Senate Leaders Detail Housing Production Legislation Intended to Increase Supply, Aid California’s Economic Recovery

May 20, 2020

SACRAMENTO – In an effort to spur affordable housing production and aid California’s economic recovery due to the COVID-19 crisis, Senate Democrats unveiled a package of legislation today intended to bolster production of new housing and remove existing barriers by further streamlining the development process.

The package of bills will lead to more construction jobs and apprenticeships opportunities that will strengthen the economic viability of working families and the state. These bills are the product of four months of work by a group of lead Democratic Senators designated by Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) including Senators Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), Anna M. Caballero (D-Salinas), María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), Lena A. Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), Richard D. Roth (D-Riverside), and Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park).

This package of bills builds on a foundation of work by the Senate Housing Committee Chair, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who set the stage with his passionate approach to housing policy and focus on spurring production.

“At the start of the year, my colleagues and I committed to developing a comprehensive, successful approach to housing production. We remain dedicated to that goal, but due to COVID-19 and the economic fallout that has accompanied it, we must pivot our approach,” Atkins said. “This package of legislation would make more housing production possible generating high wage jobs for skilled construction workers, even while we continue to work through the new realities and uncertain times caused by the pandemic and economic downturn. And it positions California to leap forward exponentially on affordable housing as times get better.”

“California had a housing crisis before this pandemic and the need is even greater now with the virus ravaging the earnings of working families and the most vulnerable. The Senate’s housing package focuses on desperately needed relief for renters, ushers in innovative solutions to spur smart development by expediting the transition of dead and dying malls and it advances small- scale infill development. Senate President pro Tempore Atkins has worked day and night on this package, ushering in bold solutions that will have a positive impact in every corner of the Golden State,” said McGuire.

The Senate Housing Production Package includes five bills, which are scheduled to be heard in committees next week, as well as the Senate proposal that would create a renter/landlord stabilization program that would enable agreements between renters, landlords, and the state to resolve unpaid rents over a limited time period.

The housing production package includes the following bills:


  • SB 902 (Wiener) – This bill allows local governments to pass a zoning ordinance that is not subject to CEQA for projects that allow up to 10 units, if they are located in a transit-rich area, jobs-rich area, or an urban infill site. *As proposed to be amended on May 20, 2020.

“The Senate came together to produce an impactful housing package that will lead to more housing for Californians. We face a multi-million home shortage that is driving people into poverty and homelessness, increasing carbon emissions, driving young people out of our state, and forcing people into multi-hour commutes. We must change course and prioritize new housing,” said Wiener. “This legislative package, building on our work over the past few years, is a strong step forward. To be clear, more work remains in coming years – we won’t solve our housing crisis in one year – but this package is progress, and I’m proud to author or co-author these bills.”


  • SB 995 (Atkins) – This bill would expand the application of streamlining the CEQA process to smaller housing projects that include at least 15 percent affordable housing. It also would broaden application and utilization of the Master Environmental Impact Report (MEIR) process, which allows cities to do upfront planning that streamlines housing approvals on an individual project level. The bill would extend and expand a program that has generated 10,573 housing units and created nearly 47,000 jobs since 2011.


  • SB 1085 (Skinner) – This bill would enhance existing Density Bonus Law by increasing the number of incentives provided to developers in exchange for providing more affordable housing units.  

“We have to take smart and focused action now so that COVID-19-imposed economic hardships don’t make California’s housing crisis far worse. SB 1085 offers needed improvements to California’s density bonus law so that we can achieve real increases in the construction of very affordable units and moderately priced units for the ‘missing middle’: teachers, nurses, firefighters who can’t afford today’s market-rate prices,” said Skinner.


  • SB 1120 (Atkins) – This bill would encourage small-scale neighborhood development by streamlining the process for a homeowner to create a duplex or subdivide an existing lot in all residential areas. Such applications would be required to meet a list of qualifications that ensure protection of local zoning and design standards, historic districts, environmental quality, and existing tenants vulnerable to displacement.


  • SB 1385 (Caballero) – This bill would unlock existing land zoned for office and retail use and allow housing to become an eligible use on those sites. It also would extend the state’s streamlined ministerial housing approval process to office and retail sites that have been vacant or underutilized for at least three years.

“Every year, the nation witnesses the closure of brick and mortar retailers – anchor tenants at large shopping malls, small strip malls, and large standalone ‘big-box’ retail stores – because of the shift to shopping on the Internet. This change in consumer behavior leaves California’s communities with vacant and underutilized retail locations, unused real estate at a time when the state faces an astronomical housing shortage,” said Caballero. “SB 1385 helps the market to catch up with this real world reality by authorizing the adaptive reuse of these vacant parcels into desperately needed residential development. The bill will expand California’s housing production in the same commercial centers where people shop, get their haircut, and buy other goods and services. This reduces travel by vehicles, and creates an opportunity for some Californians to become owners, and lower the cost of housing for renters, by increasing supplies.”


“I appreciate the hard work of my colleagues, and that of all Senators who offered their thoughts and perspective as we developed this important package. Our continued collaboration will be essential in the months ahead,” Atkins said.

Senators who have been working on the housing production package characterized the bills as critical solutions for California’s housing shortage.

Senator Richard Roth: “I applaud my Senate colleagues for their leadership in tackling the housing shortage and lack of affordability in California. We must ensure that housing is built where people need it and that it’s accessible to California families.”

Senator Jerry Hill: “The proposals unveiled today leverage existing resources and statutes to provide creative solutions to California’s urgent need for housing. In addition, the housing production package provides new, streamlined steps that can be taken now while also positioning California for accelerated and expanded housing production as we recover. The proposals address the need for affordable, multi-family housing and take into account different ways that it can be created, including building smaller projects and pursuing developments that align with local density, height, setback and environmental standards. These strong and smart proposals enable California to move forward as well as build for the future.”

Senator Lena A. Gonzalez: “I’m proud of the work of our housing production workgroup in crafting key policies to solve our housing and homelessness crisis. This housing production package represents months of conversations with various stakeholders from across the state and a balanced effort to fit the needs of our diverse communities. More housing production is key to overcoming the homelessness crisis. This legislation is essential now more than ever as our communities are struggling to keep themselves housed during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. It is an honor to join my colleagues in helping solve one of the toughest challenges California faces.” 

Senator Susan Rubio: “I am proud to have worked with my Senate colleagues to find real solutions to tackle the housing crisis. We met with key stakeholders, labor leaders, housing rights’ advocates, and builders, to find a balanced approach to increase housing production. As a former councilwoman, I ensured the voices of local leaders were heard and their concerns for local control were included in these proposals as best as possible. The COVID-19 pandemic has been another reminder that building housing – especially affordable housing – is more important than ever.”  

Senator María Elena Durazo: “I’m thankful for our work to include a comprehensive approach to CEQA that streamlines the review of projects that bring affordable housing and good jobs to California. This bill shaves months to years off project timelines by removing administrative red tape and expediting judicial review of CEQA litigation. The core provisions have been used in large projects. They should be used for housing as well. This bill retains fundamental environmental protections and helps solve the housing crisis at the source by paying good wages to workers that build our homes. SB 995 is good for low-income renters, construction workforce, home builders and the environment, and will usher in housing for both big and small cities.” 




Toni G. Atkins is President pro Tempore of the California Senate. Having previously served as Speaker of the California Assembly, she began her tenure in the Senate in 2016. As Senator for District 39, she represents the cities of San Diego, Coronado, Del Mar and Solana Beach. Website of President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins: