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September 2019

In this issue:


Senate Bill 592 and implications for affordable housing


Accessory Dwellings: promises and potential pitfalls

Dear Senator <<Last Name>>,

The analysis below is only an example of our recent work. We have published some surprising and in some cases provocative findings in other reports on our website: The Embarcadero Institute 

To ensure consistent quality in our analysis we work with government-sourced data and licensed professional planners. Our work is thorough and accurate, making it an important new tool for California policymakers. I am available to discuss all findings, data and visuals. Please feel free to email me at

Gab Layton
President, Embarcadero Institute 

On Senate Bill 592 and the Shift Towards Development Interests


Senate Bill 592 "The Housing Accountability Act" was written to incentivize affordable housing development. However, the complexity of the bill creates some ambiguity around land-use law precedent. This confusion invites litigation. The bill also gives legal standing to parties with no established property interest, parties whose interests may even compete with the city and the developer.  

Separately the bill limits the power of cities and counties to effectively change zoning if these changes would limit density. However, ceding that local control doesn't guarantee, in exchange, the development of affordable housing. The bill focuses on streamlining processes, creating new limitations for the review and approval of residential units, mixed-use developments, transitional or supportive housing, and accessory dwelling units (granny flats). The current processes, however, do not appear to be a stumbling block for housing development. In the most recent RHNA reporting cycle, cities/counties appear to be approving market-rate housing at a pace that meets or exceeds their RHNA requirements (see here). The real and significant hurdle for affordable housing development, and one not addressed by SB 592, is providing subsidies to affordable projects, not the speed of development review. 

For more detail on SB 592 visit our report:
SB 592: a dangerous shift toward development interests

On the Flurry of ADU Bills: How They Do and Don't Work Together

SB 592 goes hand in hand with a flurry of proposed Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) bills — AB 587, AB 881, AB 68, and AB 69. If SB 592 becomes law, the development of accessible dwelling units (granny flats) across California could proceed with diminished local review.

A number of the ADU bills seek to standardize elements of ADU design which is helpful. However, AB 68 would limit a city's ability to influence an ADU's size, lot size, and parking requirements. Meanwhile, AB 587 would allow a homeowner to sell an ADU if it were built by a qualified non-profit and sold to a person of moderate income or less. However, absent a system to track 'qualified' ownership and construction, this restriction is unenforceable. 

These bills aim to encourage affordable housing, but if accompanied by SB 592's diminished oversight and review, could potentially lead to significant and uncertain changes in neighborhoods and business districts across California.  

For more discussion visit our report:  
A flurry of ADU bills and their possible impact
Image: Nicolás Boullosa
Copyright © 2019 Embarcadero Institute, All rights reserved.

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