Inspection Requirements – Elevated Elements in CIDs

inspection

Civil Code Section 5551, a statute within the Davis-Stirling Act and applicable to common interest developments with three (3) or more unit, obligates homeowners’ associations (“HOA”) to satisfy certain inspection requirements of all exterior elevated elements within a project that are more than six feet (6’) off the ground and supported in substantial part by wood or wood-based products. Examples of such exterior elements include balconies, decks, stairways and walkways.

These visual inspections – used to determine whether these elements are in a generally safe condition and performing in accordance with applicable standards – must be performed by a licensed structural engineer or architect, with the initial inspection being completed by January 1, 2025.[1] Thereafter, subsequent inspections must be undertaken and completed at least every nine (9) years.

Based upon the inspector’s visual inspections, further inspection, and construction and materials expertise, the inspector must then prepare and issue a written report containing the following information:

(1) The identification of the building components comprising the load-bearing components and associated waterproofing system.

(2) The current physical condition of the load-bearing components and associated waterproofing system, including whether the condition presents an immediate threat to the health and safety of the residents.

(3) The expected future performance and remaining useful life of the load-bearing components and associated waterproofing system.

(4) Recommendations for any necessary repair or replacement of the load-bearing components and associated waterproofing system.

Civ. Code. § 5551(e).

The inspector’s report must be stamped or signed by the inspector, presented to the board, and incorporated into the HOA’s reserve study as required by Civil Code Section 5550. Inspection reports must be maintained in the HOA’s records for two inspection cycles. Civ. Code § 5551(f), (i).

Partner Engineering and Science, Inc., will be holding a webinar to address these inspection requirements in more detail. Registration for this event may be completed here.

[1] Note: the inspection of applicable buildings for which a building permit application has been submitted on or after January 1, 2020, must occur no later than six (6) years following the issuance of a certificate of occupancy.

 

Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP Attorney Michael Corbett.

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient.  Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein.  Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm.  We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law.  We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.

Downtown Oakland Specific Plan: ZIP Update

ZIP

As previously reported, the Downtown Oakland Specific Plan (“DOSP”) is working its way to the City Council for adoption, currently anticipated in late 2022. The DOSP includes Zoning Amendments (which we’ve previously reported on) and a Zoning Incentive Program (“ZIP”). Initial details for the ZIP were released earlier this summer (which we’ve previously reported on). Below are additional details regarding the ZIP based on the economic analysis reports prepared by Hausrath Economics Group, dated August 2022 and September 16, 2022, in addition to recent community meetings on September 13 (presentation slides) and on September 19 (presentation slides).

The ZIP was developed in response to community concerns to allowing development downtown without obtaining community benefits. The ZIP allows developers to voluntarily elect to provide community benefits, in one of four forms, to increase allowed development capacity, either additional market-rate dwelling units or commercial space. The four on-site community benefits options include providing (1) affordable housing, (2) below market-rate ground floor commercial space, (3) public restrooms, or (4) streetscape, open space and flood control improvements exceeding basic city requirements. Alternatively, the ZIP includes the option to provide community benefits through payment of an in-lieu fee instead of providing on-site benefits, or some combination of on-site benefits and an in-lieu fee.

The ZIP is a voluntary program that creates additional value for a development project with the City capturing a portion of the value increase. The increase in value from the additional, higher-intensity development is calculated as the difference in value of development under the maximum intensity zoning compared to the base zoning. The value is expressed in dollars per building square foot of added development for commercial and dollars per dwelling unit added for residential.

As currently analyzed, the ZIP is structured so that a third of the additional value from the more intense development is captured in the form of a community benefit. The remaining two-thirds is split with one-third to the developer to incentivize development at increased intensity and a third to the owner to account for increased resulting land value, which in turn results in increased property taxes. During recent community meetings, there has been discussion of adjusting this formula to increase the City’s value capture share.

In creating the incentive, the ZIP considers the costs and economic variables specific to development types, i.e., change from Type III or V (mid-rise/low-rise) to the more costly Type I (high-rise) construction. Properties with large increases in density supporting high-rise development over mid-rise/low-rise projects can have lower value capture per additional dwelling unit or per additional building square foot due to higher costs involved. To account for this, the ZIP establishes three Zoning Incentive Areas that reflect similar market contexts, development patterns and potentials, parcel sizes, and existing land uses. There are three areas each for residential development (map) and commercial development (map), with R-A, R-B, and R-C zones for residential and C-A, C-B, and C-C for commercial development.

The ZIP incentive areas allow additional density ranging from 11% to 800% more density with 65% of cases more than doubling density. The large density bonus accounts for increased costs associated with change in construction typology to Type I for high-rise development.

Based on location, a commercial development could obtain an additional 100,000 sf of office space with the provision of below market ground floor commercial space totaling 6,828 sf (Zone C-A), 4,655 sf (Zone C-B), or 3,724 sf (Zone C-C).

The ZIP is available to a developer in lieu of or in addition to the State Density Bonus set forth in Government Code Section 65915, et. seq. Meaning, a project could layer the State Density Bonus on top of the ZIP to increase development intensity. In instances when the ZIP and State Density Bonus are used in tandem, the project’s ZIP development intensity is the base density not the underlying base zoning density.

