Santa Clara Planning Commissioners are frustrated by new state housing laws that handcuff what the City can and cannot do.
In what has become an annual event, Assistant City Attorney Xander Abbe outlined the new state housing laws. Most went into effect on Jan. 1, though two will go into effect on July 1.
Of big issue for commissioners was SB6 and AB211, which are set to go into effect on July 1.
SB6, called the “Middle-Class Housing Act,” will allow housing in commercial zones. SB6 requires that unit density is at least 30 dwelling units per acre.
The problem arises when SB6 is combined with AB211, the “Affordable Housing & High Roads Jobs Act.”
AB211 forces cities to approve any 100% affordable housing developments in commercial zones. Cities must also approve mixed-income projects in commercial corridors if they meet income-based housing standards. That’s a combination of 8% very low income and 5% extremely low income, or 15% low income. Because Santa Clara has a 15% low-income requirement, the City would have to approve any development in a commercial corridor.
The state defines a commercial corridor as any roadway 70 to 150 feet wide. That means streets like El Camino Real, Stevens Creek Boulevard, Lawrence Expressway and even portions of Lafayette Street and Pruneridge Avenue would qualify.
An even bigger issue is that the law also stops the City from requiring parking in certain instances. That means developers can create large affordable housing complexes without having to build parking.
Commissioner Lance Saleme said it would create a “nightmare scenario” of traffic jams, especially in areas where the streets were widened as part of a “road diet” to allow more room for bicycles.
“A large part of the missing equation is transportation around all this,” said Commission Chair Priya Cherukuru. “We don’t have the missing link with transportation allowing us to completely rid ourselves of parking.”
New Laws Surrounding Parking Restrictions
Other state housing laws pare down a city’s control over parking even more.
AB2097 says, in most cases, a city cannot impose any parking requirements on developments within a half mile of a major transit stop. The only time a city can require parking is:
- If it can prove that no parking would hurt the city’s ability to meet regional housing needs for low and very low-income.
- If it can prove that no parking would harm the City’s ability to meet special housing needs for the elderly or persons with disabilities.
- Or, if a city can prove that no parking would negatively impact nearby residential or commercial parking.
Abbe believes the City will have to use these stipulations with a majority of new developments.
“I imagine we will need to try to make these findings. Repeatedly. Because there will definitely be situations where this is just a terrible idea,” said Abbe.
Other State Housing Laws
Abbe also outlined AB916, which allows homeowners to add up to two bedrooms to a home without a public hearing provided that the additions do not change the size of the home.
SB897 changed a small rule involving ADUs, allowing homeowners to increase the height from 16 feet to 18 feet in some instances. It also requires cities to take quicker action on applications for ADUs.
AB1551, AB682 and AB2334 all adjust the way cities hand out bonuses to developers for creating higher density developments. They also included added density bonuses for developments that are 100% low-income, student or senior housing.
AB2339 says cities must allow for emergency shelters in residential zones. Currently, Santa Clara’s zoning code only allows for emergency shelters in light industrial areas. However, the zoning code update will reflect this new law.
Finally, AB2873 will encourage developers who receive low-income tax credits to employ minority-owned businesses and provide details of that employment annually.
Consent Calendar and Other Business
Commissioner Ricci Herro was ill and could not attend the Santa Clara Planning Commission meeting.
The commission postponed Item 1D on the consent calendar, a conditional use permit for alcohol consumption at a food service establishment at 2323 The Alameda.
Commissioners unanimously approved the following items:
- Meeting minutes from Dec. 7, 2022 (Cherukuru missed the meeting and abstained from the vote.)
- Approved a sign ordinance variance request to allow for the placement of four temporary leasing signs at 588 El Camino Real (“The Benton”) for two years.
- Approved a conditional use permit to allow for the increase of outdoor vehicle storage for a rental car company, Avis Budget Group, between 3270 and 3360 De La Cruz Boulevard.
The next Santa Clara Planning Commission meeting is a special meeting on Jan. 23, 2023, at 6 p.m. to review a draft of the City’s Housing Element.