Senator Wiener’s Light Touch Density Legislation Passes Senate Governance and Finance Committee

April 23, 2021

SACRAMENTO - Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco)’s legislation, Senate Bill 10, passed the Senate Governance and Finance Committee. The bill passed with a bipartisan vote of 4-1, and will now head to the Appropriations Committee.

SB 10 creates a streamlined process for cities to zone for missing middle multi-unit housing. The bill allows cities to upzone non-sprawl areas (areas that are close to job centers and/or transit and areas that are in existing urbanized locations, thus reducing vehicle usage and long commutes) up to ten unit buildings. This streamlining tool would be the most powerful one for cities to increase density. By allowing cities to choose to zone for up to 10 units per parcel, SB 10 will make it possible for cities to build significantly more housing in a way that makes sense within their local context.

Right now, it is illegal to build any more than one unit of housing per parcel in areas subject to single family zoning. This hyper-low density zoning in existing urbanized areas near jobs and transit leads to sprawl development, which increases carbon emissions and wildfire risk. SB 10 allows cities to increase density up to ten unit buildings in a streamlined way, without having to go through the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Cities will also be able to designate these projects as by right, meaning they can be approved ministerially and without a lengthy approval process.

SB 10 is sponsored by California YIMBY. 

 “If we’re going to meet our housing goals, we have to give cities the tools they need to build right now,” said Senator Wiener. “Upzoning so municipalities can build multifamily housing is one of the most effective mechanisms we can use to address our state’s housing crisis, and SB 10 will streamline that process for local governments who choose to do so. We have to keep moving the needle on housing, and this bill does so in a commonsense way.”