The DOSP and ZIP are slated to return to the Zoning Update Committee (“ZUC”) before advancing to the Planning Commission and City Council. While previously schedule to return to the ZUC on September 29, that hearing has been cancelled to allow additional public meetings. The ZUC hearing has not yet been rescheduled. We will continue to track this significant rezoning and community planning effort as it moves forward.

Reuben, Junius, & Rose LLP has experience with entitlement projects and land use diligence throughout Oakland, and we are pleased to have worked on some of the largest housing projects approved in the city over the last several years.

 

Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP Attorney Justin A. Zucker.

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient.  Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein.  Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm.  We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law.  We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.

Building Department Update

DBI

The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (“DBI”) is working hard to improve on permit review and processing times. They launched a program called “Enhanced In-House Review Permit Application Process” on July 1, 2022, which should streamline the review and issuance of small and medium sized projects, and there are many new faces at the over-the-counter shifts which inevitably gives more seasoned staff time to work through their backlog.

The Enhanced In-House Review program incorporates suggestions from stakeholders and internal staff and creates new plan check categories. Until recently, DBI had only two options for plan review—Over-the-Counter and In-House review. For a project to qualify for Over-the-Counter review, the plan review needed to be an hour or less at each plan review station. Under their new Pre-Plan Check system launched on July 1, they added two new plan check categories for small to medium-sized projects that don’t qualify for Over-the-Counter review, but could be reviewed in one day after their assignment to a reviewer. Projects are now pre-screened per the criteria below:

Plan Check Category OTC Level 1 In-House Level 2 In-House Level 3 In-House Level 4
Time for plan review <1 hour 1-4 hours 4-8 hours >8 hours

New Central Queue

The new system also changes the way DBI assigns projects to plan reviewers. Previously, they assigned projects to plan reviewers as they came in—so if a plan reviewer had a large workload or went on vacation, customers waited longer for plan review. Under the new system, projects now go into a central queue and will be assigned to plan reviewers on a weekly basis. For customers, it means that once your project is assigned to a plan reviewer, you can expect DBI to begin review on your project in the next few business days. Over the past three weeks, the new process has effectively increased the quality of plan submissions and is helping DBI manage its workload better.

DBI’s next step is to remove projects from individual plan checker’s queues and to move all the existing in-house review project submissions into one queue and then begin assigning them to plan reviewers on a weekly basis.

The program has been in action for about two months, and according to the August update, DBI is pleased with the progress on the transition to the new process. About 68% of new applications have been accepted as complete and all of the older priority projects, such as affordable housing and Accessible Dwelling Units, have been assigned to a plan reviewer.

The new system also establishes a minimum 20 business days and maximum 40 business days target for DBI to respond to the application with comments for the applicant to clarify or address. Other agencies will attempt to match these turnaround thresholds but may have exceptions.

To ensure clear communication and to keep projects moving, DBI staff comments that cannot be or are not addressed with two resubmittals (ie: resubmitting revised plans), will be automatically escalated to a DBI plan check supervisor. Should a project have unresolved comments after four resubmittals, the project will automatically be escalated to the Deputy Director of Permit Services.

DBI plans to start posting updates to their website in September to let you know the date range of projects being assigned to DBI staff every week and appreciates your support as they move from the old system to a new system that will serve you better. Learn more here.

 

Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP Manager, Post Entitlement Division Gillian Allen.

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient.  Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein.  Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm.  We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law.  We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.

HCD Cracks Down on S.F. Housing Practices; S.F. Real Estate Tax Appeal Deadline

HAU

Last month, the State Department of Housing and Community Development (“HCD”) announced that its Housing Accountability Unit (“HAU”) will conduct a first-ever Housing Policy and Practice Review of San Francisco, aimed at identifying and removing barriers to approval and construction of new housing in the City. According to the City’s self-reported data, it has the longest timelines in the state for advancing housing projects to construction, among the highest housing and construction costs, and the HAU has received more complaints about San Francisco than any other local jurisdiction in the state. U.S. Census data shows that Seattle – a city of comparable size – approves housing construction at more than three times the rate of San Francisco.

Over the next nine months and beyond, the HAU, in partnership with the U.C. Berkeley Institute of Urban and Regional Development and others, will conduct a comprehensive analysis of San Francisco’s housing approval policies and practices. The review will examine discretionary decision-making patterns that lead to abnormally long housing delays. The review also intends to identify barriers to the approval and development of housing at all income levels, including housing that is affordable to lower- and moderate-income households.

Separately, in an August 8 letter to Planning Director Rich Hillis, HCD was both critical and encouraging of the City’s Draft Housing Element. California cities are required to update their General Plan Housing Elements by January 2023. HCD praised the City’s “bold and meaningful actions to both reduce barriers to higher-opportunity neighborhoods while simultaneously reinvesting in historically underserved neighborhoods.” Yet HCD also identified a number of revisions that would be necessary for the Housing Element to comply with state law.

In yet another letter on August 11, HCD asked the City to explain itself concerning a specific project approval, expressing concern that the City violated housing law. HCD was concerned with the City’s decision, in granting conditional approval, to downsize a 19-unit group housing project at 3832 18th Street in the Mission District. HCD expressed concern that the downsizing violated the State Density Bonus Law.

