Bay Area Cities Largely Miss Housing Element Deadline

Only four Bay Area cities have won the state’s approval for their housing elements, which are required to meet the state’s ambitious housing production targets.

2 minute read

February 12, 2023, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Aerial view of Oakland, California with bay in background

Sundry Photography / Oakland, California

With the January 31 deadline for having housing elements approved by the state come and gone, dozens of California cities will see some of their zoning codes voided under the formerly little-known ‘builder’s remedy’ law, which allows affordable housing projects to bypass local zoning laws.

According to an article by Jack Rogers in Globe St., of the 30 San Francisco Bay Area cities and counties to submit plans (out of 109), only four have had their plans approved by the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). “HCD made it clear that it will not rubber-stamp these housing plans when it notified Oakland this week that it has rejected the city’s plan—which exceeded the state’s 26K housing goal for the city by pledging to create 36K new housing units in Oakland.” The HCD rejected the plan, asking the city for proof that the sites it identified for potential affordable housing had a “realistic chance” of development. “The housing regulators also told the Oakland it would need to create a program to track the city’s progress in meeting its state-mandated housing goal, SiliconValley reported.” 

The builder’s remedy is one consequence of California’s crackdown on cities that fail to create housing elements that meet the state’s targets for new housing construction, known as the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). Cities without approved housing elements can also lose access to state funding sources. San Francisco, one of the four cities to have its plan approved, proposes rezoning that will permit 82,000 new homes in the city.

Already, attempts to use the builder’s remedy have faced legal opposition. A court decision that stalled a 500-unit San Francisco project last October could pave the way for similar actions from opponents of development.

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