Like so much of this unprecedented year, the 2019-2020 California Legislative Session ended with unexpected twists and pointed disappointments as the Assembly and Senate wrestled with the coronavirus pandemic, social distancing protocol, and friction between Assembly and Senate leadership in the final hours of the session, ultimately resulting in a number of highly anticipated housing bills failing to pass.  High profile bills that died include SB 995 (extending the former AB 900 expedited CEQA review process for environmental leadership development projects through 2024); SB 1120 (providing ministerial approval and subdivision processes for residential duplexes on single-family zoned lots); and SB 1085 (expanding the Density Bonus Law to include qualifying moderate-income rental projects and student housing projects, among other changes). Continue Reading 2020 Housing Legislation Overview: Started with a Bang, Ended with a Whimper

On May 29, 2020, the Judicial Council of California amended Rule No. 9 of its COVID-19 emergency regulations to add certainty and to shorten the tolling period for civil causes of action subject to statutes of limitation of 180 days or less, such as CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) lawsuits.

The new Rule is good news for developers of approved and soon-to-be approved projects. The tolling period now ends on a set and relatively near-term date, providing renewed certainty.

Previously, Rule No. 9 tolled all statutes of limitation from April 6, 2020 to the date 90 days after the Governor declares that the COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted. Continue Reading Land Use Litigation Statute of Limitations Tolling Period to End on August 3, 2020

SB 35 was one of the most prominent bills to come out of a package of housing-related laws enacted by the California legislature in 2017. It promised to allow swift approval of developments that were consistent with local zoning and design standards. As long as a project met those standards, a city would have no choice but to approve the development. SB 35 was designed to ensure a project could be approved, even without support from elected officials or local neighbors. But a lingering question remained: once a project was approved, could local opposition groups use SB 35 to delay a development or overturn the approval in court? Continue Reading Trial Court Decisions Illustrate SB 35’s Power

On April 29, 2020, six Bay Area counties – Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara – as well as the City of Berkeley, each issued substantially similar updates to their extended local shelter-in-place orders, with welcome implications for construction projects. The new local orders will go into effect on May 4, 2020 and extend through May 31, 2020. Continue Reading Bay Area Construction Resumes Under New Orders

As previously reported on the Unfamiliar Terrain blog, San Francisco Mayor London Breed declared a moratorium on evictions of small and medium-sized businesses (those having worldwide receipts of $25 million or less) impacted by COVID-19 for non-payment of rent. By supplemental declaration on April 1, Mayor Breed ordered that the moratorium also applies to non-replenishment of security deposits. The April 1 supplemental declaration is the eighth of ten supplemental declarations (as of April 21, 2020) to the Mayor’s Proclamation of Local Emergency. Continue Reading San Francisco Commercial Eviction Moratorium Applies to Security Deposits

We last reported on the Unfamiliar Terrain blog that California Governor Gavin Newsom banned the enforcement of residential evictions against qualified California tenants who fail to pay rent. Less than two weeks later, on April 6, the California Judicial Council substantially expanded statewide tenant protections and eliminated the qualifications for protection. With the Council’s action, residential and commercial tenant eviction lawsuits cannot be initiated during the state of emergency and for 90 days after, regardless of the cause and regardless of the financial condition of the tenant. Eviction actions already in process will be postponed by at least 60 days. The only exceptions are evictions that are necessary for the public health or safety. Continue Reading California Judicial Council Postpones Residential and Commercial Evictions

UPDATED ON APRIL 22, 2020

On March 19, 2020, Governor Newsom issued a “Safer at Home” Order, which generally permits construction, including housing, to continue statewide. On March 31, 2020, six Bay Area counties – Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara – as well as the City of Berkeley, coordinated on and each issued updated local shelter-in-place orders extending and further restricting non-essential activities through May 3, 2020. Among other things, the local orders notably limit the types of construction permitted beyond the State’s Order and require those permissible construction activities to create and implement a “Social Distancing Protocol.” Continue Reading Bay Area Further Restricts Construction in Response to COVID-19

As we previously reported, in the past two weeks, the federal government, the state of California, and many local governments have taken action to provide tenant and homeowner protections in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Continue Reading UPDATE – Emergency Protections in Place for Tenants and Homeowners in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

In recent days, the federal government, the state of California, and many local governments have taken action to provide tenant and homeowner protections in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Continue Reading Emergency Protections in Place for Tenants and Homeowners in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

SB 50, Senator Scott Wiener’s bill to boost housing production near transit and job centers, has been defeated. The bill fell three votes short on Wednesday, and Wiener was unsuccessful in his reconsideration request today.

The bill was stalled in the Senate last May when the Chair of the Appropriations Committee deferred action on the bill until 2020. On January 24, Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins moved it to the Rules Committee, which she chairs, and Senator Wiener introduced amendments designed to address certain concerns regarding local control and potential impacts on low-income residents. The amendments included a “local flexibility plan” that would allow local agencies to create alternative housing plans that are designed to produce the same number of units as SB 50 compliance would. The amendments also added a neighborhood preference for 40% of new low, very low and extremely low income units developed under SB 50.

Both Governor Newsom and Senator Atkins have indicated that regardless of the fate of SB 50, some form of legislation to increase housing production will be passed this year.