This project-specific letter follows HCD’s letter to the City last November expressing concern that the City’s denial of two large housing projects, at 450 O’Farrell Street and 469 Stevenson Street, may have violated state law. In those cases, the Planning Commission had approved the projects, but the Board of Supervisors denied them.

The aforementioned Housing Accountability Unit at HCD is part of an unprecedented new initiative to support the production of housing statewide. According to its website, “California’s housing crisis has reached historic proportions despite the passage of numerous laws intended to increase the supply of housing affordable to Californians at all income levels.” As part of the 2021-2022 state budget, HCD received additional staff to grow its accountability efforts and formed the HAU. The HAU holds jurisdictions accountable for meeting their housing element commitments and complying with state housing laws. One of its primary tools is technical assistance to the public and enforcement letters. More information on these powers is available at the HCD website.

San Francisco Real Estate Tax Appeal Deadline

The deadline for San Francisco property owners to appeal their property’s value for the 2022/2023 tax year is September 15, 2022.  Deadlines for other California counties vary.  Please contact Kevin Rose (krose@reubenlaw.com) if you have questions about the tax appeal process.

 

Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP Attorney Thomas P. Tunny.

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient.  Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein.  Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm.  We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law.  We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.

AB 2011 & SB 6: Pro-Growth or Slow Growth for Construction Workforce

SB 6

AB 2011, along with SB 6 (Cabellero, Eggman and Rubio), were passed by the California Legislature this week with large majorities in both houses. The two bills will create 10-year housing programs with similar aims: increasing housing production and increasing the skill level, wages, and number of residential construction workers. However, the bills differ in important ways—their approach to density, allowances for ministerial approvals, and the degree of deference to local zoning rules. They also take markedly different approaches to growing, training, and better compensating the residential construction workforce. The bills were the product of a political compromise between the State Building & Construction Trades Council and the Carpenters Union. They effectively set up an experiment to test the relative efficacy of the SB 6 labor rules favored by the State Building & Construction Trades Council—basically requiring union labor on any SB 6 project and the rules preferred by the Carpenters Union – requiring payment of prevailing wages and benefits to all workers on an AB 2011 project.

A good deal of attention has been given to improving the regulatory conditions for getting new housing approved, expanding access to sites, and requiring cities to upzone. However, less attention has been paid to the fact that—even if there were shovel-ready projects for the Governor’s declared goal of 3.5 million new homes over ten years—the current residential construction workforce could only build about a third of that number without significant increases in the number and productivity of workers, who currently build housing at a rate of one home per worker per year. By comparison, average productivity per worker was 1.4 units per year from 1990-2005. Put simply, the state cannot meet its housing targets without an increase in the number of workers and productivity.

However, attracting new workers has proven difficult. Median residential construction worker pay in California ranks 46th in the country when adjusted for the high cost of living. On average, residential construction workers income is 2/3 of their commercial counterparts and they get about 1/3 the amount of fringe benefits. Less than half have insurance through employers. This is a dramatic shift since the 1970s and 1980s, when average pay in both sectors was roughly equal.

AB 2011, which we discussed in greater detail last week, provides for time-limited ministerial approvals for properties on commercial corridors that meet certain criteria for affordable housing and overrides local zoning rules that conflict with its minimum standards for density and height. It also mandates payment of prevailing wage to all construction workers, or at least the prevailing apprentice wages for apprentices enrolled in state-approved apprentice programs. Family healthcare benefits are required for projects with qualified construction craft workers on projects with more than 50 units, while those without such workers can credit qualifying expenditures toward the prevailing wage requirements. Essentially, AB 2011 bets that rapid approvals under more liberal standards will entice employers to pay higher wages and create a strong, near-term incentive for developers to invest in apprenticeship programs to elevate worker productivity.

A final version of SB 6 has yet to be published, but takes a less aggressive approach than AB 2011 with lower minimum density requirements, greater deference to local zoning, and no mandatory ministerial approval process unless a project otherwise qualifies under SB 35. Thus, many SB 6 projects would be subject to lengthy CEQA reviews and modified discretionary approvals. It would require lower amounts of affordable housing subsidies by than AB 2011, but would effectively require the use of union labor if two qualified bids are received from union contractors. While SB 6 expands potential building sites, most projects would not realize the cost savings associated with quick ministerial approvals or the elimination of most entitlement/CEQA risk. Without these incentives in place, it may be years before the state sees its first SB 6 project, or additional demand for workers.

AB 2011 passed the Assembly 67-4 with 9 abstentions and the Senate 33-0 with 7 abstentions. While the 4 Noes in the Assembly were from rural and suburban districts leaning more conservative (3 Rs & 1 D), notably 7 of the 9 abstentions were from urban and suburban districts along the coast between Ventura and San Diego with a high number of Democratic representatives (6 Ds & 3 Rs). Conversely, SB 6 passed the Assembly 67-0 with 13 abstentions and the Senate 34-0 with 6 abstentions. Of the 4 Noes for AB 2011, 3 abstained in SB 6 and 1 voted yes (a democrat representative from District 29, encompassing Santa Cruz and the surrounding area). The Assembly abstentions followed a similar pattern as AB 2011, with those abstaining coming from both parties and primarily representing rural districts or coastal urban and suburban districts in Southern California. For both AB 2011 and SB 6, the Senate abstentions followed a similar geographic pattern as in the Assembly.

