By Brian Johnson
Santa Barbara Association of Realtors
There is a bill working its way through the legislative process in California that could make it easier to add new housing units to our supply desperate market. SB 10 is an effort to allow cities to rezone transit accessible parcels for small housing projects (up to 10 units) without the expensive and time-consuming studies required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) if the property is an area that has good access to public transportation. Often builders are stymied for years through frivolous CEQA challenges from groups looking to restrict new housing. These types of NIMBY efforts are usually couched in terms of protecting environmentally sensitive issues but no proof is required in order to file a CEQA challenge and most challenges end up being dismissed once they finally work their way through the system. In the meantime, residents continue to suffer from a lack of housing supply.
This bill would not mandate that cities have to approve these projects. It gives the power to the cities to work with applicants and to decide if the project fits the profile to be exempted from the CEQA required studies. There are already a host of exemptions for pro-environmental activities. SB 10 looks to continue this by focusing on housing in areas that are already close to transit and jobs. This would have the effect of reducing the impact on California’s environment by reducing the need for cars and supporting public transportation.
Critics see this as an effort to remove environmental safety measures that protect the residents. Given that these projects still have to seek local governmental approval this argument appears thin that housing would be built in unsafe areas of California. These are going to be areas that already have density of housing and the demand continues to be strong for more housing due to the proximity to jobs.
In order to address the issues of supply and affordability we need to make it easier for cities and builders to build. We have to remove roadblocks that can drag out the approval of a project for years and scare off developers looking to build. Additionally, we have to look at strengthening the supply of housing where it is needed most. That is closer to where the jobs are and closer to where there is a good source of public transportation. If California is going to be able to fight back against the changing climate that brings drought and massive wildfires we will have to look to make it easier to add density where it makes the most sense. We cannot keep pushing our housing further and further away. That is not safe for Californians or their environment.
Brian Johnson is a California licensed real estate agent and the Managing Director of Radius Commercial Real Estate. Brian handles all types of commercial real estate transactions but has a special focus on multifamily investments. He can be reached at 805-879-9631 or firstname.lastname@example.org