September 3, 2020

Policy Rundown – September 3, 2020


Welcome to SV@Home’s Policy Rundown, your need-to-know overview of important housing policy actions and developments from the past two weeks.

A Frustrating Year for Housing as the Legislative Session Ends on August 31st

2020 was to be the year for housing. But for the most part, it largely fizzled as the legislative session ended on Monday night with only a few key housing bills making their way to the Governor for a hopeful signature.

While many of the bills SV@Home supported at the beginning of the year didn’t end up passing, several are still alive, including:

  • AB 725 (Wicks)—which ensures that more land is zoned for moderate-income housing
  • AB 891 (Grayson)—which clarifies the streamlining provisions under SB 35
  • AB 2345 (Gonzalez)—which creates more incentives under density bonus law

Also, as discussed further in the section below, AB 3088, which provides protections for renters impacted by the pandemic not only made it through the legislature with a 2/3rds vote, but was signed by the Governor.

None of the bills included in Senator Atkin’s housing package survived. This included SB 1120, which would have allowed duplexes and lot splits in single-family neighborhoods, allowing for very modest increases in density—a policy SV@Home strongly supports. It also included SB 995, a critical bill to SV@Home which would have streamlined the development process for major projects.  Even Senator Wiener’s SB 899, which would have allowed churches and nonprofits to develop affordable housing, did not make it.

What this means is that we have lots of work ahead of us in 2021, which will be the first year of a two-year session. The Legislature is set to reconvene on December 7th; at that time they can introduce new legislation ahead of the new year. There is still a slim possibility that the Governor will call a special session this fall and housing could be a topic. We will keep you informed of future steps as they become clearer.

California-wide Eviction Moratorium Update

On Monday, the state legislature passed and Governor Newsom signed a partial statewide eviction moratorium through February 1, 2021. The bill, AB 3088, will permanently protect pandemic-impacted tenants from eviction based on unpaid rent owed between March and August 31, 2020. However, it does not forgive that rent – landlords will still be entitled to recover the rent owed through small claims court. And, it is important to note that evictions for reasons other than nonpayment of rent, such as breaches of the lease agreement, are now allowed to proceed under state law.

A few of the important provisions:

  • Tenants affected by COVID-19 will have to pay at least 25% of the total rent due between September 1, 2020 and February 1, 2021 by the February 1st deadline or face eviction.
  • Legal protections for tenants were strengthened, including requiring 15 days’ notice (rather than the typical three) before beginning an eviction.
  • Penalties imposed on landlords who undertake illegal “self help” lockouts were increased tenfold.

An important thing that the bill does not do is it does not include the mortgage forbearance for small landlords originally proposed in AB 1436, the previously proposed eviction moratorium that we asked Housers to support last week.

What does this mean for local governments and local moratoriums passed at the city and county levels? AB 3088 supersedes and cancels any new local moratoria or extensions passed between August 19, 2020 and Feb 1, 2021. This means that San José and Mountain View, which passed extensions of their moratoria on August 25, will have those extensions cancelled. Santa Clara County’s moratorium, which was extended on August 11, will stay in effect through September 30.

The entirety of AB 3088 will sunset on February 1, 2021 which may be early enough in the state legislative cycle to give the legislature an opportunity to pass legislation to either modify or extend the state-wide moratorium. Several legislators have already characterized the bill as an attempt to extend short-term protections while the state waits for a long-term financial fix from the federal government.

If you would like to learn more about AB 3088, please check out this thorough article by Matt Levin of CalMatters.

Federal News: CDC Announces Nationwide Eviction Moratorium

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a new rule prohibiting evictions for low- and middle-income renters as well as homeowners who are unable to pay their rent due to income loss or extraordinary medical expense, and would have to move in with another household or become homeless if evicted. Renters will be required to sign a formal declaration that they meet all these conditions in order to qualify. They will also be required to pay as much as they can towards their rent, while taking into account necessities like food.

The CDC’s order explicitly aims to decrease COVID-19 spread and deaths that could be caused by evictions of renters or homeowners during the pandemic. The order takes effect on September 4 and lasts through December 31.

