On May 20, 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Senate Bill 7, known as the Housing and Jobs Expansion and Extensions Act, which extends expedited California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) judicial review for small-scale housing developments. In 2011, Assembly Bill 900, known as the Jobs and Economic Improvement Through Environmental Leadership Act, created an expedited judicial review process under CEQA for large, multi-benefit housing, clean energy, and manufacturing projects, provided that they met certain requirements, including provisions related to labor. Eligible projects were entitled to immediate review in the court of appeal—rather than superior court—and would be reviewed on an expedited timeframe. No AB 900 project has been overturned in court since the law was enacted, and implementation of the law and its benefits resulted in the creation of over 10,000 new housing units. AB 900 was repealed by its own terms on January 1, 2021.
SB 7, which was proposed by Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), extends the provisions of AB 900 through the year 2025 and lowers the threshold for eligible housing projects. SB 7 provides benefits to projects that were previously certified under AB 900 but that did not receive project approvals by the prior deadline of January 1, 2021 and marks the first bill of the Senate’s 2021 “housing package” that targets California’s ongoing housing crisis, with an emphasis on minimization of greenhouse gases and boosting employment opportunities.
SB 7 reenacts AB 900 and adds: (1) eligibility for infill housing development projects with investments between $15 and $100 million (the previous threshold was $100 million and above); (2) a requirement of quantification and mitigation of the impacts of a project from the emissions of greenhouse gases with geographic restrictions for non-housing development projects; (3) a revision of labor-related requirements for projects undertaken by both public agencies and private entities, adding “skilled and trained” workforce to the existing prevailing wage requirements; and (4) authorization for the Governor to certify a project before the lead agency certifies the final EIR for the project and/or an alternative described in an EIR. SB 7 requires an applicant for certification of a project to (1) demonstrate that they are preparing the administrative record concurrently with the administrative process; and (2) agree to pay the costs of both the trial court and court of appeal in hearing and deciding a case challenging a lead agency’s action on a certified project.
SB 7 attempts to tackle zoning and CEQA reforms in an effort to address California’s ongoing housing crisis and is part of the Senate’s 2021 housing package which targets different elements of the housing crisis. Other bills within the housing package include SB 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10. SB 7 is the first of these bills to be signed. Check back here for additional updates as these bills progress.