Berkeley senator’s new law would put moratorium on housing moratoriums

September 11, 2019

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The California State Senate approved the final version of Berkeley-based State Sen. Nancy Skinner’s “Housing Crisis Act of 2019” last week, a new law that “suspends local practices that are documented obstacles to housing production” such as housing moratoriums and certain fees.

Since the Assembly also passed the bill, dubbed SB 330, earlier in the week, that leaves it clear for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk and presumed signature.

“SB 330 is based on the premise that much of the housing we need has already been planned for by local communities,” a statement from Skinner’s office after the final votes reads.

“But that housing is not getting built. [...] In effect until 2025, the bill’s provisions require cities and counties to slash the time it takes to process permits for housing that meets the local government’s existing rules.”

The text of the final bill creates several prohibitions preventing “a county or city” from creating new rules that are likely to inhibit housing production, including “changing the land use designation or zoning of a parcel or parcels of property to a less intensive use or reducing the intensity of land use” and “imposing or enforcing a moratorium on housing development.”

Skinner’s plan also puts the kibosh on enforcing new design standards established on or after January 1, 2020 “that are not objective design standards.” It would also prevent caps on the number of new building permits issued, unless the cap was established before 2005 “in a predominantly agricultural county.”

SB 330 passed the Senate on Friday, 30-4, with Contra Costa County’s Sen. Steven Glazer as the only Bay Area senator voting against it.

The Assembly vote on September 5 tallied 67-8, with San Ramon-based Representative Rebecca Bauer-Kahan among the nays.

Skinner’s proposal proved unpopular with many local civic governments. The League of California Cities, an association of California city officials, criticized the plan for limiting the fees cities can oppose and accused Skinner of favoring developers, who “would most likely pocket the savings and enhance their profits while not producing affordable housing.”

The last day for the legislature to finally pass bills is September 13. Newsom must sign new laws into the books by October 13. New laws go into effect January 1, 2020.

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