A number of new bills in the California legislature seek to facilitate the construction of lower density, missing middle housing. Senate Bill 478, also known as the Housing Opportunity Act, introduced by State Senator Scott Wiener is one important piece of these efforts. The bill aims to change some of the land use restrictions—in particular floor area ratio (FAR) and lot size requirements—that can stymie the development of smaller-scale apartments that would otherwise be an allowable use within residential zones.
Our analysis explores the potential impact of these proposed changes by utilizing the 2019 Terner California Residential Land Use Survey. Our findings show that a majority of cities surveyed have minimum lot size requirements for both single-family and multifamily homes, and while most of the cities surveyed do not use FAR as a means of controlling building size, the proposed changes would impact a majority of those that do. This suggests the proposed legislation would be meaningful in allowing greater flexibility with the size and shape of new small-scale development, though a range of other local requirements beyond the two restrictions addressed by this bill also limit what is built and may need to be addressed in future legislation.