In an effort to spur affordable housing production and aid California’s economic recovery due to the COVID-19 crisis, Senate Democrats unveiled a package of legislation intended to bolster production of new housing and remove existing barriers by further streamlining the development process, according to Senate President Toni Atkins, D-San Diego.

According to Atkins, the package of bills will lead to more construction jobs and apprenticeships opportunities that will strengthen the economic viability of working families and the state.

It follows the work of state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, after the defeat of his controversial Senate Bill 50.

It includes five bills, which are scheduled to be heard in committees next week, as well as the Senate proposal that would create a renter/landlord stabilization program that would enable agreements between renters, landlords and the state to resolve unpaid rents over a limited time period.

The first bill, SB 902, by Wiener, allows local governments to pass a zoning ordinance that is not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act for projects that allow up to 10 units, if they are located in a transit-rich area, jobs-rich area, or an urban infill site. Atkins has her own bill, SB 995, that would expand the application of streamlining the CEQA process to smaller housing projects that include at least 15% affordable housing. It also would broaden application and utilization of the Master Environmental Impact Report (MEIR) process, which allows cities to do upfront planning that streamlines housing approvals on an individual project level. Another Atkins bill, SB 1120, would encourage small-scale neighborhood development by streamlining the process for a homeowner to create a duplex or subdivide an existing lot in all residential areas. SB 1085 by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, would enhance the existing density bonus law by increasing the number of incentives provided to developers in exchange for providing more affordable units. SB 1385, by state Sen. Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, would unlock existing land zoned for office and retail use and allow housing to become an eligible use on those sites.

The working group also included state senators Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg; María Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles; Lena A. Gonzalez, D-Long Beach; Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo; Richard D. Roth, D-Riverside; and Susan Rubio, D-Baldwin Park.

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