SB 294 will stop the misuse by cities of floor area ratios and minimum lot size requirements to prevent the construction of multifamily buildings of more than 10 homes in areas already zoned to allow them. The bill expands on previous legislation, SB 478, that ended the abuse of these mechanisms for developments up to 10 homes.
Recent changes to the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), which now require regional housing goals to account for unmet existing housing needs (rather than just projected needs), have significantly increased the number of housing units that most local jurisdictions are required to produce.
However, many of these targets will not be met without removing non-zoning barriers to housing construction. Unreasonably small Floor Area Ratios (FAR) have long been used by local jurisdictions to skirt the responsibility of building more housing.
Although SB 478 (Wiener, 2021) handled this issue for multi-family homes from 3 to 10-units, restrictive FARs are still blocking projects over 10 homes in size.
SB 294 will ensure that areas already zoned to allow multi-family housing can accommodate this type of housing, by eliminating restrictions that make it impossible to build anything other than single-family homes.
Additionally, SB 294 provisions include the following:
- Removes the 10-home cap in SB 478 and mandates a minimum FAR of 2.5 for projects between 11 to 20 homes, with an increasing, tiered FAR for projects above that, based on the number of homes.
- Enhances the ability of cities to meet housing goals, as required by the RHNA process. SB 294 eliminates many of the remaining barriers to more affordable, “missing middle” apartments, flats, and other medium-sized housing projects that are affordable to middle-income families.
- SB 294 is another step toward ending exclusionary housing laws in California.
SB 294 does not require cities to undertake any rezoning. The bill does not change other objective standards such as height, setbacks, or parking requirements.
Updates: SB 294 is a two-year bill and may be heard in January 2024.
Author: Wiener (D, SD 11)
Co-sponsors: California YIMBY, Bay Area Council