In 2007, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 2 (SB 2) expanding the California Housing Accountability Act, to prohibit localities (cities and counties) from denying a proposal to build an emergency shelter, transitional housing or supportive housing if it is needed and otherwise consistent with the locality’s zoning and development standards. SB 2 dictates that California localities address homeless concerns by amending their zoning code to allow for emergency shelters, by right, in specified areas. This was done to address concerns that localities had too many barriers to the creation of new emergency shelters, transitional, or supportive housing. The zoning category must be identified in the locality’s housing element, and include sites with sufficient capacity to meet the local need for emergency shelter.
Prior SB 2, an emergency shelter would have to go through the typical planning process to determine the size, appropriateness and impact on surrounding areas. This process usually presented significant obstacles to the creation of new emergency shelters, transitional or supportive housing.
What does “by right” mean – Zoning regulations are used to separate the city into districts and then specifies the uses, which are permitted, conditionally permitted and prohibited within each district. These zones are then given a specific set of “by-right” permitted uses. This means that any land within that zone can be used for the permitted usage only, by right of the owner. What Brentwood did on Tuesday night was to allow an additional permitted use for the property.
SB 2 does not require the city of Brentwood or any other locality to build, fund or operate an emergency shelter. Homeless and housing charities, nonprofits and churches are the organizations relied upon to provide homeless shelters and related social services. The law simply requires that localities designate areas within their community where such shelters may be located and operated without requiring a public hearing.
Localities may adopt limited, objective development and management standards for emergency shelters. As specified in SB 2, the permitted standards include a maximum number of beds, size and location of exterior and interior waiting areas, proximity to other shelters, security, provision of on-site management, and length of stay. But as long as the applicant meets the conditions, the project cannot be denied.
Government Code Section 65583(a)(4)(A) requires localities to identify zone or zones that can allow emergency shelters as a permitted use without a conditional use permit or other discretionary permit. CAL. GOV. CODE § 65583 : California Code – Section 65583