Passed in 2017, AB 352 (Section 17958.1) sets limitations on the types of restrictions that cities can put on efficiency units near public transit and UC and CSU campuses. “Efficiencies” encompasses a variety of unit types, but in most cases the term refers to SROs (Single Resident Occupancy). For its definition, AB 352 defers to the International Building Code which requires a minimum size of 220 sq. ft., a closet, cooking facilities (sink, refrigerator, and cooking appliance), and a separate bathroom (toilet and bath/shower).
The basic purpose of AB 352 is to ensure that localities that do permit Efficiencies/SROs do not limit those uses near transit. The law specifically prohibits cities, that allow Efficiencies generally, from limiting Efficiencies in areas zoned for residential use located within ½ mile of public transit or within one block of a car share vehicle. Limitations on SROs within 1 mile of University of California and California State University campuses are also prohibited. The only requirements that the law specifically allows for these uses are density, setbacks, lot coverage, and height restrictions.
This law has seen limited action since its passage and no significant litigation. For the most part, market-rate developers are not constructing new SROs. Additionally, it is not clear that there are a significant number of cities that permit SROs generally but do not permit them in their downtown core/near transit.
However, extremely high construction costs across the state and restrictive standards for more typical housing types may result in an uptick in construction for SROs. These units allow developers to maximize space in an effective way and can create projects that more effectively pencil with inclusionary requirements. This could be a real boon for renters, SROs often rent for 20% to 30% less than other types of housing.
There may be some litigation of this law in Santa Monica as a result of a series of Interim Zoning Ordinances and Zoning Amendments. Santa Monica is trying to ban all market-rate SROs while preserving the ability for developers to build 100% affordable SROs. Affordability is not specifically mentioned in the statute as an acceptable restriction. Therefore, Santa Monica’s ordinance would seem to be illegal.