New Legislation of Interest: AB 744

AB 744 (2015 Cal. Stats. Ch. 699) amends Government Code Section 65915, the Density Bonus Law, to add additional restrictions on local parking standards when requested by a developer. These new limits are over and above the existing limitations set forth in the Density Bonus Law. The premise of these new provisions is partly to implement sustainable community strategies and also to encourage the provision of affordable housing, senior housing and special-needs housing. AB 744 becomes effective on January 1, 2016.

Under existing law, a project that qualifies for a density bonus automatically is entitled to a reduction in parking standards as follows:

  1. Zero to one bedroom: one on-site parking space.
  2. Two to three bedrooms: two on-site parking spaces.
  3. Four and more bedrooms: two and one-half parking spaces.

Under this new legislation, the parking requirements are further reduced as follows:

  1. If the development is located within one-half mile of a major transit stop,1 and there is unobstructed access to the major transit stop from the development, the ratio shall not exceed 0.5 spaces per unit.
  2. If the development is a for-rent housing development for individuals who are 62 years of age or older that complies with Sections 51.2 and 51.3 of the Civil Code, the ratio shall not exceed 0.5 spaces per unit. The development shall have either paratransit service or unobstructed access, within one-half mile, to fixed bus route service that operates at least eight times per day.
  3. If the development is a special-needs housing development, as defined in Section 51312 of the Health and Safety Code, the ratio shall not exceed 0.3 spaces per unit. The development shall have either paratransit service or unobstructed access, within one-half mile, to fixed bus route service that operates at least eight times per day.

A local agency may opt out of these new restrictions if justified by an area-wide or jurisdiction-wide parking study.

This legislation is a compromise among proponents of infill development and affordable housing advocates. Affordable housing advocates initially resisted these changes in a stand-alone bill unconnected to affordable housing out of a concern that it would dilute the benefit of reduced parking requirements under the Density Bonus Law, which encourages the provision of affordable housing.

The ultimate value of these new restrictions is open to question. Like other sustainable community "incentives," the availability of the new reduced parking standards is narrowly limited to certain types of projects. The limited CEQA process for certain infill projects under Public Resources Code Section 21094.5 and priority processing for Transit Villages as provided in Government Code Sections 65460 et seq. are rarely utilized due to similar limitations.