California Housing Advocates Closely Watching Bay Area Rezoning Deadline

California’s reaction to cities that fail to submit compliant zoning plans could reverberate across the state as other regions near their deadlines.

1 minute read

January 30, 2024, 12:00 PM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Aerial view of suburban Fremont, California.

The city of Fremont in the San Francisco Bay Area. | Rich / Adobe Stock

A key deadline for California cities could shape the future of housing in the state. As Ben Christopher explains in CALmatters, dozens of San Francisco Bay Area cities must submit zoning plans by January 31 that adapt their zoning codes to lower barriers to multifamily construction as part of the state’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA).

The statewide policy comes with a series of rolling regional deadlines, with the Bay Area’s January deadline serving as an important test case. “Whether Bay Area local governments comply — and how the state responds to those that don’t — could indicate just how seriously the Newsom administration takes its ambitious housing goals.”

Christopher explains the RHNA process, which has been used by the state for decades but only recently gained teeth. Now, localities without a compliant housing element and zoning code that support housing production that meets local needs face legal and financial penalties. “Included among the possible penalties listed in state law are cuts in state funding for affordable housing and transportation.” In some cases, developers can use a law known as the ‘Builder’s Remedy’ to bypass zoning regulations in noncompliant cities when they include affordable units in their projects.

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