SB35 Chills Neighborhood Control Over Development.

Recently signed SB35 is designed to expedite contruction of new housing development to meet the latest version of California’s housing crisis.  It’s impossible to browse any news outlet without seeing news on low income housing and affordability in California.  Municipalities, counties, and the state wrestle with this as a political and policy issue.

Struggling with good solutions, the state has succumbed to pressure from the mortgage, construction, and development lobbies to tear down environmental regulations.  The latest incursion is SB35.

The new law (SB35) eliminates CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) review for projects that:

  • Meet underlying current local zoning codes
  • Aren’t single family homes
  • Not on the coast
  • Don’t replace rent controlled housing
  • Pay union wages during construction.

This sounds like a great way to reduce red tape and speed the process of building all kinds of multi-family housing.  For the University Neighborhood, this becomes important for properties like the 17 acres at E. Linden St.  Today the zoning for this property is R1 single family. If the zoning where pursued (by the city) to change that to R2 or R3 zoning we should become very concerned. The change in zoning would allow a large scale multi-family development to go in with no CEQA review.

Another property to watch as a result of this action is located at the corner of Blaine and Watkins. I wrote about the city rezoning properties and specifically called out the Blaine and Watkins property.

The city is working to re-zone 67 sites, about 300 parcels or 395 acres.  This to meet the requirements for low income housing.  The zoning change will have a significant number of R3 or R4 parcels added to the city housing element.

Viewed as separate events, the rezoning for housing element update and SB35 seem innocuous.  In context of SB35 these housing element changes are much more ominous.  Under SB35 any of these rezoned properties can be developed into high density projects without being subject to CEQA review.  In other words the developer has carte blanc on these R3 and R4 properties.  Sometimes this won’t make much difference; in the rare circumstance the projects are complimentary to the existing built environment.

I worry about developments that are proposed without regards to the existing neighborhood.  Often the developer will “involve the community” it’s the CEQA process that reveals the real consequences.  Sadly this is often the case. We need to watch as this evolves.  The city council has already been pressured into approving the housing element changes by a October 15th deadline. It was agendized and approved at the October 10th council meeting.

As a result we have sweeping zoning changes in Riverside and a new neighborhood hostile state law in SB35.  If you’ve got ideas on how we’ll guard against hostile development in the University Neighborhood please post them!  We are gonna need the help.

Remember, it’s our neighborhood!