'By-Right' Housing Law a Shot in the Arm for California Housing Developments

The effect of SB 35 on development projects in California might be more significant than YIMBYs have imagined, after a second project forges ahead confident in the support of state law for a large development.

2 minute read

March 28, 2018, 12:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock

"Fed up with years of false-starts and controversy, the owner of defunct Vallco Mall on Tuesday went over city officials’ heads with a new proposal that aims to turn the failed shopping center into a downtown destination combining retail, housing and office space," reports Marisa Kendall.

The setting is Cupertino, California—located in the heart of the Silicon Valley and a hot bed of political controversy over housing developments.

The key to the somewhat shocking twist in this story is the developer's insistence that the state law SB 35, which went into effect this year, will preempt any attempt by Cupertino city officials to block the development. "It’s just the second proposal under the new law, which seeks to fast track affordable housing focused projects, following an application submitted for a 260-unit project at 1900 Fourth St. in Berkeley earlier this month," according to Kendall.

The scale of the project is large, by the standards of California cities in the thrall of slow- and no-growth political coalitions.

Plans for the new Vallco Town Center envision a thriving community space where people from Cupertino and beyond will come to browse their favorite stores, take in a movie, picnic with their families or even play sports. Mixed into the project will be 2,402 residential units — a huge jump from the 389 units in the city’s plan — and a major boost to the housing stock in a city where booming job growth and sluggish housing creation has driven the cost of renting or buying a home through the roof. Half of the proposed residential units would be reserved for qualifying low-income residents making $84,900 or less for a family of four.

Under the terms of SB 35, the city now has 180 days to review the proposed project. City Councilmember Barry Chang is paraphrased in the article saying it's unlikely the city can block the development, but the city still hopes to refine the project with input from the community.

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