Gov. Gavin Newsom signs SB 7
Gov. Gavin Newsom signs Senate Bill 7 in San Jose. Sen. Toni Atkis is second from right. Courtesy of the Governor’s office

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed into law legislation sponsored by Senate President Toni Atkins to streamline new construction to address California’s housing shortage.

Atkins’ Senate Bill 7 expedites legal challenges to new projects brought under the California Environmental Quality Act to streamline small-scale housing projects.

“It speeds up the costly and time-consuming review process without compromising California’s strict environmental standards,” said Atkins, who represents coastal San Diego County.

“Now, shovel-ready, economic development projects will get started sooner, putting people to work and providing transformative change to communities across the state that are in need of jobs and housing,” she said.

The legislation extends streamlining that is already in place for large projects and reduces the threshold of eligible projects from $100 million to $15 million.

But the bill excludes “sprawl” projects that would destroy important natural resources or prime agricultural lands.

CEQA, as the original 1970 law is known, has become the basis for numerous time-consuming lawsuits over both private and public construction projects.

Newsom signed the bill at the site of Google’s new Downtown West mixed-use project in San Jose.

“California’s recovery from the pandemic must tackle the housing shortage that threatens our economic growth and long-term prosperity,” said Newsom. “Cutting red tape to save time and remove barriers to production helps us meet the urgent need for more housing while creating good jobs and preserving important environmental review.”

The legislation is the first in the state Senate’s “Building Opportunities for All” housing package to stimulate economic development projects and create jobs for Californians.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.