Land Use and Entitlements

Not your average game of patty-cake! Earlier this week, New York’s  First Department, Appellate Division issued its decision related to 200 Amsterdam,[1] overturning the lower court’s decision which would have required 200 Amsterdam to remove several floors of its building in order to comply with zoning.  The lower court determined that the NYC Zoning Resolution did not permit a developer to utilize a portion of a tax lot to merge with a neighboring zoning lot.
Continue Reading Build Me A Building As Fast As You Can

In March, the Southern California Association of Governments (“SCAG”)[1] will adopt final Regional Housing Needs Assessment (“RHNA”) allocations for cities and counties within the SCAG region.  This 6th RHNA cycle represents the first update to these targets since the passage of key housing legislation, including Senate Bill (“SB”) 35[2], which grants ministerial approval and streamlining of qualifying housing projects if the jurisdiction has failed to meet its RHNA targets.  Housing developers planning for potential investment can look to these production targets to assess regional and city-based needs.  Cities and counties also will update their Housing Element and other planning documents to address the need.
Continue Reading Southern California Counties To Adopt Major Housing Production Targets

The new 2021-2022 California legislative session has kicked off with the Senate’s “Building Opportunities for All” housing package, its latest effort to tackle zoning and California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) reforms in an effort to address California’s ongoing housing crisis.  “Each one of these bills is targeted at an element of the housing crisis, and together, they give us a unified approach that would create pathways to home ownership, stable housing for vulnerable families, and a pathway to economic stability for Californians across the golden state,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins when announcing the housing package. As anticipated in our summary of new legislation effective in 2021, this housing package builds upon the housing production bills from the previous legislative session that failed to pass out of committee or gain concurrence votes before the session ended.  Given that many of the bills replicate language from the failed 2020 housing legislation, the senators appear confident that more of these bills will be approved in this new session.
Continue Reading California Senate Returns Its Focus to Housing in 2021-2022 Legislative Session

In follow up to the New York City Department of City Planning’s (DCP), January 22nd, public hearing on the Draft Scope of Work for the City’s proposed Hotel Special Permit text amendment, there were several speakers both in support of and in opposition to the proposed legislation.  Of note, were five elected officials who testified in support of the Hotel Special Permit, with a unified message, that the development of hotels takes away opportunities for affordable housing in this City, and therefore, hotels must be regulated at a higher level than other uses.  Generally, the opposition cited to the City’s failure to provide a land use rationale for the Draft Scope of Work, the lack of any defined issue or specific policy objective that this proposed Hotel Special Permit seeks to address and the potential impact of the proposed Hotel Special Permit on the City’s economic recovery.
Continue Reading City Planning Holds First Public Hearing for its Citywide Hotel Special Permit Text

This past week, in a 4 to 3 decision,  New York’s highest court – the Court of Appeals – decided an important New York City land use question regarding how “open space” is accessed by residents on a zoning lot with multiple buildings In the Matter of Randy Peyton, et al v. NYC Board of Standards and Appeals, et al.  This rollercoaster ride ended with the Court of Appeals overturning the First Department, Appellate Division’s decision, and ultimately agreeing with the NYC Department of Buildings original application of the law, which was affirmed by the quasi-judicial NYC Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA).  The Court of Appeals determined that open space available for use by residents of one building, such as a rooftop garden, does not need to be accessed by residents in other buildings when the buildings are part of a single zoning lot in order to satisfy zoning “open space” requirements, putting to rest this controversial question.
Continue Reading NY Court of Appeals Decides Who Gets Access to Required “Open Space”

The New York City Council, under Speaker Corey Johnson, announced this week the release of a proposal for “A New Comprehensive Planning Framework for New York City,” to support equitable, inclusive growth, and citing the City’s current “planning framework, or lack thereof, [as being] inherently flawed.”  The report was released in tandem with legislation introduced by Speaker Johnson at the Council’s December 17 stated meeting (Int 2186-2020), requiring a 10 year comprehensive planning cycle.
Continue Reading NYC Council Announces Land Use Overhaul

Governor Gavin Newsom just signed a number of housing bills into law that were passed by the Legislature this session ending on August 31, 2020.  Due to the severe scheduling constraints placed on lawmakers by the COVID-19 pandemic among other challenges, the Legislature was only able to pass a small number of bills related to housing and tenant protections, despite beginning the year with over 100 bills under consideration.  Most notably, some of the most ambitious pieces of legislation including five of the bills in the State Senate’s Housing Production Package all failed to pass before the midnight deadline on August 31, 2020.  We will continue to monitor the Legislature’s efforts to spur additional housing production in California as we head into the Fall recess and the new legislative session starting on December 7, 2020.  Below is a summary of the bills signed by the Governor on August 28, 2020.  These bills take effect on January 1, 2020, unless otherwise noted.
Continue Reading California Housing Legislation 2020

During the eleventh hour of the 2020 legislative session, the California Legislature approved 2 significant bills in response to the COVID-19 pandemic with the potential to have far-reaching ramifications for mortgage servicers.
Continue Reading Residential Eviction Protections and California Consumer Financial Protections Pass Muster During 2020 Legislative Session

After a nearly two-year wait, in Protecting Our Water and Environmental Resources v. County of Stanislaus (2020) __ Cal.5th ____ (POWER), the California Supreme Court unanimously rejected the County of Stanislaus’s (County) bright-line categorization that all groundwater well construction permits are ministerial, and therefore not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  In an interesting twist, the Supreme Court also rejected the petitioner’s alternative “all or nothing” position that, if the permits are not ministerial, they must be discretionary and conditioned on CEQA compliance.  Instead, the Supreme Court held the decision of whether each permit is ministerial or discretionary hinges on the specific language of the governing ordinance and regulatory controls.[1]
Continue Reading California Supreme Courts Holds Categorical Classification of Well Permits As Exclusively “Ministerial” Does Not Hold Water

In Granny Purps v. County of Santa Cruz, the Sixth District Court of Appeal green-lit a medical cannabis cultivator’s ability to pursue damages – to the tune of potentially $3.5M – from the County of Santa Cruz when it determined the County cannot rely on zoning ordinance to seize the cultivator’s plants grown in violation of local regulation. Specifically, the Sixth District found that, while the County is not compelled to return seized property if the property is illegal, the local ordinance at issue “ultimately regulates land use within the County; it does not (nor could it) render illegal a substance that is legal under state law.”
Continue Reading County Zoning Ordinance Cannot be Used to Justify Property Seizure

Today, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio announced the long-awaited date for the City’s land use process (the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP) to be officially restarted with the City Planning Commission’s first public review session scheduled for August 3, 2020 and the first public hearing scheduled for August 5, 2020.  All meetings , including Community Board, Borough President and the City Council, will take place virtually until further notice.  Information on public hearing schedules for the City Planning Commission, and how to participate in public hearings can be found at NYC Engage.
Continue Reading ULURP Clock Restarted