Senate approves package of Wieckowski housing bills

May 30, 2018

SACRAMENTO – The California State Senate approved a package of housing bills authored by Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) today to boost construction of affordable housing and accessory dwelling units, and to improve governance of homeowner associations. The three bills, SB 1333, SB 831 and SB 1265 now head to the Assembly.

SB 1333 eliminates a loophole that allows charter cities to undermine the state’s housing element laws. 

“We are in a serious housing crisis and it is critical that every city, including California’s 121 charter cities, do their fair share to adequately provide housing and not take advantage of existing loopholes to skirt around their responsibilities,” said Wieckowski, a member of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.    

California housing element law requires each jurisdiction to identify zoned sites for enough housing to meet its share of the regional housing need.

Last year, in Kennedy Commission v. City of Huntington Beach, a California appellate court decision held that charter cities are permitted to adopt specific plans that are inconsistent with their adopted housing elements and can eliminate sites zoned for affordable housing.  The broader effect of the court’s decision is to make charter cities exempt from a significant portion of planning and zoning obligations in each city’s housing element.

“All cities must take their housing obligations seriously in light of the unprecedented homelessness in California,” said Alexander Harnden, policy advocate for the Western Center on Law & Poverty.  “Cities have great flexibility in planning how to accommodate their fair share of housing need.  SB 1333 simply requires that once those plans are written, they are followed.”

SB 1333 clarifies that existing housing laws apply to charter cities. In addition to the Western Center on Law & Poverty, the bill is supported by the Public Interest Law Project, California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund, California Yimby and Resources for Community Development.

SB 831 builds on Senator Wieckowski’s prior bills on accessory dwelling units (ADUs) that have resulted in increases in ADU applications filed by homeowners seeking to remodel their homes or build a unit in their backyards. It would eliminate some exorbitant development fees, establish an amnesty program for pre-existing, unpermitted ADUs and increase oversight of local ADU ordinances. SB 831 is supported by the Bay Area Council, California Association of Realtors, Non-profit Housing Association of Northern California, Terner Center for Housing Innovation and California Yimby, among several other organizations.

Since the passage of Sen. Wieckowski’s SB 1069 in 2016, cities across the state have revamped their ADU ordinances and homeowners getting permits have increased. Los Angeles approved 119 permits in 2016 and in the first quarter of this year, it has already approved 926.

The Senate also passed Wieckowski’s SB 1265 to improve the governance of California’s 52,000 homeowner associations (HOAs). Boards have manipulated elections or refused to hold them at all. Some boards have failed to properly notice an election, failed to deliver ballots to all residents, refused to count valid ballots, denied access to the counting of ballots after elections and prohibited candidates from running. SB 1265 adds requirements that must be met in HOA elections and internal dispute resolution to help prevent the bad behavior that occurs in problem HOAs.

“If HOA boards can strip away voting rights of perceived “problem residents,” who may be seeking to unseat them from their position of power, board members can act with impunity in silencing dissent,” Wieckowski said.  “SB 1265 would restrict this power and make the elections more transparent.”

The bill is supported by the Center for California Homeowner Association Law, Alliance for Retired Americans, American Civil Liberties Union, Greater Sacramento Urban League and a number of other groups.

Senator Wieckowski represents the 10th Senate District, which includes southern Alameda County and parts of Santa Clara County.