Objective Development Standards Updated: Jul 16, 2024

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(Click on link above to view the draft Development Standards)

INTRODUCTION

Background

California must plan for more than 2.5 million units of housing in the next eight-year planning cycle (2021-2029), including 952 homes in Santa Fe Springs. Because of this, the State has passed a series of laws to combat the ongoing housing crisis and better meet the housing needs of Californians, including Senate Bill 35 (Streamlining Approvals), Senate Bill 167 (Removing Barriers), Senate Bill 330 (Expediting Residential Development), among others. These new laws have prompted every city across California to review residential development and design standards in an effort to support faster permitting timelines while still achieving reasonable design goals. Cities must ensure they are complying with all aspects of State law and not hindering the development of housing.

Each municipality has development standards for new buildings which are housed in the Zoning Ordinance of the Municipal Code. These often include building height, density, setbacks, open space, and parking requirements. Cities often supplement these with design guidelines and discretionary review processes to further guide architectural character and urban design; however, these add uncertainty and delays to housing project approvals, leading to fewer and more expensive housing projects. State law now requires that housing projects be reviewed against objective standards, and specifies that subjective standards and guidelines cannot be used to deny or decrease the density of new housing projects. To be considered objective, standards must be uniformly measurable/verifiable, knowable to all parties prior to application submittal, and require no subjective judgment in order to make a determination.

Project Grant Funding

The City of Santa Fe Springs ("City") was recently awarded a REAP grant from SCAG to document, assess, and modernize its multi-unit and mixed-use objective standards and permitting. The project, which also serves the cities of Montebello, Santa Monica, and South Pasadena, will help support a greater understanding of the role of objective standards in increasing housing production in Los Angeles County and throughout California. SCAG commissioned AECOM, a design and planning consulting firm, to create a “toolkit” of objective development standards that will assist the four cities in more quickly adopting new standards into their respective zoning codes.

Objective Development Standard Toolkits
Two common sets of standards were developed to be shared across each of the four cities served by the project – one for Mixed-Use projects and another for Multi-Family (Medium-Density) Residential projects. The standards have been tested on prototypical sites to ensure the standards enable intended development, allow for maximum density, and provide the appropriate level of regulation. For the most part, standards are designed to scale to different density and height limits, so the same or similar standards can be used across zoning districts regardless of development intensity. This is an effort to simplify the code and ease the understanding and implementation of the standards.

The common standards were then used as a basis for the Custom Zone Toolkit, which includes more tailored standards for the City’s new Mixed-Use and existing R3 zoning districts. This document is intended to be reviewed by City staff, the public, and decision-making bodies for discussion and feedback. As a next step beyond the scope of this project, the City may adopt the new standards into the Zoning Code as appropriate.

As this is a toolkit of recommendations, standards selected by the City to propose for inclusion in the Zoning Code may need further refinement based on the City’s unique requirements and approaches, including different measurement definitions and contextual considerations.

The standards are designed to:
 Translate existing applicable Zoning Code regulations and design guidelines into clear, objective standards in  compliance with Senate Bill 35;
 Allow the maximum density permitted by zoning consistent with Senate Bill 330;
 Focus on zones that apply to the highest volume potential development type, locations of greatest concern, or  standards that are most challenging locally; and
 Inform building form and site planning while adapting to market trends and shifting demand.

The toolkit is designed to:
 Be the basis for the development of standards for multi-unit/mixed use projects that support the level of design the  City expects, confirming compliance through an administrative process;
 Make it easier for applicants, staff, and the public to understand the regulations;
 Create greater certainty in the review process and streamline project approvals;
 Encourage housing production so the City can meet its Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) goals; and
 Comply with state law that requires qualifying housing projects to be reviewed against objective standards1.