SENATE BILL 10
WHAT IS SB 10?
SB 10 is a pro-housing policy that cities can choose to opt in to in order to help advance housing development for their residents. It allows a single large plot of land that currently only has one housing unit to be split, in order to allow for up to ten residential/housing units in “transit rich” or “urban infill” areas. In addition to allowing for more homes to be built in these areas, SB 10 also provides housing faster by changing the environmental review process to prevent unnecessary delays that currently occur under the existing law.
WHAT COUNTS AS "TRANSIT RICH" OR "URBAN INFILL" AREAS?
Because SB 10 is an opt-in bill, if a city chooses to adopt it, they also can choose how to define these areas. In San Diego, transit rich is defined as “within a 1-mile walk to transit.” Urban infill areas can be thought of as developed areas with room to spare. These areas have the capacity for further development and the existing infrastructure to support it. For more information on urban infill, you can also check out the Southern California Association of Governments’ definition and FAQ.
HOW DOES SB 10 CHANGE THE ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW PROCESS AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?
SB 10 does not get rid of all environmental reviews. Instead, the bill changes the process so that development is not delayed by trivial lawsuits with anti-housing intentions. Under the current law, the well-intentioned, but long-since overly bureaucratic, California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Under CEQA, anti-housing advocates in Berkeley, California sued to stop development because of a potential “environmental threat” that had not been considered. What was the potential environmental threat, those suing under CEQA claimed, the city had “failed to assess?” “Potential noise impacts from loud student parties.” Unfortunately, this “get off my lawn,” “not in my backyard” sentiment permeated the courts as well, and the housing development was blocked. Clearly, this process must change in order for development to occur effectively. Additionally, the process of developing infill in transit rich areas encourages more sustainable lifestyles for new residents.
ARE THERE ANY EXCEPTIONS TO WHERE SB 10 CAN BE IMPLEMENTED?
Yes. Certain exceptions apply. Areas with severe fire risk, historic designation, or land that has been locally designated for open space for example would not be eligible for lot splitting under SB 10.
ARE THERE RESTRICTIONS TO THE SCOPE OF PROJECTS UNDER SB 10?
Yes. The project must still meet local building requirements, and may not exceed 3 stories. Without SB 10, areas zoned for only “single family homes” only one housing unit can be developed for every 5,000 sq feet of land. SB 10 allows for more units to be developed on this large plot if the landowner so chooses. Additionally, the key wording in SB 10 is “up to 10 units.” Only one unit can be built for every 1,000 sq ft of the parcel, which means this bill does not allow for cramped, or unrealistic housing units to be developed on a small amount of land. Larger parcels of land can fit the maximum number of units.
ARE THERE REQUIREMENTS THAT UNITS BUILT BE AFFORDABLE?
While there is no requirement in the bill's language that units be made affordable, Mayor Gloria’s version of the bill would require at least one unit in every parcel that uses SB 10 be made affordable.
Additionally, we live in San Diego, land is expensive. If you are forced to purchase more land than necessary to build a house, it will increase the overall cost of the home developed. By decreasing the amount of land required to construct homes, you create the potential for automatically more affordable homes.
Furthermore, the addition of more housing supply in the city will put downward pressure on rents and home prices across the region. Economic research shows cities and communities that allow more housing see lower increases in their housing costs compared to cities that do not allow enough housing to be constructed. The city of Auckland, New Zealand for example enacted policies with effects similar to that of SB 10s to promote more housing. Relative to other cities with restrictive housing policies, their rents are up to 35% lower for family housing.