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Noelani Fixler

2023 Legislative Session Wrap Up: Wins For The Environment and Housing

It’s a wrap for the 2023 legislative session and Greenbelt Alliance is proud to announce that many of the bills and policies we endorsed have been signed into law this session. 

In total, eleven housing and three climate and environmental bills endorsed by Greenbelt Alliance passed. These bills will promote housing affordability, sustainability, climate resilience, and the protection of open space. 

A few highlights are the signing of SB272, which requires cities to develop sea level rise plans and empowers the Bay Conservation and Development Commission to set standards on this matter, and SB423, which allows for streamlined multifamily housing production. 

Learn more about the wins below:

Housing bills that passed this legislative session include:

SB4 (Wiener) – The Affordable Housing on Faith Lands Act will allow streamlined by-right development (a policy that prioritizes the development of higher density multifamily housing through zoning and regulation) for higher educational and religious institutions. The development must guarantee 100% of the units be available to low-income households, 20% may be moderate-income, and 5% may be for staff of the institution that owns the land.

AB43 (Holden) – As an addition to AB2446, AB43 requires California’s cement sector to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045. Additionally, this bill requires the state to establish a Credit Trading Platform and Compliance System for building materials, promoting innovation in greenhouse gas reducing materials.

SB423 (Wiener) – SB423 makes provisions in SB35 permanent. This law authorizes the streamlined, ministerial approval process for multifamily housing, allowing the project to move forward without a conditional use permit. Provisions include the development must satisfy objective planning standards defined in the policy and affordable housing units remain at affordable levels.

AB835 (Lee) – Asm Lee’s “Single Stair Reform” is a critical reform toward higher-quality and more diverse housing, for infill in low-carbon and high-opportunity locations while lowering the barrier to entry for would-be home buyers, renters, developers, property owners, and tradespeople. The bill requires the State Fire Marshal to research standards for single stairway, single-exit apartments above 3 stories with more than 2 units.

AB1319 (Wicks) – Sponsored by NPH, Enterprise Community Partners, and ABAG/MTC, AB1319 establishes the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority (BAHFA) to raise and allocate funding for affordable housing and tenant protection assistance in the San Francisco Bay Area. This bill will scale up the ability of the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority to respond to housing challenges by preventing homelessness, facilitating new models of financing apartments affordable to moderate-income households, fulfilling requests from localities for assistance purchasing sought-after residential parcels, and providing flexibility in anticipation of potential and proposed changes to state law.

AB894 (Friedman) – This bill requires jurisdictions to allow shared parking arrangements for new and existing housing and commercial projects to count towards meeting parking minimums. Considering the cost of building parking spots, this bill will help lower the cost of housing production.

AB821 (Grayson) – This bill will allow a development project to move forward in a timely manner where the project complies with the general plan but the local government’s zoning ordinance is inconsistent. The bill will provide that, upon written notice, if a local government fails to amend an inconsistent zoning ordinance within 90 days, a project shall not be deemed to be inconsistent if there is substantial evidence that would allow a reasonable person to conclude that the project complies with the general plan. This bill would apply to developments that are less than two-thirds residential, as these projects are not covered under the Housing Accountability Act.

AB1485 (Haney) – This bill will grant a statutory right to intervene to the Attorney General’s office in cases of housing law violations–essentially, an unconditional right to join lawsuits to enforce state housing law. This is a straightforward solution to an issue that impacts the AG’s ability to intervene and represent the State’s interests in housing cases.

AB1287 (Alvarez) Requires a municipality to grant a density bonus and incentives when an applicant proposes to maximize existing incentives to construct deed-restricted affordable units and provides additional deed-restricted moderate-income units.

Climate and environment bills that passed this legislative session include:

SB253 (Wiener) – The Climate Corporate Accountability Act requires corporations with profits over $1M to publicly disclose greenhouse gas emissions. Corporations must report scope 1 (direct) and scope 2 (purchased) emissions starting in 2026, and scope 3 (upstream/downstream) emissions starting in 2027.

SB1425 (Stern) – Requires all cities to have an open space plan by Jan 1, 2026. Open space plans must include an action plan to climate resilience, a rewilding of space, and increasing equitable access of open spaces to consider racial equity and environmental justice. Rewilding opportunities include enhancing and preserving spaces for habitat, recreation, water management, recreation, and coordinating a conservation plan to mitigate impacts of new development.

SB272 (Laird) – This bill requires cities within the coastal zone or the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission to develop a sea level rise plan by Jan 1, 2034, subject to approval by the California Coastal Commission. This bill will prioritize coordination with sea level rise plans, by giving authority to the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) to set standards for sea level rise preparation. 

AB552 (Bennet) – This bill establishes a program to support equipment sharing for farmers and ranchers that face the highest barriers in accessing the equipment they need to build climate resilience and regional food and fiber systems. This program will provide funds to resource conservation districts, County agricultural commissioners, University of California Cooperative Extension offices, tribal entities, farmer cooperatives, and nonprofits to develop and maintain equipment sharing programs for their constituencies. The program would also support technical assistance for maintenance of tools, tool demonstrations, and farmer cooperatives. This bill prioritizes farmers that face the highest barriers—underserved farmers and ranchers, and limited resource farmers.

Greenbelt Alliance is excited for these established housing and environmental laws that will help build a more affordable, sustainable, and equitable Bay Area.

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