While union support was split between the two bills, with both construction and other unions on either side, pro-housing and business organizations tended to support both. Most affordable housing developers supported AB 2011 and opposed SB 6, presumably because the latter would tend to increase cost and time for approval without offsetting benefits. San Francisco’s Council of Community Housing Organizations, which frequently opposes market-rate development, was a notable outlier, supporting SB 6 and opposing AB 2011 in spite of its clear benefits to affordable housing developers.

Both bills still need to be signed by the governor and will not take effect until July 2023. Annual reports of projects approved under both bills are required from cities and the Department of Housing & Community Development is to provide two reports on the use of each during the ten year period prior to their sunset date.

 

Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP Attorneys Daniel Frattin and Daniel J. Turner.

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient.  Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein.  Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm.  We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law.  We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.

AB 2011 Could Unlock Mixed-Income Housing

AB 2011

East Bay state representative Buffy Wicks, along with other co-sponsors including Senator Scott Wiener, proposed a compelling bill that aims to bridge a long-sought gap between pro-housing advocates’ desire for streamlining code-compliant multi-family residential projects with on-site affordability (both mixed-income and 100% affordable), and construction labor unions’ desire to ensure fair wages and future training for its members.

Known as the High Road Jobs Act of 2022, AB 2011 would allow ministerial, by-right approval for certain multi-family affordable housing. A development project in a zoning district where office, retail, and parking are principally permitted would be subject to streamlined, ministerial review if it meets many of the requirements for SB 35 eligibility, as well as additional locational and affordability requirements. AB 2011 projects would not need to obtain discretionary entitlements and would not be subject to CEQA.

To qualify for AB 2011 streamlining, housing development projects must either provide 100% affordability, or provide on-site affordable units, aka BMRs, in a primarily market rate project. As amended in the Senate on August 11, the on-site BMR requirement is somewhat complicated for rental units, but essentially requires between 12-15% BMRs unless a local requirement is higher, in which case the local program applies and additional AMI restrictions could be required. For condos, 30% could be offered at moderate income or 15% at lower income, and the same caveat about higher local requirements applies.

These projects would be subject to objective development standards, and additional qualifying criteria. As of August 11, the criteria for mixed-income projects include, but are not limited to:

  • proposing a multi-family housing development project;
  • abutting a commercial corridor and having a frontage at least 50 feet in width, on a site 20 acres or less in size;
  • not demolishing rent controlled or deed-restricted affordable units, or listed historic resources;
  • replacing no more than four existing units;
  • located no closer than 500 feet from a freeway;
  • providing relocation assistance to certain commercial tenants; and
  • vacant properties that are not zoned for multifamily residential use cannot qualify for streamlined ministerial processing.

Once an AB 2011 development application is submitted, several streamlining provisions apply. The local government must determine whether the project complies with objective planning standards within 60-90 days depending on unit count. If a local government determines that a project does not comply with objective planning standards, it must provide a written explanation to the proponent within this timeframe. Further, any design review must be completed within 90-180 days. Projects using the streamlined approval process would also be eligible for density bonuses, incentives, concessions, waivers, reductions in development standards, and potentially reduced parking ratios, under California’s density bonus law.

AB 2011 projects would also be required to pay construction workers at least the prevailing rate of wages and certify their compliance with this provision with the local government. As part of the developer’s obligation to pay prevailing wages, developers building 50 or more units of housing must submit monthly compliance reports to the local government.

Importantly, projects utilizing AB 2011 would not be a project for the purposes of CEQA (i.e. no environmental review) and the approval procedures the municipality would be permitted to use would solely be ministerial in nature.

In May of 2022, AB 2011 passed out of the California State Assembly, and is currently with the Senate, where it was voted out of committee on August 11. The bill has received several key union endorsements, including from the California Conference of Carpenters and SEIU. However, other unions, such as the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council, and the California Labor Federation have opposed the bill claiming it would “eliminate[] the mandate that a skilled-and-trained workforce be a part of… [project] construction crews.” Unions such as the Building Trades Council oppose the bill because the bill would not require developers to use a “skilled and trained workforce,” which has the effect of eliminating the requirement that a certain percentage of workers on a project are unionized. The bill provides instead that for developments streamlined under AB 2011 that workers be paid a “prevailing wage” with some additional benefits such as healthcare coverage.

We will continue to track this potential game-changer of a bill as it makes its way through Sacramento.

 

Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP Attorneys Mark Loper and Daniel J. Turner, and Law Clerk Alex Klein.

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient.  Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein.  Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm.  We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law.  We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.

Supervisors Pass New EV Charging Rules

legislation

Back in March, we wrote about pending legislation that would amend the Planning Code to specifically address electric vehicle (“EV”) charging uses. At the time, the legislation was headed to the Planning Commission for initial consideration. On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an amended version of that legislation on the first reading.

As we explained in our March update, the Planning Code does not currently contemplate EV charging at all—leaving operators to work with the Planning Department on a case-by-case basis to determine the permissibility and approval path for any new EV charging site.

