Regulatory Mechanisms

Findings and Recommendations

Objective Residential Design and Development Standards 

  • Adopt interim objective design standards for residential and mixed-use developments until there are sufficient resources to adopt more comprehensive standards.
  • Update the zoning code to include objective residential design and development standards.
  • Pool resources by developing Countywide or multijurisdictional objective design standards
  • Create a checklist for reviewing qualified projects to confirm compliance with objective design and development standards

Density Bonuses

  • Amend zoning codes to comply with State density bonus law

Missing Middle Housing

  • Update general plans and zoning codes to allow for missing middle housing in single-family zoning districts
  • Update land use regulations to speed development and allow for additional building options 
  • Streamline the development permit process 
  • Reduce impact fees for missing middle housing options 
  • Provide technical assistance to small-scale developers

Inclusionary Zoning

  • To make it easier for cities and counties to adopt inclusionary requirements. Prepare model inclusionary zoning ordinance provisions.
  • Standardize inclusionary zoning requirements make residential development requirements consistent from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  
  • Conduct a feasibility study prior to drafting an ordinance to ensure that requirements are appropriate for the local setting.

Infill Development

  • Consider local programs that encourage infill development, include the following:
    • Identify the most appropriate infill types in the local context; 
    • Create a list of potential infill parcels; 
    • Simplify zoning designations and regulations to allow for flexibility in land reuse; 
    • Create design standards to protect existing community character; and, 
    • Incentivize lot consolidation and small lot development. 

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD)

  • Identify and prioritize potential TOD planning areas within your jurisdiction. These can include fixed-rail stations, bus rapid transit stations, and/or high-quality transit corridors.
  • Upzone properties near transit stations and along high-frequency transit corridors. 
  • Reduce parking requirement in TOD areas to make development more feasible and support transit.

Innovative Zoning Strategies

  • Update zoning codes to include revised density and development standards designed to reduce housing costs and increase housing affordability, including:
    • Eliminating single-family zoning
    • Increase maximum allowable densities
    • Increasing minimum required densities
    • Increasing residential structure height limits
    • Reducing setback requirements
  • Establish a robust community engagement process to help quell concerns about reduced parking requirements.
  • Consider establishing parking maximums.
  • Reduce parking requirements in areas near transit, and for housing types with low car ownership populations such as senior and affordable housing developments.
  • Require unbundled parking for multi-family housing projects and especially for projects near transit.
  • Reduce covered parking standards and/or allow tandem parking for certain types of developments.
  • Encourage shared parking between users with different peak parking demands.
  • Consider policies that provide funding for subsidized carshare in locations that provide some housing without parking or with very low-parking requirements.

Form-Based Codes

  • Determine if a form-based code approach is a good fit for your community (or district within) and if there is support for development of the code. Form-based codes work best in areas where change is anticipated, and existing zoning regulations are insufficient to achieve the desired results.
  • Consider starting with a small district or area, like a small downtown where housing or mixed-use development is being introduced or a newly developing area where there may be support from a developer. 


  • Account for and accommodate the “built in” upzoning capacity created by State laws related to Accessory Dwelling Units and Urban Lot Splits-Two Unit Developments (SB 9) but recognize that these will not necessarily provide an adequate supply of land zoned to meet affordable housing needs related to lower-income households (e.g., at densities of 20 or 30 units/acre). 
  • Consider multiple upzoning approaches to meet housing needs. Consider applying different recommendations.
  • Establish minimum density requirements to provide the needed capacity for RHNA, reduce sprawl, and make the best use of infrastructure and utilities.

Housing Overlay Zones (HOZ)

  • Determine if the general plan allows for housing in a non-residential zone(s) or if it will require an amendment to the general plan text to authorize the creation of a housing overlay zone and in what instances it may be considered. If needed, this amendment could be processed as a companion amendment to the adoption of a housing element.
  • Determine which areas or zones in the jurisdiction are best suited to a housing overlay. Are there multiple objectives that could be satisfied by an HOZ (e.g., infill development, redevelopment corridor revitalization that supports transit services, etc.)?
  • Determine what levels of affordability or other benefits are desired and what incentives the jurisdiction is willing to offer. Consider a tiered approach to affordability and benefit levels (i.e., the greater the affordability, the greater the benefits or incentives).
  • Consider if an HOZ should be offered in residential zones given that State Density Bonus Laws already apply. An overlay zone, however, could simply be used as a marketing tool to bring awareness to the opportunity through more explicit zoning designations.


  • Update zoning codes to reflect current State law.
  • Provide ADU information and education materials online and as counter handouts.
  • Provide preapproved ADU plans and streamlined building permit processing.
  • Ensure that preapproved plans take into consideration architectural styles and lot configurations which are common in the community to maximize their use.
  • Consider using multiple designs from several architectural firms to appeal to a wider base. 
  • In selecting plans for preapproval, consider whether the designs are practical and affordable to construct. 
  • Keep pre-approved plans up to date with current State law, zoning, and building code requirements.

Permit Streamlining and Fee Reduction 

  • Amend zoning code discretionary permitting requirements to increase the number and type of residential uses subject to administrative or ministerial review.
  • Amend zoning codes to expand the type of residential uses permitted by-right in lower density-zoning districts.
  • Amend zoning codes to reduce the number of appeals allowed for residential projects.
  • Provide statewide funding programs to convert housing development permitting to digital platforms.
  • Eliminate conditional use permit requirements for certain residential uses in residential zones and update permitting and procedures to establish clear criteria and thresholds for when ministerial versus discretionary review is required.

Fee Reductions and Waivers

  • Periodically evaluate and update impact fees to make sure they are in alignment with the costs of providing infrastructure. 
  • Consider an impact fee deferral program so developers can avoid the costs associated with financing impact fees. This could be applied to affordable housing projects or to projects that agree to incorporate a certain amount of affordable housing, or even to highly desirable housing types (e.g., ADUs missing middle housing, multi-family housing).
  • Offer a fee deferral program in specific areas of the community to help with revitalization efforts (e.g., the downtown or mixed-use projects in the downtown).
  • Consider the potential for impact fee waivers, recognizing that the foregone revenues must ultimately come from other sources (e.g., grants, donations, or even other city funds). As such, craft waivers carefully and periodically review them to see if they are achieving desired results.
  • Revise permitting fee structures, specifically for affordable housing development. 
  • Update local policies and regulations to further address impact fees and comply with new State mandates. 
  • Provide fee estimates as well as public guidance on how to calculate development fees. Create a page on the city website for developers that has the development fee schedules, impact fee schedules, and nexus studies with links to related council agendas and public records. This will assist local agencies to comply with AB 1483. 

CEQA Implications for Housing Approvals

  • Embrace CEQA streamlining options to the fullest extent possible in an effort to minimize project review for qualifying housing projects. 
  • Consider indicating whether certain targeted project sites (i.e., sites identified within the housing element sites inventory) meet the size and locational requirements for certain statutory exemptions in order to proactively inform developers of the potential to bypass CEQA review.