In March of 2019, the Sacramento County Office of 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 General Plan, County Zoning Code, and Design Guidelines that will implement these goals.
Staff of PER has reviewed existing Zoning Code, General Plan, and Design Guideline language and identified key areas for amendments, that are described in further detail below. Staff has held workshops with the Community Planning Advisory Councils (CPACs) and Planning Commission to discuss the key amendments. Staff will schedule a recommendation hearing before the County Planning Commission for a formal recommendation hearing prior to the final hearing before the Board of Supervisors.
PER staff has completed the CPAC review process. A Planning Commission Workshop was conducted on September 13, 2021. A recommendation hearing will be scheduled with the Planning Commission in Fall. Please visit the Planning Commission webpage for more information.
Summary of Key Amendments:
Expanded Project Types
Currently, lower density residential zones (RD-10 and lower) are 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 proposing to open, 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. RD-5 through RD-10 zoning districts would open to Multifamily Residential products as well.
Projects of up to 10 units (multifamily or duplex) or 10 lots (single-family attached or detached) would be considered “small" projects, and be allowed by right. Projects with greater unit or lot counts would be considered “large" and would require a Use Permit from the Zoning Administrator. Allowing this variety in product types is anticipated to provide developers more flexibility in design, and ability to recoup land and project costs. The limitation on project size without an entitlement is intended to provide a public review for projects that may overwhelm a neighborhood or potentially have traffic or other impacts.
Minimum Yard Requirements
Currently, general multifamily setbacks prescribed in Zoning Code Section 5.4.3.C. exceed the setbacks of other residential housing types. The County is proposing reducing multifamily front, side street, interior side, and rear setbacks to reduce undue setback burdens for multifamily projects adjacent to non-residential and single family residential development.
Multifamily Setback from Single Family Residential
The existing multifamily setbacks from single family residential housing is excessive as compared to other jurisdictions. The County is proposing to reduce the interior and rear setbacks for multifamily residential development adjacent to single family development to promote the development of multifamily housing and to make constrained and unusually shaped lots buildable to their current zoning designation densities.
Open Space Requirements
In instances of the development of small scale multifamily development of four units or fewer, the County is waiving the requirement for private open space to allow for ease of development and greater variability in products.
Sacramento County Zoning Code Section 5.9.3.A. regulates the configuration of parking for all developments within the County. The County is proposing to modify how parking is configured for multifamily developments to allow for greater variability in housing products. In addition, a ½ space per unit reduction in required parking counts for two bedroom and greater units is being considered.
The County is proposing to increase the accessibility of small-scale development of duplexes, such as infill development, by increasing the availability of duplexes in residential and commercial zoning districts. Duplexes will also reflect the development standards of single-family residential, which means some small reductions in side yard setbacks.
New Minor Special Development Permit Entitlement and Step Down in Hearing Authority For Multifamily Development Deviation Requests
The County is proposing to create 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) would be processed in a similar manner to the existing Minor Use Permit entitlement. Surrounding property owners and residents would receive notice and opportunity to comment on proposed deviations but there would not be a CPAC review. The Planning Director would be the hearing authority for the SPM. The SPM is initially proposed to be available for deviations to Accessory Dwelling Unit development standards and Multifamily Residential setback standards of up to 25% of the setback requirement. If the SPM appears to be a successful tool for reducing entitlement review time while maintaining adequate analysis of potential impacts, then the County would consider expanding its use to more development standard deviation requests. The County is also proposing to step down the hearing authority for deviations from Multifamily Residential development standards from the Planning Commission to the Zoning Administrator, for the same reasons.
A General Plan amendment is proposed in support of the Zoning Code changes. The purpose of the amendment is to identify and modify General Plan policies that may impede the development of multifamily housing. In addition, minor modifications will be made to multiple policies within the Land Use Element of the General Plan to reduce verbiage that may be unclear or inconsistent with the best and highest use of the site; Changes to key Policies, such as LU-5 (establishes minimum density requirements), to ensure sites are developed in alignment with their zoning district.
Countywide Design Guidelines
Amend Chapter 3- Multifamily Design Guidelines to include new 'Design Standards' that multifamily residential projects must comply with. Chapter 3 will be reformatted and language that is subjective in nature will be revised or deleted. 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.'
Some Design Standards will come from existing Zoning Code multifamily development standards, others will come from existing guidelines in the Countywide Design Guidelines document, and others from consultation with the local branch of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The Design Standards focus on ensuring quality, compatible, and sustainable project design. No changes to use or densities will result from this work. All Design Standards must be met, or a project must request a Special Development Permit to the Zoning Administrator (SPZ) to deviate.
Other SB2 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 Ordinance to update 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 will require amendments to the Zoning Code and/or Zoning User Guide.
State Density Bonus
Two recently passed bills (AB 1763 and AB 991) have made several changes to the State Density bonus program which will result in significant modifications to Chapter 6.5.4 of the Zoning Code. These changes will 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 has been increased from 30 to 55 years.
Emergency Shelters and Permanent Supportive Housing legislation (SB 2, AB101, and AB2162)
This suite of bills will require 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 provision 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.
The anticipated timeline for the recommendation hearing before the Planning Commission through final hearing before the Board of Supervisors is October 2021 through January 2022.
To Provide Additional Comments, please contact either Jessica Brandt, Senior Planner, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Thomas Vogt, Associate Planner, at email@example.com.