In order to meet the City’s climate action targets (which include a goal of 100% registered private vehicle electrification by 2040), the legislation aims to create a Planning framework to streamline the approval of publicly accessible EV charging stations and to regulate (though not necessarily streamline) the approval of new fleet vehicle charging sites.

The legislation creates two new Planning Code use categories, both under the umbrella of “Automotive Use.” The new “Electric Vehicle Charging Location” (“EV Charging Location”) use covers public-facing charging locations and “Fleet Charging” covers EV charging facilities that are dedicated to a private entity and not available to the general public.

The initial draft of the legislation would have required Conditional Use (“CU”) Authorization for Fleet Charging in most zoning districts, except in PDR-1-D, PDR-1-G, and PDR-2 districts, where Fleet Charging would have been principally permitted. That draft also would have prohibited Fleet Charging in the Neighborhood Commercial Districts. The earlier version of the ordinance called for more permissibility related to EV Charging Locations, which would be permitted in most districts, and would be principally permitted wherever the existing use is already some type of Automotive Use. This provision remains in the version passed on Tuesday.

The legislation was heard by the Land Use and Transportation Committee three times after it came out of the Planning Commission on April 14 with a handful of recommended changes. Several more amendments were made at those three Committee hearings—mostly to further restrict the permissibility of Fleet Charging uses—as outlined here:

  1. While the initial version of ordinance would have allowed EV Charging Locations to dedicate up to 1/3 of spaces as accessory Fleet Charging, the final version of the ordinance prohibits Fleet Charging as an accessory use to EV Charging Locations or to any other use. I.e., no accessory Fleet Charging, period.
  2. Consistent with the Planning Commission’s recommendation, the final legislation permits Fleet Charging in most of the Neighborhood Commercial Districts with approval of a CU.
  3. The Land Use and Transportation Committee opted to require a CU for Fleet Charging in all of the PDR districts, primarily based on a concern that Fleet Charging uses could displace businesses that provide blue collar jobs. However, existing Private Parking Lots and Vehicle Storage Lots in the PDR-1-D, PDR-1-G, and PDR-2 districts will be able to convert to Fleet Charging without a CU. Supervisor Peskin explained that this minor exception would cover a limited number of properties located in District 10.

In addition to the above changes incorporated into the version of the legislation approved by the Board this week, the Land Use and Transportation Committee also created a duplicated version of the file in order to add a set of new CU findings that would apply to Fleet Charging projects. As drafted, a proposed Fleet Charging use would require consideration of the following criteria:

  1. The proposed Fleet Charging use will not induce demand for low occupancy vehicles in highly congested areas or in transit-rich areas.
  2. Vehicle movement on or around the Fleet Charging use will not unduly impact pedestrian spaces or movement, transit service, bicycle movement, or the overall traffic movement.
  3. If the vehicles accessing the proposed Fleet Charging use are owned by one ownership entity, that the ownership entity establishes that it has secured sufficient parking spaces for vehicles when not in operation within San Francisco or adjacent counties.

The second finding essentially codifies a question that a Fleet Charging project’s environmental review would already address—i.e., would a new vehicle-oriented use significantly impact traffic in the vicinity of the project? The Planning Department is experienced with traffic circulation issues and how they should be addressed as part of the land-use process. So, we don’t anticipate a significant amount of uncertainty related to this second finding.

The first and third findings, however, leave open some critical questions of interpretation.

The first finding speaks to low occupancy vehicles. The Planning Code doesn’t define that term, but it is generally understood to mean a vehicle with one or two people in it. It’s not clear what this finding would mean as applied to a Fleet Charging use serving EV rideshare vehicles—which may sometimes carry only one passenger at a time. Other types of fleets, including delivery vehicles and service vehicles, will often have a driver and no passengers. Depending on how it’s applied, this finding could actually discourage the electrification of rideshare fleets—contrary to a 2021 California Air Resources Board mandate that rideshare companies reach zero GHG emissions and ensure that 90% of their vehicle miles are fully electric by 2030.[1]

It’s also unclear what exactly the third proposed finding aims to accomplish. EV chargers are likely to be installed at parking facilities, such that vehicles can be parked and charged in one place. Discouraging a dual charging/parking use would seem to run contrary to vehicle miles traveled (“VMT”) reduction goals.

Hopefully, these questions will get answered as the duplicated version of the ordinance makes its way through the legislative process. The duplicated legislation has been referred back to the Planning Commission, but as the Commission and Board of Supervisors head into August recess, we’ll have to wait until the fall to see how this shakes out.

[1] California Air Resources Board, Resolution No. 21-10 (May 20, 2021); see also California Air Resources Board Bulletin, California requires zero-emissions vehicle use for ridesharing services, another step toward achieving the state’s climate goals (May 20, 2021), available at: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/CARB/bulletins/2da5a7a.

 

Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP Attorney Chloe Angelis.

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient.  Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein.  Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm.  We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law.  We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.

State Law Allows HOA Elections by Acclamation

board

The Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act (“Davis-Stirling Act”) is the primary body of law governing condominium projects and homeowners associations (“HOAs”) in California.  The Davis-Stirling Act generally provides for election of the HOA board of directors by secret ballot.  A change to the Davis-Stirling Act became effective in 2022 that authorizes the HOA board of directors to be elected by acclamation rather than through a typical balloting process.

