The builder’s remedy reform bill is moving forward in the Legislature – though the YIMBY movement is divided over the bill and significant amendments have been made in the Senate that would decrease allowable densities and affordability requirements.

Meanwhile, at least one city – West Hollywood – is seeking legislation that would exempt it from the builder’s remedy.

AB 1893, carried by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, sailed through the Assembly. But at a Senate Housing Committee hearing on June 18, the bill ran into opposition from YIMBY Law and several amendments were made. The bill will now go to the Senate Local Government Committee.

In the last two years the builder’s remedy – which requires local governments to approve almost any project a developer proposes if they do not have a compliant housing element – has emerged as perhaps the most controversial aspect of California’s effort to increase housing production. However, even though YIMBY law reports that 160 builder’s remedy projects have. Been proposed, none have so far moved through to construction, in part because cities are resisting implementation.

Wicks, a strongly prohousing legislator, introduced AB 1893 earlier this year in order to put guardrails on the builder’s remedy and defuse some of the opposition. Among other things, the bill would decrease the percentage of affordable housing required in a builder’s remedy project and limit the amount of density a builder’s remedy project could include. (CP&DR’s previous coverage of AB 1893 can be found here.) A wide range of housing and YIMBY groups have opposed the bill, while California YIMBY supports it. Even as housing and YIMBY groups oppose the bill, so do some local government advocacy groups. Although neither the League of California Cities and the California Chapter of American Planning Association have taken a position, the Calilfornia Contract Cities Association has come out against it, as did a few individual cities.

The two most important changes accepted by the Senate Housing Committee were:

  • A change in the affordability requirements. Currently, the builder’s remedy is allowed for projects that dedicate either 20% of the units for low-income housing or 100% for moderate-income housing. The original Wicks bill cut the 20% to 10%. The Senate version increases the 10% up to 13% -- there was considerable discussion at the committee over whether 10% or 13% was the right number – but scales back to 10% for very low income units and 7% for extremely low income units.
  • A change in the permitted density. Currently, the law allows any density. The original Wicks bill called for limiting density to double what’s required to achieve housing element goals or triple what the local density calls for. The new bill limits the number to 50% of what’s required for housing element goals (but still triple the local zoning). According to the Senate staff analysis, this equates to an increase of 15-23 units per acre in rural areas, 30 units acre in suburban areas, and 45 units per acre in metropolitan counties.

The only “no” vote in the Senate Housing Committee came from Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, a Republican Realtor from the Inland Empire who asked that the bill be changed to include more consistent Housing Element review from the Department of Housing and Community Development. “I have a city who … has gone through so many different reviewers … and they’re not able to get further along because each one is so subject as to what they need to do or not do,” she said at the hearing.

The law firm Allen Matkins published an excellent summary of the current state of the bill here.

Meanwhile, West Hollywood plans to take an innovative approach to dealing with the builder’s remedy issue. Cities resistant to new housing – ranging from La Cañada Flintridge to Beverly Hills to Redondo Beach – have simply refused to process builder’s remedy applications and/or fought developers ferociously in court. Huntington Beach simply declared itself exempt from the builder’s remedy, thus drawing a lawsuit from the state.

By contrast, West Hollywood – which has been designated as a prohousing city by HCD – will seek state legislation specifically exempting it from builder’s remedy. HCD declared West Hollywood’s Housing Element in compliance with state law in 2023, but that did not stop developer Leo Pustilnikov – who is in builder’s remedy battles with both Beverly Hills and Redondo Beach – from filing builder’s remedy applications in WeHo as well.

“I completely understand why the builder’s remedy exists and why the Legislature created it, but I don’t understand why the builder’s remedy should have any applicability to the City of West Hollywood,” longtime councilmember John Heilman said at a recent council meeting.

With 35,000 residents in 1.9 square miles, West Hollywood is one of the densest cities in the western United States. According to the Department of Finance Demographics Research Unit, the city increased its housing stock by 6% between 2010 and 2024.