This news comes less than a day after the California State Legislature approved its own state-wide eviction moratorium with AB 3088 (see above summary).

We are still working to understand and determine how the CDC and state moratoria would interact with one another and what the CDC measure means for local eviction moratoria. Please stay tuned, we will share more as soon as we are able.

In the meantime, you can learn more about the CDC’s action at the following links:

Delays in the Diridon Station Area but Process Still Moving Ahead

Last week, the City of San José announced that the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for Google’s Downtown West mixed-use proposal at Diridon Station would be delayed by at least one month. After the disruptions of COVID-19 initially pushed the release date back to the end of August, the City now anticipates that the report will be made public in October.

The next Station Area Advisory Group (SAAG) meeting, of which SV@Home is a member, is still scheduled for September 16th.

SV@Home continues to strongly support a housing-rich Diridon Station Area Plan (DSAP), which includes Google’s Downtown West proposal. As we have outlined in our Housing Vison for the Station Area, we believe the City should plan for at least 15,000 new homes and implement a strategy for reaching the 25% affordability overall requirement set by the City Council. Google’s Downtown West will set the tone and serve as the catalyst for the Station Area’s development so we look forward to learning more about Google’s most recent vision for their mixed-use neighborhood.

Recovery Roundtable Report released, highlights housing as key to region’s recovery

Last week, the Silicon Valley Recovery Roundtable released its report, “Building a Better Normal,” which outlines a vision for the region’s economic and social recovery from the tremendous impacts of COVID-19. Convened by San José Mayor Sam Liccardo, the Roundtable is made up of 59 leaders from across Santa Clara County, representing a range of sectors and expertise. Based on these leaders’ insights and engagement with community members and organizations across Silicon Valley, the Roundtable’s report offers a number of both short- and long-term solutions to create a more resilient, equitable region.

SV@Home commends the Roundtable for placing housing solutions at the center of the recovery proposals, which run the gamut from short-term protections for our most vulnerable neighbors to prevent them from losing their homes to long-term strategies to create the housing and affordable housing we need to provide homes for people of all incomes and abilities. As an advocacy organization working to change the housing picture here in the Silicon Valley, we are particularly excited about these issues (though there are many other important recommendations included in the report):

  • Conduct advocacy and activate partnerships that make progress at the local level alongside state-level efforts. For example, corporate leaders must speak up about the need for housing near their offices, fund and endorse projects and candidates that are pro-housing, and push developments to include grant funding for affordable housing.
  • Activate a wide diversity of non-traditional partners to make bold statements on the need for affordable housing, the consequences of not making progress, and the centrality of this issue to a growth and equity agenda.
  • Amplify the efforts of regional coalitions to oppose constraints on housing production and ensure jobs-rich cities build housing commensurate with jobs. Corporate leadership is needed to support pro-housing groups that are demanding that cities build housing commensurate with workforce expansions.

We look forward to collaborating with regional leaders to advance and implement the identified housing solutions. Stay tuned for more updates on the next steps for this important plan.

Google Releases East Whisman Master Plan

Earlier this week, Google released its Middlefield Park Master Plan, which proposes bringing up to 1,850 new homes to Mountain View’s East Whisman area, along with new office and retail space. This represents the largest proposal yet for the East Whisman Precise Plan area, which the City of Mountain View has targeted for 5,000 new homes, 20% of them affordable. SV@Home has been a strong supporter of the proposed re-development vision for East Whisman, which is to convert low-rise office buildings and surface parking lots into a mixed-use neighborhood that takes full advantage of the VTA light rail line that connects the area to other key re-development centers.

One of the most innovative components of the East Whisman Precise Plan is its Jobs-Housing Linkage Strategy, which requires developers of commercial office space to partner with residential development to ensure housing is built at the same, or faster, rate than the new office construction. Google’s proposal is in full compliance with this requirement and we hope it can demonstrate the advantages of Mountain View’s approach.

When combined with two other advanced housing proposals for East Whisman — one of which, Summerhill’s 463-unit development, has already been approved by the City Council, Mountain View is already about half way to its housing goal for the area. SV@Home will continue to engage closely with the City and landowners to ensure that this housing moves forward and Mountain View meets both its capacity and affordability goals.