Assembly Bill 502 allows for election of directors by acclamation for uncontested elections where there are the same number of candidates running for election as there are open director seats.  This means the HOA can save the considerable time and expense of the balloting process when the election is uncontested and all nominees will be elected anyway.  The following conditions contained in Civil Code Section 5103 must be satisfied for an election by acclamation to be available.

  1. The HOA must have held a regular election for directors in the last three years.
  1. The HOA must provide individual notice to the members of the election and procedures for nominating candidates at least 90 days before the deadline for submitting nominations. The notice must include the following:
  • The number of board positions that will be filled at the election;
  • The deadline for submitting nominations;
  • The manner in which nominations can be submitted; and
  • A statement informing members that if, at the close of the time period for making nominations, there are the same number or fewer qualified candidates as there are board positions to be filled, then the board of directors may, after voting to do so, seat the qualified candidates by acclamation without balloting.
  1. For a member who submits a nomination for a director position, the HOA must acknowledge receipt of the nomination within 7 business days. The HOA must also notify the nominee within 7 business days as to whether the nominee is qualified to be a candidate and, if not, the reason for the disqualification and the procedure to appeal the decision.
  1. The HOA must then provide a reminder notice of the election and procedures between 7 and 30 days before the deadline for submitting nominations. Such notice must contain the same information as the previous notice, and a list of the names of all of the qualified candidates to fill the board positions as of the date of the reminder notice.
  1. After the above has all been completed as required, the HOA board must then vote to consider the qualified candidates elected by acclamation at a meeting for which the posted agenda item includes the name of each qualified candidate that will be seated by acclamation if the item is approved.

These changes should be welcomed by many HOAs around the state.  Elections requiring a vote by secret ballot can be a significant procedural burden to HOA administration.  It is common for many associations, especially small associations, to maintain the same board members for multiple consecutive years. The changes referenced above will at least make it easier to reelect a standing board where no other owners have indicated an interest in joining the Board.

 

Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP Attorney Jay Drake.

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient.  Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein.  Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm.  We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law.  We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.

Oakland: Housing Approved & Zoning Updates

Zoning

Golden West Project CEQA Appeal Denied

Yesterday, the Oakland City Council unanimously denied the appeal of a 222-unit State Density Bonus project, including 16 units for very low income households, on a vacant lot next to the West Oakland BART Station, aka the Golden West project (the “Project”). The City Council upheld the Planning Commission’s March 3, 2021, unanimous approval of the Project.

Appellant appealed the Planning Commission’s decision approving the Project and the environmental review performed for the Project. Appellant argued the Project’s environmental review did not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”), demanding that a focused or infill EIR be prepared alleging hazardous materials impacts.

An EIR was prepared, however, which the Project tiered off of. The Project site is within the West Oakland Specific Plan area and was evaluated by the West Oakland Specific Plan Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”). The City’s independent environmental consultant analyzed and determined there was nothing peculiar about the Project than what was programmatically analyzed in the West Oakland Specific Plan EIR. Upon review, City staff determined that “all hazardous materials concerns were previously addressed in the [West Oakland Specific Plan] EIR” and “conclude[d] that the requirement for any supplemental and/or infill EIR would be inappropriate and not justified.” No further CEQA review was required. Tiering off the West Oakland Specific Plan EIR was found to be proper.

Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP, led by Justin A. Zucker, is happy to have successfully assisted Project sponsor in navigating this Project from concept and entitlement through appeal.

Downtown Oakland Specific Plan Zoning Incentive Program Released

As previously reported, the Downtown Oakland Specific Plan is working its way to the City Council for adoption. One of the main purposes of the new specific plan is to address issues with existing zoning controls. A key element of the Downtown Oakland Specific Plan is establishment of a Zoning Incentive Program (“ZIP”).

On July 7, 2022, Oakland released the details of the Downtown Oakland Specific Plan ZIP. The ZIP allows developers to elect to provide one or more community benefits or pay an in-lieu fee to the City to fund such benefits, in exchange of increases in allowable building height and/or density. Projects may only participate in the ZIP if they are within one of the three ZIP areas designated in the Zoning Map. The three areas are generally located in:

  • Jack London Square – area along the Embarcadero, including the Victory Court area;
  • Central Downtown Oakland – area extending one to three blocks out from Broadway between 10th and 20th Streets and from 14th Street between Castro Street to Lake Merritt Boulevard; and
  • Koreatown/Northgate – area surrounding Telegraph Avenue along 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th

Under the ZIP, a project providing one of the following will result in allowance for additional density or non-residential floor area:

  • On-site, below market rate ground-floor commercial space – ground floor space provided at fifty percent (50%) of market rate rent for qualified retail, commercial, arts, and non-profit tenants;
  • On-site affordable dwelling units – providing on-site affordable dwelling units allows for increases over base density but not non-residential floor area;
  • Public restroom facility(ies) – provision of ground-floor, gender-neutral restroom facilities open to the public during work hours;
  • Streetscape, open space, and flood control improvements – provision of public streetscape and/or open space improvements includes landscaping, tree planting, and public art installation with flood control improvements including raising public lands, construction of drainage facilities, retaining walls, and other similar improvements;
  • In-Lieu Fees – provision of an in-lieu fee to be used by the City for the above-listed community benefits or for job training programs. The in-lieu fee per square foot of commercial development (non-residential floor area) ranges from $10 to $20 with the residential development in-lieu fee ranging from $12,000 to $22,000.

