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New State Housing Laws Create “Nightmare Scenario”

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.


  1. RWB 2 years ago

    Only California government could corner the market on stupid. Which explains why people are leaving in droves. And businesses.

  2. Tracy 2 years ago

    It’s a joke. I’m sorry but I’m
    Ready to sue the state for
    All of the people coming out of jail or prison get housing right from the start.if you have addiction issues again housed asap.
    As well people with mental issues
    So I’ve don’t break the law never been to jail or prison.and I chose not to drink or do drugs to forget my troubles. I have full time work instead of going on disability. And because I don’t do any of those things and follow the rules of society. I get nothing
    I’ve been on housing lists for 6 years. And im mad I’m pissed. What is wrong with this picture.
    And the people on the street that do not want to be housed get constant calls or get stopped saying we can get you housed .
    I think that with all the millions of
    $ that have been given to all the bon profits what do we have to show for it

  3. George Doeltz 1 year ago

    And, yet, at the same time the City of Santa Clara is supplying plenty of free parking for the Greenpoint apartments on Don Ave.

  4. J. 1 year ago

    It is very concerning that we are building so many new housings at a time we are told that we have to conserve energy and water because we don’t have enough resources. Yet we building more housing and commerce allowing more people to share what we don’t have enough of. Not to mention the traffic problems that keep on increasing as a consequence.

  5. Scott R-H 1 year ago

    Given the traffic and transportation nightmare that Santa Clara created for surrounding communities and themselves when they actively pursued the 49ers to build Levi Stadium, I’m finding it difficult to find sympathy for any parking woes associated with affordable housing.

  6. Sam 1 year ago

    You fools voted in this moron named Newsome!
    Deal with it now!!!

    In 2024 maybe vote with this in mind.

  7. Buchser Alum 1 year ago

    This is all due to decades of NIMBY opposition to higher density housing. We are reaping what we have down.

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