What SB827, the transit-rich housing bonus, actually does

NOTE: This was written on January 4, 2018. The bill has been amended a lot since that time and this information is no longer current.

SB 827, the “transit-rich housing bonus,” would “dramatically increase housing density near transit stops across California,” according to Liam Dillon in the LA Times. That much is sure.

The full text of the bill, though, is… a little confusing. To me, anyway. This post is about what I make of what it does. I have another one up also about why I think it’s so exciting and important:

Take the following with a grain of salt: I’m not a lawyer. And let me know if you think I got anything wrong. And please realize, as the bill changes, that this is just my understanding of the initial version. Here goes.

The bill provides a transit-rich housing bonus for transit-rich housing projects.

The transit-rich housing bonus gives you:

  • Exemption from any residential density limits. This is not defined, but typically these are rules about the number of dwelling units permitted on a parcel.
  • Exemption from any floor area ratio limits. These are limits on the ratio on square feet of habitable space to square feet of total parcel size.
  • Exemption from any design standards (but not building codes) that would limit the number of units. It’s not entirely clear to me what counts as a design standard. Maybe this is defined in some other statute.
  • Exemption from any car parking requirements. This one seems pretty unambiguous.
  • An increase, where necessary, of any height limits to 85' for category A and 55' for category B if the project adjoins at least one street wider than 45' curb-to-curb, or otherwise 55' for category A and 45' for category B.

Transit-rich housing projects are defined as follows:

  • Category A means within ¼ mile of a high-quality transit corridor or one block from a major transit stop.
  • Category B means within ½ mile of a major transit stop.
  • Within means no more than 25% of the land, and no more than 100 units, and no more than 10% of units, are outside the specified area.
  • A block is defined by the Streets and Highways Code §5870 in an extremely convoluted way.
  • Any corridor with fixed route bus service coming once per 15 minutes at peak or more is a high quality transit corridor.
  • Any rail transit station is a major transit stop per CPRC §21064.3
  • Any intersection of two bus lines with service once per 15 minutes or more at peak is a major transit stop per CPRC §21064.3
  • Any ferry terminal that also has bus or rail service is a major transit stop per CPRC §21064.3

Here’s a table that Ira Kaplan made showing how the height limits work. Remember that these are just minimum limits. If the city had already set a higher limit, it stays in effect.