Following more than six years of planning and public outreach, the City initiated the formal approval process for the Central SoMa Plan (Plan) at the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission on February 27 and March 1, respectively. The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) and Planning Commission held informational hearings on the Plan on March 21 and March 22, respectively. The HPC also considered initiation of the formal landmark designation process for certain buildings and districts identified during the Plan process. The Planning Commission may act on the EIR and approvals as soon as April 12, with the Board considering the legislation thereafter.
Building on the state’s major housing legislation from 2017, Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 827 proposes major increases in height and density for qualifying housing developments. A project would generally qualify if it is within either a 1/2 mile radius of a major transit stop or a 1/4 mile radius of a stop on a high-quality transit corridor, as defined in the bill. The legislation was introduced in January and was amended on March 1, principally to address tenant relocation and inclusionary housing concerns. For qualifying sites, permitted heights would be at least 45 to 85 feet, or about four to eight stories, regardless of local height limits. Major areas of the state, including large portions of several of its largest cities, would be affected.
San Francisco wasted no time implementing AB 1505, which authorizes localities to adopt ordinances requiring developers to provide on-site inclusionary affordable housing units in rental projects, provided that there is an alternative means of compliance such as in-lieu fees or off-site inclusionary rental units. As explained in our prior post on 2017’s 15-bill housing package, AB 1505 supersedes case law that deemed on-site inclusionary rental unit requirements an impermissible form of rent control under the state Costa-Hawkins Act.
The San Francisco Planning Director issued a Bulletin in December 2017 explaining how SB 35 will be implemented locally now that it is effective, as of January 1, 2018. Among other things, the Bulletin includes a new ministerial Planning Code exception process for qualifying 100% affordable housing projects.
On October 6, 2017, Governor Brown approved Assembly Bill (AB) 246, extending certain CEQA litigation streamlining provisions under the Jobs and Economic Improvement Through Environmental Leadership Act of 2011 (the Act) for two years. The Governor may now certify projects as eligible for streamlining until January 1, 2020. Projects that are certified for streamlining have until January 1, 2021 to complete the CEQA process and obtain project approval.
The Act provides three key litigation streamlining benefits to qualifying projects:
As of January 1, 2018, California’s cities, counties, and charter cities are required to either adopt an Environmental Justice Element in their General Plan or integrate Environmental Justice policies and goals into the elements of their General Plan “upon the adoption or next revision of two or more elements concurrently.” Gov. Code Sec. 65302(h)(2).
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is considering minor modifications to the Planning Code definition of Gross Floor Area. The Planning Department characterizes these changes as “good government” measures to clarify the Code and further the City’s sustainable transportation goals.
On September 29, 2017, Governor Brown signed into law a 15-bill housing package. A few of the key components, including approval streamlining, are summarized below. The housing package did not include AB 915, which would have authorized the City and County of San Francisco to impose local inclusionary requirements on bonus units created under the State Density Bonus Law. San Francisco adopted legislation in August that imposes inclusionary housing requirements on bonus units in the form of a fee, and the Legislature’s failure to pass AB 915 creates uncertainty about its enforceability.
The California Supreme Court has just granted broad authority to counties and cities to impose documentary transfer tax (“DTT”) on certain transfers of interests in legal entities. Before June 29, 2017, tax practitioners’ prevailing view was that documentary transfer tax generally could not be imposed on transfers of interests in legal entities. There were two exceptions. First, for transfers of partnership interests that caused a partnership to terminate for tax purposes. Second, for charter cities that were permitted to enact their own DTT ordinances and had, in fact, enacted broader DTT rules. No more. On June 29, the California Supreme Court decided in 926 North Ardmore Avenue, LLC v. County of Los Angeles1 that all California counties and cities may impose DTT on certain transfers of interests in legal entities.
Barring any last-minute surprises, the Board of Supervisors will finally adopt compromise inclusionary housing legislation on July 18th that would, as shown in our summary comparison chart, make many major changes to the City’s existing program. The key provisions of the legislation affecting large projects with 25 or more residential units can be found in our prior blog post on this topic.
Recent noteworthy changes, including an important change to existing grandfathering protections for certain pipeline projects, are summarized below.