Legislative Update: Tracking Some of California’s Housing Bills

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The elephant in the housing legislation room is S.B. 827, authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). This bill, which has sparked furious debate among housing and economic justice advocates since it was introduced in February, will get its first committee hearing Tuesday when it goes before the State Senate’s Transportation and Housing Committee.

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Wiener isn’t the only one hoping to strengthen RHNA rules. Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) authored A.B. 1771, which enjoys the support of the Western Center on Law and Poverty. That bill aims to make the RHNA allocation process more equitable by allowing non-governmental organizations and surrounding jurisdictions to challenge the allocation of another jurisdiction. Though RHNA requirements are set by the state, they are meted out through a very political process to cities by larger regional bodies like the Southern California Association of Governments. As a result, some jurisdictions get away with having artificially low RHNA allocations. Bloom’s bill would allow for more oversight of this process by allowing outside parties to check jurisdictions that aren’t carrying their fair share of much-needed housing growth.

Protecting Existing Tenants

Bloom has also introduced one of a suite of bills that collectively would shore up tenant protections. A.B. 2364 would close a loophole in the Ellis Act, the state law that allows property owners to leave the rental market. Property owners have used Ellis to evict tenants, then turn around and rent out units at higher rates. “The Ellis Act was written with the intention of giving landlords the ability to evict their tenants in order to withdraw from the rental market. Advocates from around the state are seeing instances of landlords evicting all tenants in a property and then returning those units in a piecemeal fashion to the rental market, skirting the original purpose of the law,” Bloom’s office said in a press release when the bill was introduced in February. A.B 2364 would close that loophole, Bloom’s office said.

This bill would also extend the amount of time all tenants will have to vacate a property when the Ellis Act is used to evict them. A.B. 2364 would give all tenants a full year to vacate. That is currently the length of time required only for elderly or disabled tenants.

Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) has introduced a bill — A.B. 2343 — to strengthen tenants’ rights when facing eviction. And Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) authored A.B. 2925, a bill that creates “good cause” eviction protections for tenants.

Bloom has repeatedly acknowledged that keeping people in their homes and making sure those homes stay affordable is just as important to tackling California’s housing crisis as adding new homes. He has also authored A.B. 2797, which would strengthen the state’s housing density bonus law after a 2016 ruling that denied a housing project even though it qualified for a density bonus because it was deemed incompatible with the community under the California Coastal Act.

Accessory Dwelling Units, AKA Granny Flats

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Bloom is also working on A.B. 2071, which aims to clear up a permitting problem people are having when they set out to convert garages to ADUs.