Land Use and Entitlements

Undoubtedly, development impact fees (DIFs)[1] can make or break the pro forma of any development project. Until this month, developers hoping to challenge the assessment of project-related DIFs were often limited in the causes of action that could be brought. For instance, in California, a DIF may be challenged under the Mitigation Fee Act (Govt. Code §§ 66000 et seq.), and only DIFs that were “imposed neither generally nor ministerially, but on an individual and discretionary basis” could invoke the Takings Clause embedded in the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.[2] This limitation on developers’ ability to utilize the Takings Clause meant that courts would not apply the “Nollan/Dolan test” to DIFs generally applicable to a broad class of property owners pursuant to legislative action.[3]Continue Reading What the Sheetz: Where California Development Impact Fees Stand Following Recent Supreme Court Decision

Jodi Stein, Eva C. Schneider and Samuel Zarkower’s article “We Say ‘YES’ to the ‘City of Yes’ for Economic Opportunity” was recently featured in the New York Law Journal. The article discusses the City of Yes for Economic Opportunity (COYEO), the second in a trio of Mayor Eric Adams’s City of Yes initiatives to revamp New York City’s Zoning Resolution. This article describes the 18 proposals the comprise COYEO, which aim to support economic growth and resiliency by (1) making it easier for businesses to find space within the city and grow their operations; (2) supporting growing industries; (3) making business-friendly streetscapes that are safer and more walkable; and (4) creating new opportunities for businesses to open and expand.Continue Reading We Say ‘YES’ to the ‘City of Yes’ for Economic Opportunity

In its recent decision in Hilltop Group Inc. v. County of San Diego, California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal issued a number of holdings that resulted in a strong ruling in support of streamlined environmental review for projects that are consistent with and within the scope of a program environmental impact report (EIR) for a general plan. The Court clarified that CEQA Guidelines section 15183 (“Section 15183”) does not permit additional environmental review for such projects except as necessary to determine whether a project will have significant effects that are peculiar to the project or the site that were not analyzed in the prior EIR and cannot be substantially mitigated by uniformly applied development policies or standards. The Court went on to hold that public controversy and lay testimony about “peculiar” impacts that might arise from a project do not constitute substantial evidence sufficient to require further environmental review under Section 15183. Perhaps the most important lesson of Hilltop Group Inc. is that decisionmakers cannot err on the side of requiring environmental review simply because a project is controversial, particularly when streamlining is in play. If substantial evidence demonstrates a project’s environmental effects were studied in the prior general plan EIR or can be addressed through uniform policies and procedures, the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) does not permit the lead agency to require an EIR, mitigated negative declaration or other additional environmental review.Continue Reading A Win for Consistency Evaluations Under CEQA Guidelines 15183: Court Rules that Public Controversy is not a Basis for Additional Environmental Review

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, a non-profit, non-partisan think tank, California is facing a jaw-dropping 3.5 million unit housing deficient for the current population. This despite several legislative sessions enacting a large number of bills aimed at boosting housing production. 2023 was no different. During its first year of the current 2-year legislative cycle, Governor Newsom signed an unprecedented 56 housing bills into law, reflecting the California Legislature’s continued effort to respond to the housing crisis, and the multi-dimensional approach to developing, retaining, and permitting housing options for Californians. In sum, the housing bills intend to incentivize and reduce barriers to housing production, especially “affordable” or below-market rate housing by addressing previously-identified hurdles in the market. To do so, some bills include further expansion of State Density Bonus Law, including Senate Bill (SB) 423’s extension of the sunset date in 2017’s SB 35. The package also includes bills aimed to keep tenants in their existing homes and reflects the state’s desire to limit local governments’ ability to deny housing projects.Continue Reading California Continues Trend of Pushing Housing Legislation to Address Ongoing Housing Shortage

Near the end of 2023, the United States Supreme Court declined to consider the City of Costa Mesa’s appeal of a January Ninth Circuit ruling in SoCal Recovery, LLC v. City of Costa Mesa (2023) 56 F.4th 802. The decision held that sober living home operators can prove “actual disability” – as required by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Housing Act (FHA), and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) – without an individualized assessment of each resident. Instead, the Ninth Circuit held that admissions criteria, house rules, and testimony are sufficient to show on a collective basis that a sober living home serves or intends to serve individuals with actual disabilities.Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Consider Appeal of Ninth Circuit Ruling that Sober Living Homes Do Not Have to Prove Each Resident Is Disabled to Survive Summary Judgment in Challenge to Allegedly Discriminatory Zoning Laws

