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CEQA Streamlining Program Bill Passes State Senate

On a 34-0 bipartisan vote, the California State Senate on March 1 approved SB 7 by Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), which restores California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) streamlining provisions and allows small-scale housing projects to benefit from those provisions.

“As the California State Senate continues our efforts to help California make it out of the COVID-19 tunnel, we are also moving ahead on ongoing issues like housing that will continue to challenge us on the other side,” Atkins said. “SB 7 is an important tool for increasing housing production across California, ensuring communities small and large and urban and rural can benefit from economic development and generating good jobs for skilled workers in many trades.”

In 2011, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed AB 900, which established a new process under CEQA to streamline administrative record paperwork and expedited legal challenges for large, multi-benefit, housing, clean energy and manufacturing projects that have a capital investment of over $100 million. To date, AB 900 has resulted in at least 14 separate mega-projects representing over $2 billion in investment in the state. According to information from the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research and the Senate Office of Research, these projects have provided over 10,000 new housing units, and created thousands of new high wage construction and permanent jobs.

AB 900 sunsetted on Jan. 1, 2021. Atkins carried legislation last year to extend the sunset, which passed both the Senate and Assembly with large majority votes, but the bill was unable to get to the Governor’s desk due to time constraints. SB 7 extends AB 900 until 2026 and expands it so it would apply to much smaller housing projects: under AB 900 said only projects of $100 million or greater are eligible, SB 7 lowers that threshold to $15 million so smaller housing projects qualify. SB 7 also requires that to be eligible housing projects must have at least 15 percent affordable housing—the highest percentage required in state law. 

“There’s an old saying that ‘nothing succeeds like success,’” Atkins said. “With SB 7, we are taking the successful streamlining provisions of AB 900, making them last longer and making them more relevant to the housing needs we have in 2021,” Atkins said. “SB 7 is a key bill in the Senate’s ‘Building Opportunities for All’ housing package, and I particularly want to acknowledge the efforts of Senators Caballero, Cortese, Durazo, Gonzalez, McGuire, Roth, Rubio, Skinner, and Wiener for continuing all the hard work to address the state’s housing crisis and turn these bills into law.”

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.