In March of 2019, Sacramento County's Planning and Environmental Review (PER) received grant funding from the State of California, Department of Housing and Community Development (Senate Bill SB-2) with the goal of encouraging the development of plans that streamline multifamily housing approvals and accelerate all types of housing production. Portions of these funds have been allocated for amendments to the County Zoning Code and Design Guidelines that will implement these goals.
Staff of PER reviewed existing Zoning Code, General Plan, and Design Guideline language and identified key areas for amendments, which are described in further detail below. Staff then held workshops with the Community Planning Advisory Councils (CPACs) and Planning Commission to discuss the key amendments.
On August 9, 2022, the BOS approved a set of proposed amendments to the Sacramento County Zoning Code and Countywide Design Guidelines. These amendments went into effect on September 9, 2022. To watch a recording of the BOS hearing on these amendments and to view supporting documents, including the strike-through Zoning Code language, please visit the BOS Meeting Agenda for August 9, 2022.
The amended Zoning Code is now in effect and is available on the PER Zoning Code webpage.
Summary of Key Amendments:
Expanded Project Types
Previously, lower density residential zones (RD-10 and lower) were almost exclusively reserved for Single-Family Detached residential product types. This product type is often the most expensive to develop, and not necessarily the most efficient use of these properties, especially ones in more urban areas. The County is opening, either by right or under an entitlement process, RD-3 through RD-10 zoning districts to Single-Family Attached and Duplex/Halfplex products that comply with the zone density maximums and applicable residential use and development standards. These amendments are reflected in the Zoning Code Chapter 3, Use Table 3.1.
Duplex projects of up to 10 units (5 lots) or 10 lots (single-family attached or detached) are now considered “small" projects, and are allowed by right in more residential zones. Projects with greater unit or lot counts are considered “large" and require a Use Permit from the Zoning Administrator.
Minimum Yard Requirements
Previously, general multifamily setbacks prescribed in Zoning Code Section 5.4.3.C. exceed the setbacks of other residential housing types. The County has reduced multifamily front, side street, interior side, and rear setbacks for multifamily residential housing adjacent to non-residential development. These reduced setbacks are reflected in Zoning Code Section 5.4.3.C Table 5.8.B. Multifamily setbacks from adjacent low-density residential zoning districts have not changed, but now, multistory buildings may be stepped-back to achieve minimum setback requirements for upper stories (see Figure 5-11).
New Minor Special Development Permit Entitlement and Step Down in Hearing Authority For Multifamily Development Deviation Requests
The County has created a new “minor" level for certain Special Development Permit requests, to help reduce review time and expense for minor development standard deviations. This Minor Special Development Permit (SPM) is processed in a similar manner to the existing Minor Use Permit entitlement. Surrounding property owners and residents will receive notice and have the opportunity to comment on proposed deviations, but there would not be a CPAC review or public hearing. The Planning Director is the hearing authority for the SPM.
The SPM is available for deviations from Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU and JADU) development standards or up to two Multifamily Residential development standards unless providing housing for Special Needs Groups as defined in Zoning Code Section 6.4.6.G where a third deviation is permitted. Deviations from multifamily development standards requested under an SPM shall not exceed 25% of the required standards, except for in projects located in or adjacent to a Low Density Residential (LDR) zone. Table 6.3 of the Zoning Code provides the minimum setback and maximum height requirements for multifamily projects in or adjacent to LDR zones.
For deviations that exceed what is permitted by an SPM, a general Special Development Permit by the Zoning Administrator, instead of by the Planning Commission is required. This change was made in order to reduce entitlement review time and costs while maintaining adequate analysis of potential project impacts. Complete details on the allowances and requirements of the SPM can be found in Zoning Code Section 6.4.6.D.
Countywide Design Guidelines
Chapter 3 - Multifamily' of the Countywide Design Guidelines has been amended to include new 'Design Standards' that multifamily residential projects must comply with. Chapter 3 has been reformatted and language is added that is subjective in nature. The purpose of these changes is to make the process of Design Review for multifamily residential projects compliant with State mandates that Design Review be based upon 'objective standards.'
All Design Standards must be met, or a project must request a Special Development Permit (Minor or General) to deviate.
Other SB-2 Related Changes
Since 2017, several legislative bills have been passed that focus on reducing barriers to the development of various types of housing developments. The County recently updated its Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Ordinance to accommodate changes in State Law. Some of the recent legislative changes have affected internal processing procedures but have not required amendments to County Codes such as establishing time-frames for review and approval of projects, often referred to as “shot clocks," and limitations on the number of meetings/hearings that can be held for a project (SB-35 and SB-330). Below is a brief summary of legislative changes that required amendments to the Zoning Code and/or Zoning User Guide and were included with the SB-2 amendments that go into effect on September 9, 2022.
State Density Bonus
Two recently passed bills (AB-1763 and AB-991) have made several changes to the State Density bonus program which result in significant modifications to Section 6.5.4 of the Zoning Code. These changes include modifications to existing definitions as well as inclusion of new definitions to allow for additional qualifying project types. New project types include Housing Developments for foster youth, disabled veterans, homeless persons, and low-income college students. The amount of density bonus a project can apply for has increased from a maximum of 35 percent to 80 percent and in certain instances, there is no density cap when located in highly urbanized areas close to mass transit. Projects will be able to obtain up to four concessions and an unlimited number of waivers from County development standards based on the percentage of affordable units being provided (prior cap was 3 concessions). Lastly, affordability requirements for rental projects have been increased from 30 to 55 years.
Emergency Shelters and Permanent Supportive Housing legislation (SB 2, AB101, and AB2162)
This suite of bills requires minor modifications to the Zoning Code to allow for permanent supportive housing to be treated in the same manner as single-family and multifamily residential uses. AB-101 requires provisions be provided to allow for low-barrier navigation centers which is defined as housing first, low-barrier, service-enriched shelters focused on moving people into permanent housing that provides temporary living facilities such as supportive services.
Various modifications to Chapter 3 and Chapter 5 of the Zoning Code will be proposed to ensure compliance with SB-9. Development standards for Second Primary Dwelling Units (SDU) have been clarified. SB-9 FAQs and Interim Implementation Guidance can be found on PER's SB-9 webpage. Draft amendments were heard by the Planning Commission on August 22, 2022. Staff is making additional changes and analysis based on Planning Commission comments. A date for this amendment package to be heard by the Board of Supervisors has not been set.
Questions? For questions on any of the new Zoning Code language related to SB-2, please contact Planning and Environmental Review by emailing SacPlan@saccounty.gov.