Legislative Update: AB 1505 (2017): “Palmer Fix” Allows Local Governments To Exempt Certain New-Construction On-Site Units from Costa-Hawkins

In 2009, the Second District issued the opinion Palmer/Sixth Street Properties, L.P. v. City of Los Angeles (2009) 175 Cal.App.4th 1396, which vindicated a Los Angeles developer’s challenge to the city’s development plan requiring “vacancy control” for new rental units built in a development project that would remove 60 units of low income housing. The developer contended that the ordinance was preempted by Costa-Hawkins and, that even though Costa-Hawkins did create a carve out where a city provides density bonuses, the developer was not even building to authorized density. The Palmer court noted that, “the issue is whether requiring Palmer’s involuntary compliance with section 11.C’s affordable housing requirements is hostile or inimical to Palmer’s right under the Costa–Hawkins Act to establish the initial rental rates for the project’s dwelling units. We conclude that it is”.

Effective January 1, 2018, AB 1505, referred to as the “Palmer fix”, now authorizes cities to adopt ordinances that require, as a condition of development, that the development include a certain percentage of below-market rate rental units (or alternatives for in-lieu fees or off-site units).

San Francisco has had density bonus “accessory dwelling unit” ordinances, that provide property owners to exceed density limits in adding additional units, on the condition that they record agreements to subject the units to the Rent Ordinance. In response to AB 1505, the Board of Supervisors is also working on implementing the Palmer fix at the local level, with several changes to the Planning Code to amend the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance.