Identify Adequate Sites
Please note, the information provided below does not reflect statutory changes enacted as of January 1, 2018 as part of the 2017 Legislative Housing Package. For additional information on the specific bills, provisions and timing for implementation, please visit our Legislative Housing Package webpage.
- Required Components of Programs
- Policy and Program Options
- Sample Program Format
- Sample Programs
- Sample Program Implementation
Identify actions that will be taken to make sites available during the planning period of the general plan with appropriate zoning and development standards and with services and facilities to accommodate that portion of the city's or county's share of the regional housing need for each income level that could not be accommodated on sites identified in the inventory completed pursuant to paragraph (3) of subdivision (a) without rezoning, and to comply with the requirements of Section 65584.09. Sites shall be identified as needed to facilitate and encourage the development of a variety of types of housing for all income levels, including multifamily rental housing, factory-built housing, mobilehomes, housing for agricultural employees, supportive housing, single-room occupancy units, emergency shelters, and transitional housing. (Section 65583(c)(1))
- Where the inventory of sites, pursuant to paragraph (3) of subdivision (a), does not identify adequate sites to accommodate the need for groups of all household income levels pursuant to Section 65584, the program shall identify sites that can be developed for housing within the planning period pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 65583.2.
- Where the inventory of sites pursuant to paragraph (3) of subdivision (a) does not identify adequate sites to accommodate the need for farmworker housing, the program shall provide for sufficient sites to meet the need with zoning that permits farmworker housing use by right, including density and development standards that could accommodate and facilitate the feasibility of the development of farmworker housing for low- and very low-income households.
Effective programs reflect the results of the local housing need analyses, identification of available resources (including land and financing), and the mitigation of identified governmental and nongovernmental constraints. Programs consist of specific action steps the locality will take to implement its policies and achieve goals and objectives. Programs must include a specific timeframe for implementation, identify the agencies or officials responsible for implementation, and describe the jurisdiction’s specific role in implementation.
The sites inventory should demonstrate adequate site capacity to accommodate the regional housing need for all income groups. Where the analysis of a local government’s sites inventory does not demonstrate enough suitable, available, and appropriately zoned sites to accommodate the regional housing need by income level, the housing element must include an adequate-sites program to identify sites that can be developed within the planning period. Sites or zones must be identified to facilitate and encourage the development of a variety of types of housing for people at all income levels, including multifamily rental housing, factory-built housing, mobilehomes, housing for agricultural employees, emergency shelters, and transitional housing.
A jurisdiction’s adequate sites program must accommodate 100 percent of the shortfall of sites necessary to accommodate the remaining housing need for housing for very low- and low-income households during the planning period. These sites must be appropriately zoned early enough in the planning period to provide realistic and viable development opportunities.
The program must:
- Ensure sites are zoned to allow owner-occupied and rental multifamily residential uses “by-right” (only subject to ministerial approval);.
- Permit the development of at least 16 units per site.
- Ensure sites within suburban and metropolitan jurisdictions — as defined by Government Code Section 65583.2(c)(3)(B)(iii) and (iv) — permit a minimum of 20 dwelling units per acre (see III and IV in the table below).
- Ensure sites in incorporated cities within nonmetropolitan counties and nonmetropolitan counties that have micropolitan areas — as defined by Government Code Section 65583.2(d) — permit a minimum of 16 dwelling units per acre (see I and II in the table below).
- either a) ensure at least 50 percent of the low- and very low-income regional housing need can be accommodated on sites designated for exclusively residential uses, at appropriate densities or b) if accommodating more than 50 percent of the low- and very low-income regional housing need on sites designated for mixed-uses, all sites designated for mixed-uses must allow 100 percent residential use and require residential use to occupy at least 50 percent of the floor area in a mixed–use project.
|By-Right Program Minimum Densities|
Incorporated cities within nonmetropolitan/rural counties and nonmetropolitan counties with *micropolitan areas
Unincorporated areas in all nonmetropolitan counties not included under I
|Nonmetropolitan counties with micropolitan areas include:
|Note: Following list excludes those counties with *micropolitan areas as outlined in I
|Note: Suburban jurisdictions include cities and counties located within a **Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and have a population of less than 2 million. (Cities in a MSA with a population greater than 100,000 are considered metropolitan.)
San Luis Obispo
Santa Cruz Shasta
|Note: Metropolitan jurisdictions include cities and counties located within a **Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) with a population of more than 2 million (Cities in a MSA with a population less than 25,000 are considered suburban.)
|Density: At least 15 dwelling units/acre||Density: At least 10 dwelling units/acre||Density: At least 20 dwelling units/acre||Density: At least 30 dwelling units/acre|
*Micropolitan: Urban cluster of at least a 10,000 population, but less than a 50,000 population.
**Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA): A city with 50,000 or more inhabitants, or the presence of an Urbanized Area (UA) and a total population of at least 100,000.
Definition of By-Right
For the purposes of housing element law and in accordance with Chapter 724, by-right shall mean the local government’s review shall not require:
- a conditional-use permit
- a planned unit development permit
- other discretionary, local-government review or approval that would constitute a “project” as defined in Section 21100 of the Public Resources Code.
This provision does not preclude local planning agencies from imposing design review standards. However, the review and approval process must remain ministerial and the design review must not constitute a “project” as defined in the Section 21100 of the Public Resources Code. For example, a hearing officer (e.g., zoning administrator) or other hearing body (e.g., planning commission) can review the design merits of a project and call for a project proponent to make design-related modifications, but cannot deliberate the project’s merits or exercise judgment to reject or deny the “residential use” itself.
Adequate-Sites Program Timing
A locality’s ability to accommodate needed housing during the planning period requires designating appropriate zoning as early as possible. The most direct procedure is for the locality to undertake rezoning when the housing element is adopted. The program must make provision for sites that will be available soon enough to reasonably permit development during the planning period. For example, rezoning actions should be completed within the first year to two years.
Strategies to Increase Residential Capacity
The following approaches have been used by localities to increase their total residential development capacity:
- Up-zone existing residential areas at appropriate densities to facilitate development of housing.
- Increase maximum allowable residential densities in existing residential, commercial, and mixed-use zones and modify development standards, such as height limitations to ensure maximum density can be achieved.
- Pre-zone and annex land suitable for residential use.
- Establish minimum densities — Designate minimum densities of development to ensure that existing available land is not underutilized.
- Allow and encourage mixed-use zoning — Permit housing in certain nonresidential zones either as part of a mixed-use project or as a standalone residential use.
- Rezone underutilized land from nonresidential to residential to expand the supply of available residential land.
- Institute flexible zoning — Allow various residential uses within existing nonresidential zones without requiring rezoning or conditional approvals.
- Redevelop and/or recycle underutilized existing land to more intensive uses.
- Convert obsolete, older public/institutional/commercial/industrial buildings to residential use through adaptive reuse and/or historic preservation.
- Over-zone — Create a surplus of land for residential development during the current planning period of at least 20 percent more than the locality’s share of the regional housing need. Over-zoning compensates for urban land left vacant due to ownership and development constraints and creates a real surplus. A sufficient supply of land beyond the time frame of the housing element helps prevent land shortages from bidding up land costs.
- Allow and promote small- and irregular-size lot development.
- Consolidate lots — Facilitate combining small residential lots into larger lots to accommodate higher-density development.
- Increase height limitations — At a minimum, allow three stories in multifamily zones.
- Increase Floor Area Ratios — Allow for larger buildings on smaller lots and/or more units per lot by reducing the floor area ratio (total lot area divided by the total building area).
Appropriate Development Standards
Appropriate zoning and development standards facilitate the location, siting, capacity, and price of residential development in order to meet identified housing needs, particularly new construction for lower-income households. These include establishing minimum densities and minimum floor areas; increasing maximum lot coverage; allowing minimum building-, rear-, and side-yard setbacks; reducing parking and amenities requirements; and other controls such as streamlined architectural and design review standards.
State zoning law requires localities to zone sufficient vacant land for residential use with appropriate standards to meet the housing needs as identified in the general plan. Appropriate standards are requirements that contribute significantly to the economic feasibility of producing housing at the lowest possible cost.
In regulating subdivisions, Government Code Section 65913.2 provides that a local government may not impose design criteria for the purpose of rendering an affordable housing development infeasible. A community may not impose standards and criteria for public improvements (e.g. streets, sewers, schools, or parks) that exceed those imposed on other developments in similar zones. Additionally, the effect of a community’s ordinances and actions on accommodating the housing needs of the region must be considered.
Encouraging Development of Underutilized Sites for Housing
Identification of underutilized land and opportunities for mixed uses must be accompanied by programs that encourage their development and/or reuse. Such programs could include actions to initiate any necessary rezoning, establish appropriate regulatory and/or financial incentives, relax development standards (design criteria, parking, building height, setback requirements, etc.), support more compact and higher-density residential developments, and facilitate the new construction of multifamily rental and owner-occupied units. Such developments are often located in urban core areas, adjacent to existing neighborhoods, close to transit centers, and near established businesses and services.
Strategies to Encourage Adequate Sites for a Variety of Housing Types
While the sites inventory may identify sufficient sites to accommodate the locality’s total share of the regional housing need, the element must also include policies and programs to promote development on identified sties. Localities have developed various strategies and development incentives to encourage a variety of housing types for all income levels, including:
- Zoning a high proportion of sites for higher density and more intensive residential use.
- Encouraging and facilitating second-unit development in single-family residential areas. Policies to encourage second-units include modifying development standards, such as reducing parking, increasing lot coverages, reducing setbacks, and offering development incentives.
- Zoning sites for mobilehomes and mobilehome park use.
- Promoting multifamily rental housing built above ground-floor commercial uses (referred to as “mixed-use” development) by permitting apartment uses in office/commercial areas (allows office space revenue to offset rental costs and act as an internal project subsidy).
- Compiling and maintaining an inventory of public surplus lands and land owned by other entities (such as school districts, public utilities, etc.) to identify sites suitable for development of low- and moderate-income housing. Facilitating the acquisition of surplus public lands and other identified land for affordable housing development.
- Zoning for housing types typically occupied by renter households (e.g., second-units, apartments, etc.).
- Ensuring zoning encourages single-room occupancy units and establishing ordinances with written and objective standards.
- Offering development incentives (e.g., land write-downs, fee waivers, and below market-rate financing) negotiated through developer agreements to increase multifamily densities in selected areas.
- Reducing multifamily development standards (e.g. number of required covered parking spaces, setback and building height requirements, etc.).
- Establishing ordinances or guidelines to promote small-lot development
- Establishing “no net loss” policies and procedures to rezone equal amounts of land to replace any residential land used for other than its intended residential use.
Description of the specific actions, jurisdiction’s specific role in implementation and demonstration of commitment to implement
Objectives: (Quantified, where possible)
Funding Source(s): (Where appropriate)
Sample Program 1: By-Right
To facilitate the development of multifamily housing affordable to lower-income households, the county will identify and rezone 30 acres of vacant land with the R3 zoning district, allowing exclusively residential uses and a minimum of 16 units per acre by June 30, 2020. Rezoned sites will be selected from sites 20 through 45 in the parcel listing (Appendix A), will be suitable, have the capacity for at least 16 units, and will be available for development in the planning period where water and sewer can be provided.
Objective: Create opportunity for at least 480 units of rental housing for lower-income households
Responsible Agency: Community Development Department
Timeline: Sites rezoned by June 30, 2020
Funding Source(s): General fund
Sample Program 2: Rezone Program on Mixed-use Sites
To accommodate the remaining lower-income RHNA of 150 units, the City will identify and rezone 8 acres of sites within the MU-30 zoning district, allowing owner-occupied and rental multifamily residential uses “by-right”, at a minimum of 20 units per acre by June 30, 2017. Sites will allow projects to be 100 percent residential by-right but shall require residential uses to occupy at least 50 percent of the total floor area of the mixed-use project. Rezoned sites will be selected from sites 15 through 30 in the parcel listing (Appendix A), and have the capacity for at least 16 units per site.
Responsibility: Community Development Department
Timing: Sites rezoned by June 30, 2017
Funding: General Fund
Objective: Create opportunity for at least 150 units of rental housing for lower income households
- Emergency Shelter Ordinance (PDF) — City of Santa Monica
- Housing Element Policy Best Practices (2014) (PDF) — Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County
- U.S Environmental Protection Agency — Smart-growth publications and tools
- Lincoln Institute of Land Policy: Visualizing Density
- Accessory Dwelling Units: Model State Act and Local Ordinance (2000) (PDF) — AARP
- Center for Sustainable Suburban Development — U.C. Riverside
- Affordable Housing Design Advisor
- Pre-Approved Second Unit Program and Free Designs — City of Fort Bragg
- Emergency Shelter Ordinance — City of Santa Monica