Honorable Scott Wiener, Senate Housing Committee, CA State Capitol, Room 2209, Sacramento, CA 95814
Re: OPPOSE SB 478 (Wiener) “Planning & Zoning Law: Housing Development Projects”
Dear Chair Wiener and Members of the Senate Housing Committee,
We strongly urge you to oppose Senate Bill 478.
ABOUT SENATE BILL 478 (WIENER) "PLANNING & ZONING LAW: HOUSING DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS":
Senate Bill 478 prohibits a local agency from imposing any of the following on a housing development project of 2 to 10 units:
- A floor-to-area ratio standard that is less than 1.5, meaning the total square footage of the building could be 1and ½ times the size of the lot;
- A minimum lot size that exceeds an undefined amount for parcels zoned for 2 to 4 units; or
- A minimum lot size that exceeds an undefined amount for parcels zoned for 5 to 10 units.
The bill specifies that local agencies can continue to impose building height standards that it deems appropriate, as well as setbacks.
SB-478 includes an ADU and a junior ADU in the definition of “unit,” and provides that the addition of these or any other additional unit to an existing unit counts as a two-unit project. The bill also says that it applies to both existing and proposed homes.
SB-478 adds violations of its provisions to an existing section of law that requires HCD to notify a city or county if the department finds that they have taken an action in violation of certain housing laws and allows HCD to notify the Attorney General.
SB-478 defines its terms and includes findings and declarations to support its purposes.
REASONS TO OPPOSE SB-478:
A. SB-478 disregards the unique features of California’s communities:
California’s communities have unique look and feel because local officials carefully craft their zoning ordinances to create a pleasing urban form based on their local conditions. Regulating the size of buildings that are allowed is key to that effort: across jurisdictions, it differentiates between urban, suburban, and rural communities, and within jurisdictions, it encourages smooth transitions between more and less intensive land uses, so that single-family homes don’t abut skyscrapers.
SB 478 disregards the unique features of California’s communities by imposing the same FAR standards statewide. It uniformly imposes minimums for floor area ratio for projects as small as two units, such as a single-family home with a junior ADU located inside or a 10-unit multi-family project that qualifies for a density bonus. The result is that SB-478 allows structures of the same mass to be built in widely different communities, and paves over differences within communities.
B. SB-478 will create tiny lots, whereas jurisdictions have good reasons for large minimum lot sizes:
SB-478 prohibits local agencies from imposing minimum parcel sizes of greater than unspecified amounts on parcels that are zoned for 2 to 4 units or 5 to 10 units. This will create tiny lots. Local governments have good reasons for large minimum lot sizes, such as to preserve neighborhood character or preserve agricultural operations. E.g. Yolo County allows up to two housing units by right on agricultural parcels, but imposes a minimum lot size of 20 acres so that farming can still occur on the parcel.
C. SB-478 includes language declaring the intent of the Legislature, which is irrelevant to the rest of the bill.
SB-478 includes language declaring the intent of the Legislature to ensure proper planning occurs at the local level by requiring the Dept. of Housing and Community Development to review certain local plans and programs. This provision is irrelevant to the rest of the bill and should be deleted.
Once again, we strongly urge you to oppose SB-478.
Thank you in advance for your conscientious consideration.
Very truly yours,
Sharon Rushton, President