On July 13, 2022, the Zoning Update Committee held a hearing on the proposed ZIP. At that hearing, no action was taken by the Zoning Update Committee. An economic analysis of the ZIP is being prepared and will be reviewed and analyzed at the next scheduled Zoning Update Committee hearing on August 24, 2022.

Reuben, Junius, & Rose LLP has experience with entitlement projects and land use diligence throughout Oakland, and we are pleased to have worked on some of the largest housing projects approved in the city over the last several years. We will continue to track this significant rezoning and community planning effort as it moves forward.

 

Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP Attorney Justin A. Zucker.

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient.  Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein.  Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm.  We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law.  We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.

Legislation Expands CUA Appeal Rights to Tenants

Appeal

On Tuesday June 14th, Supervisor Melgar introduced a new version of legislation (“Appeal Legislation”) that will change, and effectively lower the threshold, for appeals of Conditional Use Authorizations (or denial) by the Planning Commission.

A Conditional Use Authorization (“CUA”) refers to the use or development of a parcel that is not permitted as-of-right but requires additional scrutiny by the Planning Commission. These land uses have special characteristics or a unique nature that may be suitable only in certain locations or operated and arranged in a particular manner. As such, they have a higher threshold for approval. The San Francisco Planning Code states that a CUA can be approved if they are “necessary or desirable for, and compatible with, the neighborhood or the community” (Section 303(c)(1)), along with other specific findings. CUA appeals are acted upon by the Board of Supervisors.

Because the standard for granting CUA’s are highly subjective, public opinion and political pressures often come into play in determining the “necessity or desirability, and compatibility” of a project. While land use justifications are given for classifying certain uses as conditional, other motives are often in play: to protect existing, local businesses from competition by formula retail or an overconcentration of similar businesses; to preserve the amenity and value of existing buildings by making height above 40 or 50 feet a conditional use, even in high-density districts where height limits allow for taller buildings and tall buildings are prevalent. With subjective standards for both approvals and appeals at the Board of Supervisors, some decisions may effectively become a popularity contest and create a great deal of uncertainty for applicants, property owners, and tenants. This is particularly true for businesses requiring a conditional use. Prior to new state laws setting stricter standards for disapproving or reducing the density of housing developments, new residential construction was downsized more frequently for compatibility with adjacent buildings.

Currently, a decision by the Planning Commission on a CUA may only be appealed within 30 days by either 1) five members of the Board of Supervisors; or 2) the owners of at least 20% of the property within 300 feet of the exterior boundaries of the subject property. Where a property has joint ownership, the signature of each owner is calculated as representing the affected property in “direct proportion to the amount of total ownership of that property attributable to the owners subscribing to the notice of appeal” (Section 308.1(b)(4)). A CUA may only be overturned or modified by a 2/3 vote of the Board.

The primary substantive change in the Appeal Legislation would count the signature of “Verified Tenants” as well as those of property owners toward meeting the 20% threshold for filing an appeal (currently, only owners are eligible). After receiving the signatures, the Department of Public Works (“DPW”) would have five days to verify whether the 20% requirement had been fulfilled.

In a city where the vast majority of owners and businesses rent or lease, and many owners do not live or operate businesses on their property, the policy motivations of the Appeal Legislation are self-evident: to give the people living or running a business in a building who may be most affected by a CUA decision standing to file an appeal regardless of whether they own the affected property.

With some narrow exceptions (e.g., property owners voting to tax themselves for community benefit districts that provide additional services), conditioning public participation or voting on property ownership is an anachronism. (North Carolina, the last state to make property ownership a prerequisite to voting in presidential elections, abolished its requirement in 1856.) With that said, the Appeal Legislation does raise several questions about the relative weight given to verification of tenant signatures, tenant votes, and the potential for double-counting votes in some instances:

  • Verified Tenants or Honor System? Only a “Verified Tenant” may subscribe to an appeal. A Verified Tenant is a commercial or residential tenant who declares under penalty of perjury that they lease an entire property or a unit on the property with a lease term exceeding 32 days. A Verified Tenant must maintain proof of tenancy (lease or other government document showing residency/occupancy) and have occupancy longer than 32 days as of the date of signing the appeal.

However, the Department of Public Works is not required to verify tenant documentation; it “may” request documentation at its discretion. It also does not specify that the signature from a business must be an authorized signatory for the business. For example, during the installation of street seating under COVID emergency orders, there were instances of unauthorized employees granting permission for structures with seating for adjacent restaurants to encroach on another store’s frontage without the business owner’s knowledge or consent. Given that DPW only has five days to determine the validity of an appeal, the verification process seems more like an honor system with a bare minimum of time for DPW to calculate the percentages based on self-reporting by signatories.

