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California Lawmakers Hope Less Environmental Review Equals More Housing

Authored by Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, California Senate Bill 7 allows housing and mixed-use projects to qualify for an expedited review process under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Effective immediately, SB 7 lowers the threshold for expedited review to include residential projects between $15 million and $100 million. Qualifying developments must also dedicate at least 15 percent of the total units for affordable housing. Lawmakers hope that the bill will speed up the costly review process without compromising California’s strict environmental standards.

The move comes at a critical time for California as legislators attempt to identify solutions to the severe housing shortage. According to an article published by the Los Angeles Daily News, only 3% of all California cities and counties are on track to meet their housing goals of building 180,000 housing units per year.

Many industry experts point to a painfully slow permitting process as a major reason cities are missing their targets.

In addition to making it easier for projects to qualify for the expedited process, the legislation provides a four-year extension on a 2011 law that created the expedited judicial review under CEQA for large housing, clean energy and manufacturing projects.