SB 330 Talking Points

Stop SB 330, a Community-Killing, Lawsuit-Driven Experiment Across an Entire State

Senate Bill 330 by Nancy Skinner was intended to speed up and “streamline” housing approvals by cities. Instead, it inflicts massive damage on low-income and moderate‐income renters and homeowners, drives up land prices in hot areas making affordable units impossible, directly attacks a city’s remaining space for parks, and undoes 2018 and 2019 housing reforms adopted by cities in concert with their communities.

Ironically, this bill will jam up state courts with legal battles and create a new set of delays that will significantly slow down, not speed up, housing approvals by California cities.

Like Scott Wiener’s SB 50, Senate Bill 330 hands vast new powers to luxury developers to overrun communities with bad planning and bad design. However, it does not seek or require a single unit of low-income or affordable housing.

Below are the 6 worst elements that make SB 330 a fatally flawed bill:

  • SB 330 invalidates local community planning, converting much of California to a statewide spot-zoning system in which legislators hand the power to luxury housing developers, to decide what and where to build.
  • SB 330 kills community input, allowing only 5 total “hearings” per project, including continuances and appeals. This will silence the most vulnerable residents, as cities are forced to hoard the 5 hearings for top-most bodies such as the Planning Commission and City Council. Local-knowledge groups such as Community Councils — who fight hard for and often win more affordable units — will be cut out. As Berkeley Law research found, public hearings are NOT causing 4-year to 10-year delays, a fantasy pushed by developers.
  • SB 330 invites developers to sue if a luxury housing project is rejected by a city. It urges self-defined “future” residents to sue when they hear about a project denial by a city in California, opening the potential for endless frivolous lawsuits that will jam state courts. As found by the think tank Embarcadero Institute, “Giving legal standing to parties with no established property interest (and who may have competing interests), could expose local governments to lawsuits and appeals by multiple parties, creating further delays rather than streamlining the process.”
  • SB 330 encourages developers to sue cities at a rate of $10,000 to $50,000 per unit if a city denies a project that a developer says is allowed “by right” under these reckless ideas. Such claims will jam the state courts, and taxpayers will be forced to pay developers if courts decide a city should have granted the development deal.
  • Many city land-use plans that took effect after Jan. 1 of 2018 are nullified. No matter how important or how many years of public testimony and workshops went into it, city land-use plans will be retroactively invalidated, including new Community Plans, sustainability plans, and hundreds of other land-use plans statewide. Chaos, not streamlining, will ensue.
  • Any city wanting to “down-zone” land — to build a long-promised park, for example — would be forced into the divisive position of increasing the density of some other area. The obvious outcome? Far fewer new parks statewide, seriously impairing the fight against climate change.

This bill’s outcomes are completely unpredictable, utterly untested and fully unknown. It strongly appears that streamlining housing will turn out to be roadblocking housing. One thing is certain: SB 330 provides zero affordable housing while enraging and silencing communities that are filling up with vacant luxury units. Please reject this costly, poorly conceived bill.