California YIMBY Statement on Amendments to SB 50 – Protecting CEQA and Open Lands

Sacramento, CA – California YIMBY offers the following statement regarding recent amendments to SB 50, the More HOMES Act, related to the California Environmental Quality Act:

“The recent agreement between Senators Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) to amend Senate Bill 50, the More HOMES Act, by incorporating some provisions from Senate Bill 4 was a significant, positive step forward for solving the affordable housing crisis in California,” said Louis Mirante, Legislative Director for California YIMBY. “We understand why people might be concerned about maintaining environmental protections as we make adjustments to allow more affordable homes in our existing urban areas — we share that concern, and are making sure this bill is as strong on the environment as it is on housing affordability.”

In addition to its potential for substantial reductions in pollution from private vehicle use, SB 50 includes the following elements:

  • Proposed Government Code 65913.6 (b) establishes that a development proponent for a multifamily building up to a fourplex (four-unit building) would be eligible for streamlining, which means the provisions of CEQA would not apply. But in order to qualify for streamlining, the housing must meet all of the environmental protections listed under SB 35, including that the project be an “infill” project in an area already zoned for residential development. Also, given that a developer would not be allowed to demolish a structure to use this incentive, virtually all such projects will be internal renovations or rehabilitations of existing structures.

  • Proposed Government Code 65918.52 (f) clarifies that projects would not be exempted from CEQA under any other circumstances not already established in existing law. SB 50 requires that:

“The residential development complies with all applicable labor, construction employment, and wage standards otherwise required by law and any other generally applicable requirement regarding the approval of a development project, including, but not limited to, the local government’s conditional use or other discretionary permit approval process, the California Environmental Quality Act (Division 13 (commencing with Section 21000) of the Public Resources Code), or a streamlined approval process that includes labor protections.”

  • SB 50 also does not change plan-level CEQA analysis, such as the kinds of analyses that cities routinely require to change zoning from working or natural lands to a residential neighborhood. Because SB 50 only allows housing on infill sites already identified as sites eligible for housing by a local government, SB 50 could not be used to circumvent environmental analysis of, for example, a rezoning for “greenfield” development, or development on currently undeveloped land that is zoned agricultural, industrial, park land, or open space. A plan change, such as one done through a General Plan Amendment or categorical rezoning, would still have to undergo the same level of environmental analysis that it would have faced before SB 50.

“California YIMBY is committed to the highest standards of environmental stewardship,” said Mirante. “Most YIMBYs care deeply about addressing climate change. We also care deeply about conserving our undeveloped lands, farms, open spaces, parks, and other natural resources. We feel that the best way to do this — while also allowing for economic growth, prosperity, and opportunity for all — is by encouraging new affordable homes to be built in areas that have already seen housing development.”

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The More HOMES Act is co-sponsored by California YIMBY, the Non-profit Housing Association of Northern California, the California Association of Realtors, and supported by the State Building and Construction Trades Council, Habitat for Humanity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Abundant Housing LA, AARP California, the California League of Conservation Voters, the California Chamber of Commerce, CALPIRG, Environment California, the LA Chamber of Commerce, the California Apartment Association, the Bay Area Council, Environment California, the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, the California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund (CaRLA), and a host of other renter, environmental, business, and labor organizations.

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About California YIMBYCalifornia YIMBY is a community of neighbors who welcome more neighbors. We believe that an equitable California begins with abundant, secure, affordable housing. We focus on housing and land use policy at the state and local level to ensure grassroots organizers and city leaders have the tools they need to accelerate home building. https://cayimby.org/

 

California YIMBY is a co-sponsor of the More HOMES Act. To learn more, visit http://cayim.by/morehomes