As cities like Morgan Hill and Gilroy struggle to slow construction of new housing with self-imposed slow-growth measures, they fear that the new Housing Crisis Act of 2019 could reverse their efforts.

The new state law signed this month by Gov. Gavin Newsom redefines the housing development approval process for municipalities in an effort to give more housing options and alleviate California’s housing shortage.

The new law also allows unlimited residential permits and expedited building permits, and limits public review of proposed housing projects, local design requirements and some parking requirements.

The new law will go into effect on January 1, 2020.

Gilroy residents approved Measure H in 2016, putting the brakes on future residential construction. The measure passed with 66 percent of the vote in an election that also resulted in a slow-growth mayor and council.

“SB330 represents a major change in the balance of power away from local elected officials representing the interest of Gilroy and toward the financial interest of the housing development corporations,” Mayor Roland Velasco said in a statement in response to questions from the Gilroy Dispatch.

Gilroy established an Urban Growth Boundary with Measure H, which it could still maintain through the zoning in place. However, the city could not put a cap on how many buildings were built each year. The city also has a Residential Development Ordinance (RDO), which requires that portions of new developments be dedicated to below-market-rate housing.

The new law “reduces the discretionary approval ability of the city council over housing projects,” wrote Velasco.  “It prohibits our numerical growth measure, the RDO, which in the past regulated the number of housing units built in Gilroy.”

The new law will be in effect for five years. According to the bill’s text, it “prohibits a local agency from disapproving, or conditioning approval in a manner that renders infeasible, a housing development project for very low, low- or moderate-income households or an emergency shelter unless the local agency makes specified written findings based on a preponderance of the evidence in the record.”

The act specifies that “one way to satisfy that requirement is to make findings that the housing development project or emergency shelter is inconsistent with both the jurisdiction’s zoning ordinance and General Plan land use designation as specified in any element of the General Plan as it existed on the date the application was deemed complete.”

It also requires a local agency that proposes to disapprove a housing development project that complies with applicable, objective General Plan and zoning standards, or to approve it on the condition that it be developed at a lower density, now has “the burden of proof,” instead of the developer.

The act requires a court to impose a fine on a local agency under certain circumstances and requires that the fine be at least $10,000 per housing unit in the housing development project on the  date the application was deemed complete.

A city could continue to keep areas an open space, but the new law than requires higher density housing in the downtown corridor or other areas of the city.

Velasco said, “SB330 ignores the voices of our residents and communities throughout the state.”


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