Five days does not provide a reasonable amount of time for requesting and verifying even a random sample of documentation from Verified Tenants. Further, defining a Verified Tenant as one occupying a unit pursuant to a lease should require a tenant to provide a copy of the lease. Other documents (DMV records, federal income tax records, and utility bills) may demonstrate that a tenant lives somewhere, but not that they are an authorized occupant with a lease. Verifying property ownership, the current requirement for CUA appeals, is an easier process since ownership is a matter of public record. Under the Appeal Legislation, the relevant documents to prove up occupancy for Verified Tenants are not a matter of public record and an applicant has no right to demand an audit by DPW. At minimum, a random audit of a percentage of tenant signatories should be included and the overall total counted toward the appeal discounted accordingly. This could be accomplished without extending overall timelines for a 5-day preliminary acceptance of the appeal, subject to an additional period for DPW to conduct a random audit to determine the percentage of invalid signatures. If the rate of valid signatures in the sample would cause the overall number of signatures to fall below the 20% threshold, the appeal would be rejected. (This is similar to the approach used for a preliminary evaluation and rejection of signatures in support of ballot measures.)

  • One Tenant Speaks for All Tenants in a Unit & All Units Are Equal. Where a rental unit is occupied by more than one tenant, the signature of one tenant in a unit effectively speaks for all tenants in the space. Similarly, all rental units are counted equally toward the 20% threshold. For example, in a multi-unit property, a 10,000 square foot commercial rental unit would be given equal weight as a 500 square foot studio unit. Compare this to the treatment of jointly owned property, where only the portion of the property attributable to a single signatory is counted.
  • Potential for Double-Counting. Where a joint owner and a tenant sign on to an appeal, each signatory is counted according to the method laid out for each. As an example, if an owner of one unit in a 2-unit condo building has a 50% interest in the property and rents that unit out, their two signatures would be added together such that they would effectively represent 100% of the property for appeal purposes. If the other owner or tenant joined, the percentage counted toward the appeal would not increase beyond 100%. On the other hand, if the other owner also rented and both that owner and tenant opposed the appeal, they would effectively be disenfranchised in determining the appeal threshold.

Depending on the number of rental units and ownership structure of buildings near the project, the Appeal Legislation could significantly reduce the 20% threshold, effectively negate the voice of supportive property owners and tenants, and, without any mandatory verification mechanisms for tenants, undermine transparency and trust in the validity of an appeal.

With that said, the Appeal Legislation does include other terms that reduce confusion and promotes administrative efficiency. For example, it requires the Planning Commission’s final, signed approval to be transmitted to the Clerk of the Board within 10 days of the Planning Commission’s action. No such reporting is currently required, and final decisions are not always issued within 10 days. Thus, the 10-day limit should broadly benefit all recipients of CUA approvals and reduce the burden on the Clerk of verifying the Planning Commission’s action. Appeals may not be filed “earlier than ten business days” or later than 30 days from the date of action by the Planning Commission. Although this technically shortens the appeal window to 20 days, the overall 30-day time period remains unchanged and there is no tolling of the appeal period if the final Planning Commission decision is not transmitted to the Clerk within 10 days.

Since most CUA appeals are filed towards the end of the 30-day appeal period, the change should have minimal, if any, effect on the length of the CUA appeal process. It does, however, lower the bar for appeals and increases the risk of delay and cost overruns, particularly for small businesses.

Given San Francisco’s slower-than-average recovery from COVID-19 job losses, the broader question the Appeal Legislation raises is one of priorities and goals for the city’s future. Is this the time to introduce more uncertainty and procedural hurdles into the business and housing environment?

Or should policymakers be focused on bigger questions facing our city: the revival of downtown and Union Square, restoring the tourism sector, and creating space for more flexible models for living, working, and doing business in a post-pandemic (or COVID endemic) world. Is a CUA really necessary for banks, architect’s offices, or small-scale hotels in Neighborhood Commercial Districts? Or for enlarging a successful business into an adjacent storefront? Are minor changes like these worth the time and attention of San Francisco’s elected officials? On balance, does the extent of regulatory oversight strike the right balance between public participation, public policy goals, and the costs, both in time and money, to applicants.

Public participation in the Planning process should be—and is—a given. But right now, shouldn’t that participation be focused on how to fill vacant spaces and addressing a persistent housing shortage and widespread homelessness, rather than adding time, cost, and risk for businesses and projects that fulfill those goals? By making big moves to provide flexibility and fast, by right-approvals for new housing and new/expanding businesses, San Francisco can send a strong signal that it is still the adaptable, dynamic, creative city that will continue to be an economic and cultural powerhouse—and not the dystopia the national press has portrayed it as of late. Tenants—both residential and commercial—should of course have a place at the table when major changes are proposed. But that participation should be focused on major changes in zoning rules and large-scale projects that need exceptions from standard regulations. At a bare minimum, an expansion of the right to bring a CUA appeal should be accompanied with the elimination of CUA requirements that stand in the way of important public policy goals.

Regardless of where one stands on these amendments, if approved, they will change the CUA Appeal landscape. The legislation was introduced at the June 14th Board of Supervisors hearing and requires review and comment by the Planning Commission before it is taken up by the Supervisors. Stay tuned for updates on this legislation.

 

Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP.

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient.  Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein.  Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm.  We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law.  We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.