New Legislation Proposes Increased Housing Density in California Coastal Areas

A proposed bill is set to challenge the exemption of California’s coastal neighborhoods from the state’s density bonus law, aiming to boost housing availability by allowing developers to build more densely in return for including affordable housing units. Since its inception in 1979, this tradeoff has not been applicable in coastal zones due to a clause protecting the California Coastal Act of 1976, which grants the Coastal Commission control over development decisions in these areas.

Introduced by Assemblymember David Alvarez (D-San Diego), Assembly Bill 2560 aims to adjust this by enabling local authorities to approve housing projects in coastal zones that exceed current unit limits by up to 50%, contingent on the inclusion of income-based housing. Alvarez emphasizes the necessity of statewide solutions to housing affordability, noting the particular inaccessibility of coastal neighborhoods.

This legislation seeks to address barriers to affordable housing construction in coastal regions, historically some of the most expensive residential areas in the U.S., and particularly in California. Critics of the current system argue that the Coastal Commission’s discretionary power has hindered affordable housing development, citing the subjective nature of decisions on what constitutes a violation of the Coastal Act.

Supporters of AB 2560 argue that amending the law to eliminate coastal exemptions could significantly alleviate housing shortages by utilizing existing zoning for increased density, without compromising critical coastal environments. The bill is currently awaiting committee assignment for further discussion.

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