Assembly Passes Senator Wiener’s Light Touch Density Legislation

August 23, 2021

SACRAMENTO - Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) legislation, Senate Bill 10, passed the Assembly. 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 41-9, and will now be returned to the Senate for final approval before heading to Governor Newsom’s desk.

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.

“California’s severe housing shortage requires many strategies, and making it easier and faster for cities to zone for multi-unit housing is a critical piece of the puzzle,” said Senator Wiener. “This voluntary tool will help local governments throughout California fundamentally reshape their zoning in infill areas, and help our state climb out of the housing crisis we face. Today is a step in the right direction, and we must continue to build on this victory to end California’s housing crisis.”

"Legalizing small apartment buildings near transit and in urban infill areas reduces environmental impacts and slashes climate pollution," said Brian Hanlon, CEO of California YIMBY. "SB 10 will make it easier for cities across our state to approve these types of homes, and put us on track to more sustainable, affordable, inclusive communities."