Senate Passes Senator Wiener’s Light Touch Density Legislation

June 2, 2021

SACRAMENTO - Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) legislation, Senate Bill 10, passed the Senate. SB 10 creates a voluntary, streamlined process for cities to zone for missing middle multi-unit housing. The bill passed with a bipartisan vote of 27-7, and now heads to the Assembly to be heard in policy committees.

SB 10 allows cities to upzone non-sprawl areas (areas that are close to transit or in existing urbanized locations, thus reducing vehicle usage and long commutes) up to ten unit buildings, if they choose to. This streamlining tool will be a powerful one for cities to increase density. By allowing cities to choose to zone for up to 10 units per parcel, SB 10 makes 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 and near transit leads to sprawl development, which increases carbon emissions and wildfire risk. SB 10 allows cities to voluntarily 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.

“Small multi-unit ‘missing middle’ housing is a critical part of ending California’s severe housing shortage,” said Senator Wiener. “By allowing cities to opt in to use this powerful upzoning tool, we can chip away at our housing crisis in a way that makes sense for each city. SB 10’s passage by the Senate is a strong signal that California is ready to start building homes in a more equitable and climate-friendly way.”