New 2020 laws: The housing crisis takes center stage

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Town Crier File Photo
A public notice board depicts a project recently passed by the Los Altos City Council to renovate 5150 El Camino Real into a multi-building housing complex. The development will provide 28 affordable units, a major accomplishment in the city’s recent history.

Several Senate and Assembly bills traveled through the California State Legislature and became law Jan. 1. In the coming weeks, the Town Crier will revive a series from last year, “I’m Just a Bill,” to highlight new legislation and its ramifications categorized by topic. Part 1 in the series focuses on housing.

Local leaders are bracing themselves for what’s to come as a result of the 2019 legislative cycle, particularly concerning housing.

Addressing the grim reality of the housing crisis, state legislators mandated the creation of new affordable housing units through the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, which assigns each city a number of affordable units that must be offered over an eight-year period.

However, more must be done to meet the need – at least that’s the message communicated by legislators through passage of the following bills.

SB 330

State Sen. Nancy Skinner, a Democrat who represents the East Bay, authored Senate Bill 330, the Housing Crisis Act of 2019. SB 330 amends the Government Code related to housing to encourage accelerated growth by streamlining local development processes and prohibiting cities from changing the zoning of a given parcel to a “less intensive use.” For example, cities can only require a developer to adhere to the housing ordinances or policies that were in effect when the project’s preliminary application was submitted and must not exceed a total of five hearings for the project if it complies with those ordinances.

State Sen. Jerry Hill and Assemblyman Marc Berman – Democrats who represent Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View – supported the bill.

SB 330 expires Jan. 1, 2025.

AB 68

Assembly Bill 68 addresses construction of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), deleting a provision in the state’s Planning and Zoning Law that requires the imposition of standards on lot coverage and minimum lot size.

Introduced by Assemblyman Phil Ting, a Democrat who represents the western portion of San Francisco, AB 68 revises the law to allow ADUs that are attached to, or located within, an attached garage, storage area or accessory structure.

Supported by Hill and Berman, AB 68 mandates that local agencies approve or deny an application for the creation of an ADU or “junior” ADU within 60 days from the date they receive the completed application. Previous law allowed cities and counties 120 days to act.

AB 1482

With rents soaring, legislators passed legislation aimed at protecting tenants. Eastern San Francisco Assemblyman David Chiu, a Democrat, introduced AB 1482, which prohibits landlords from terminating a lease without just cause. If certain just-cause reasoning exists and is potentially fixable, the landlord must issue a violation and allow the tenant time to address the situation.

AB 1482, supported by Hill and Berman, prevents property owners from raising the rent on a dwelling or unit more than 5%, plus the percentage change in the cost of living over a 12-month period, or 10%, whichever is lower, of the gross rent charged for the preceding calendar year. It also limits landlords from increasing rent more than twice within that 12-month period, and never beyond the maximum rental rate.

The law, which expires Jan. 1, 2030, applies to all rental housing except for that which is exempt from just-cause and rental caps, such as units that could be individually sold or housing built within the past 15 years.

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