-family homes and takes away even more local planning decisions and capabilities.
The Housing Crisis Act of 2019 and Senate Bill 8 undermine the ability of local governments to manage land use planning decisions and govern responsibly. The measures do not result in providing more affordable housing, as claimed by the legislation's authors. Instead, they expedite the development process and increase poorly planned and designed development for the benefit of developers’ profitability. The Act and the proposed bill are fundamentally flawed. The Housing Crisis Act of 2019 should be repealed, rather than extended and expanded.
Senate Bill 8 should be opposed for the following reasons:
A. It is too soon to extend the sunset of the Housing Crisis Act (HCA). The Legislature typically enacts sunset clauses on bills to provide an opportunity to assess the positive and negative impacts of a policy once sufficient information is available. The Housing Crisis Act only became effective on January 1, 2020. Less than a year and a half later, SB-8 proposes to extend the Act’s sunset. Following an atypical year and without additional years for comparison, there is little meaningful information on how the HCA affected homebuilding in the state. It is too soon to extend the sunset.
B. SB-8 does much more than clarify. The authors of the bill claim that SB-8 merely clarifies the Housing Crisis Act of 2019. However, this is false. SB-8 expands the definition of “housing development project” to include both discretionary and ministerial projects, as well as projects to construct single family dwelling units. In addition, the bill further limits the number of appeals and public meetings that can be held related to density bonus law.
C. SB-8 poses a significant threat to local control, democracy, and public engagement. The Housing Crisis Act and SB-8 override local land use plans and regulations. Local planning efforts (general plans and zoning ordinances) encourage public engagement and are much better than the State at determining parking requirements, impact fees and design standards. Local planning efforts are also better at anticipating necessary government services such as water, sewer, utilities, schools and traffic flow;
D. SB-8 denies the public’s right to participate in City/County Government. The HCA and SB-8 promote the use of objective standards as a way of making all permit applications ministerial. In effect, the legislation denies a City Council or a Board of Supervisors the discretion to decide local zoning matters as well as the public’s right to participate in local governance;
E. SB-8 imposes unreasonable timelines. Cities and Counties are given too little time to evaluate submitted applications before they are deemed complete and in conformity. The HCA and SB-8 also require that public hearings be scheduled within 30 days after a request by the developer. Poor planning is the result of meeting these unreasonable deadlines which result in either approval of projects or penalties to cities and counties;
F. SB-8 imposes unequal legal burdens of proof. The HCA and SB-8 impose the burden on a City/County to defend its denial or conditioning of a project by meeting an elevated standard of proof while a developer is given a lower standard of proof. This law reverses long-established land use and planning law and results in giving developers massive leverage to obtain approvals of poorly planned projects;
G. SB-8 creates a new type of housing project application. The HCA and SB-8 allow a developer to submit a “preliminary” housing project application, which contains too little information for a city to determine the scope of the project or the type of CEQA document that is needed. Additionally, once the “preliminary” application is filed, new limits on the number of public hearings and streamline approval timeline begins;
H. SB-8 freezes impact fees. The HCA and this measure lock in place nearly all fees or exactions imposed on development projects once a developer submits a “preliminary” application. Since the “preliminary” application lacks all of the necessary information to evaluate the project, a city is unable to determine which fees apply to the project. Additionally, project specific fees are essentially banned because those fees cannot be determined until a city fully analyzes the project. It is important to note that all project impact fees are extensively regulated by state law and the constitution. Cities can only charge a fee to cover the cost of providing the service for which the fee is applied. It is illegal for cities to charge project fees and use the funds for other purposes. Freezing fees makes it very difficult for a city to serve its community;
I. SB-8 prohibits a reduction in intensity of land use. The HCA and SB-8 prohibit a local jurisdiction from enacting a development policy, standard, or condition that would reduce the intensity of land use below that in effect on January 1, 2018, with few exceptions. This is an unreasonable restriction of a local jurisdiction’s authority and prohibits a jurisdiction from rectifying a previous mistake of allowing too much intensity prior to January 1, 2018; and
J. SB-8 does not require developers to pass housing production cost savings on to consumers. Limiting parking and restricting fees would allow developers to pocket the savings and enhance their profits. There is no provision in the legislation that requires developers to pass these savings onto renters or home buyers.
Once again, we urge you to oppose Senate Bill 8. Instead, support locally-grown sustainable strategies that enable our communities to meet all housing needs.
Thank you in advance for your conscientious consideration.
Very truly yours,
Sharon Rushton, President