New York’s rent stabilization laws, amended in 2019, are arguably the most stringent in the country. Challenges to New York’s rent regulations are not new, and come from both sides of the aisle, tenants and landlords alike. But unlike prior changes, the 2019 amendments hit a chord with New York City landlords who had, generally, made quite expensive investments in residential properties based on projected rent increases commensurate with rising costs and market demand. In 2019, with the passing of these amendments to New York’s rent stabilization laws, landlords’ projected assumptions and operating budgets went completely out the window along with their wallets.Continue Reading New York’s Rent Stabilization Laws Are Here to Stay, For Now At Least…

The City of Los Angeles’s Planning Department is proposing an expansion to the City’s innovative adaptive reuse policies. Specifically, the City is proposing to amend Sections 12.03, 12.22 A.26, 12.24 X and 16.05 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) and Adaptive Reuse Incentive Areas Specific Plan (Ordinance No. 175,038) in an attempt to reshape the Los Angeles cityscape from 2023 to 2025 by converting vacant commercial spaces into dwelling units, guest rooms or joint living and work quarters (“Citywide Adaptive Reuse Ordinance[1]”). The amendment is intended to facilitate the reuse of existing buildings to address the City’s housing crisis and revitalize Downtown Los Angeles. The conversion of vacant office space will provide a sustainable response to urban development challenges and impacts of the COVID pandemic on the real estate market.Continue Reading Los Angeles Citywide Adaptive Reuse Ordinance: A Push Towards Sustainable Housing

As cities across California grapple with an ongoing housing crisis and stubbornly high office vacancy rates, policymakers at the state and local levels are beginning to explore ways to encourage projects that convert vacant office space into housing. Downtown San Francisco has experienced particularly high office vacancy rates as it recovers from the pandemic, and it is unsurprising that two of the City’s political leaders—Assemblymember Matt Haney and Mayor London Breed—recently took steps to facilitate office-to-residential conversions.Continue Reading Momentum for Streamlining and Subsidizing Office-to-Residential Conversion Projects Builds in Sacramento and San Francisco

On February 23, 2023, the Committee on Housing and Buildings at the New York City Council held a hearing on four local laws and three resolutions, all of which, if passed, would have vast impacts on residential housing development in New York City. While all of these pieces of legislation are important, this blog post focuses predominantly on Intro 196, otherwise known as the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act (“COPA”).Continue Reading The New York City Council Sets its Sights on Non-Profit Housing Ownership

Last week, a trio of bills related to last-mile warehouses were introduced by Council Member Alexa Avilés, and co-sponsored by Council Members Jennifer Gutiérrez (District 34, Williamsburg), Sandy Nurse (District 37, Bushwick), Selvena Brooks-Powers (District 31, Far Rockaway), Julie Won (District 26, Astoria) Shahana Hanif (District 39, Gowanus/Park Slope); and Lincoln Restler (District 33, Downtown Brooklyn), Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and Brooklyn BP Antonio Reynoso. At the press conference, it was expressed that these bills were introduced in order to combat the proliferation of last-mile warehouses in low-income communities of color who are subject to more air and noise pollution as a result of the truck traffic. Continue Reading Last Mile Warehouse Bills and Proposed Special Permit

This is what you need to know.

In response to the tragic balcony collapse that killed seven students in Berkeley in 2015, Governor Jerry Brown approved Senate Bill No. 721 on September 17, 2018. The bill, commonly referred to as the “Balcony Inspection Law”, went into effect on January 1, 2019 and the deadline for initial inspections is January 1, 2025. The Balcony Inspection Law amended Section 1954 of the Civil Code, and added Article 2.2 (commencing with Section 17973) to Chapter 5 of Part 1.5 of Division 13 of the Health and Safety Code, relating to building standards.Continue Reading Multifamily Building Owners: Are you Prepared to Meet Balcony Inspection Requirements by the January 1, 2025 Deadline?