Land Use and Entitlements

Indisputably, 2019 was an important year for housing in California. As we noted in our prior blog post, Governor Newsom signed legislation creating statewide rent control, preventing discrimination against people paying rent with vouchers, and preventing cities from downzoning in order to inhibit new construction projects. And, according to legislators involved in these efforts, the State wants to keep up this momentum in 2020.
Continue Reading Housing in California in 2020: A Look Ahead and a Lesson in Try, Try Again

In 2019, the California legislature passed, and Governor Newsom approved, new legislation impacting the development industry. Effective January 1, 2020, the laws summarized in the link below will impact the development process in many ways – from streamlining local permitting procedures for eligible projects to tenant protections and new incentives for financing affordable housing. The new laws also obligate local government to undertake updates in their housing plans and plan for growth, among other requirements. In 2020, we anticipate the state legislature to continue to tackle housing access and affordability and we are closely tracking progress on key bills, including Senate Bill 50 (Weiner).
Continue Reading California Housing Legislation – 2019 Update

In Anderson v. City of San Jose (2019), the Sixth District Court of Appeal held that California’s charter cities must comply with the Surplus Land Act (Govt. Code § 54220 et seq.).[1] This decision, essentially, ruled that the statewide housing crisis is of paramount importance, and that all cities – even charter cities – must yield to the state law processes governing surplus land disposition and give affordable housing preference when building on surplus city land.
Continue Reading Appellate Court Holds Charter Cities Are Bound By State Housing Objectives, Signaling Erosion of Local Discretion

This Fall, the California Coastal Commission (“Commission”) was handed down two significant victories, further cementing its authority and jurisdiction within California coastal zones. These cases demonstrate that, in certain instances, compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Res. Code §§ 21000 et seq.) (“CEQA”) and local regulations may not be enough to secure development rights for either private developers or local governments.
Continue Reading Fall Season Results in California Coastal Commission Victories

On October 9, 2019, Governor Newsom signed into law Senate Bill (SB) 330, or the “Housing Crisis Act of 2019” in an effort to combat California’s current housing shortage, which has resulted in the highest rents and lowest homeownership rates in the nation. In a nutshell, the Housing Crisis Act of 2019 seeks to boost homebuilding throughout the State for at least the next 5 years, particularly in urbanized zones, by expediting the approval process for housing development. To accomplish this, the Housing Crisis Act of 2019 removes some local discretionary land use controls currently in place and requires municipalities to approve all developments that comply with current zoning codes and general plans. If not extended, SB 330 will only be effective from January 1, 2020 through January 1, 2025.
Continue Reading California’s “Housing Crisis Act of 2019” May Boost Housing Production or Just Boost Housing-Related Litigation

In rejecting a California Environmental Quality Act challenge to a mitigated negative declaration for conversion of a vacant apartment building into a 24-room boutique hotel (the “Project”), the Second District Court of Appeal affirmed the City of Los Angeles’s use of an existing conditions baseline when assessing housing and population impacts. The decision in Hollywoodians Encouraging Rental Opportunities (HERO) v. City of Los Angeles et al. (2019) ___ Cal.App.5th ____ indicates that the time for courts to address population displacement, and more specifically affordable housing, as a CEQA-cognizable impact is fast approaching.
Continue Reading Court of Appeal Rules HERO Cannot Save Previously Vacated Rental Units

In Sacramentans for Fair Planning v. City of Sacramento (2019) ___ Cal.App. 5th ___, the Third District Court of Appeal upheld the City of Sacramento’s use of a sustainable communities environmental assessment (“SCEA”) pursuant to the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act (SB 375), rather than a more traditional CEQA document (i.e., an environmental impact report or mitigated negative declaration), when it approved the Yamanee development (the “Project”) as a transit priority project (“TPP”). The mixed-use Project comprised one floor of commercial space, three levels of parking, 134 residential condominiums and one floor of residential amenities, for a total of 177,032 square feet on a 0.44-acre site. The Project also included inconsistencies with the City’s general plan density and building intensity standards. The court rejected arguments that the City improperly utilized a regional transportation and greenhouse gas (“GHG”) reduction plan in approving the SCEA; or that the SCEA should have further analyzed the Project’s cumulative impacts, and not relied on tiering off past EIRs. The holding further affirms the innovative and beneficial use of SCEAs in streamlining environmental review for qualifying TPPs.
Continue Reading Sustainable Communities Environmental Assessment Upheld Under CEQA

On June 26, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Fiscal Year 2019-20 State Budget into law. The State’s fiscal year begins July 1st and funding will be available by end of July 2019. The approved budget allocates $2.4 billion to help address homelessness and affordable housing needs, and includes:[1]

  • Short-term planning and infill infrastructure grants;
  • Funding for housing tax credits and moderate‑income housing production;
  • General Fund one‑time funding for homelessness;
  • Funding for permanent supportive housing;
  • Proposals and procedures for innovative development of State property for affordable housing.


Continue Reading California State Budget Summary: Allocations for Housing and Homelessness

In Fudge v. City of Laguna (G055711), published on February 13, 2019, the Fourth District Court of Appeal joined the First and Sixth Districts by reaffirming the need for a litigant to wait for the California Coastal Commission’s (“Commission”) determination on the appeal of a coastal development permit (“CDP”) prior to initiating litigation.

The key takeaway here is that a local agency’s California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) determination in cases where a CDP has been appealed is not final for purposes of adjudication if the Commission has not ruled on the appeal. While the exhaustion of administrative remedies doctrine is well established, this decision is unique in that it applies the doctrine even where a judicial challenge alleges only CEQA violations, providing insight into the relationship between CEQA and the Coastal Act. Moreover, this decision also addresses the extent to which the Commission’s standard of review is de novo.
Continue Reading CDP Applicant May Not Challenge Local Agency’s CEQA Decision on Coastal Development Permit While CDP Appeal to Coastal Commission Is Pending

California has positioned itself as a leader on emerging cannabis policy. While federal law still prohibits cannabis-related activities within the State’s borders, several largely progressive laws in California permit the possession, cultivation, transportation, and distribution of cannabis. The effects of the burgeoning cannabis industry are far-reaching, and have already proven to significantly impact the real estate industry. This Article addresses the history of cannabis regulation within California, the legality of various land use approaches employed by jurisdictions throughout the state and some of the nuances a property owner should consider when negotiating a commercial lease with a tenant who intends to use the premises for a cannabis-related use.
Continue Reading Cannabis Regulation is the New Frontier in Real Estate and Land Use Control