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Reimagining Commercial Zoning

The California Legislature passed a flurry of housing-related bills at the end of the 2021-22 California Legislative Session. AB 2097, SB 6, and AB 2011 are three of these bills that have received a lot of attention because of how dramatically they will change the way Californians view and interact with commercially zoned properties.

AB 2097

What does it do?

AB 2097 will prevent public agencies from imposing or enforcing minimum parking requirements on a residential, commercial, or other development project that is within a half-mile of public transit. Public transit is defined generally as a bus or train station or intersection with service intervals of 15 minutes or less during peak commute hours. For a project to be within one-half mile of public transit, all parcels within the project need to have at least 75% of their area within one-half mile of the station, stop, or corridor.

When does it go into effect?

January 1, 2023.

What are the exceptions?

A public agency may impose or enforce minimum parking requirements on a development project within a half-mile of public transit if it can show that not imposing or enforcing the requirements would have a negative impact on the jurisdiction’s ability to meet certain housing targets or on existing parking within one-half mile of the development.

Are there exceptions to the exceptions?

Yes! Even if a local jurisdiction can show any of the specified negative impacts, it still may not impose or enforce minimum parking requirements if the development:

  • Dedicates 20% of the housing units to very-low, low-, or moderate-income households, students, the elderly, or persons with disabilities; or
  • Contains fewer than 20 housing units; or
  • Is subject to other parking reductions.

SB 6

What does it do?

SB 6 deems housing as an “allowable use” of commercially zoned property.

When does it go into effect?

July 1, 2023.

Are SB 6 projects streamlined?

No, but SB 6 projects will be able to simultaneously take advantage of other housing bills, such as SB 35, which allow ministerial approval of qualifying developments.

What are some general requirement an SB 6 project will be subject to?

SB 6 housing developments will still be subject to local ordinances, design requirements, objectives, approval procedures, and sustainability guidelines. They also must meet or exceed the density designated to the project site. The project site must be 20 acres or less, in an urban area, and not on or adjacent to an industrial site. The units created through SB 6 project will have to be rented for longer than 30 days and must consist of either all residential units, or at least 50% residential units for a mixed-use development.

Projects carried out under SB 6 must also comply with various labor-related requirements, including paying prevailing wages. Additionally, the developer must certify that a skilled and trained workforce will be used, effectively requiring the use of union labor. The developer is also required to give written notice of a pending SB 6 application to each commercial tenant on the parcel and provide relocation assistance to qualifying tenants.

Can a local agency exempt a parcel from development under SB 6?

Yes, if the local agency can show that the residential density that would be lost from not developing on the parcel can be reallocated elsewhere.

AB 2011

What does it do?

AB 2011 provides two more pathways to developing housing in a commercial area, in addition to the one set forth by SB 6.

When does it go into effect?

July 1, 2023.

Are AB 2011 projects streamlined?

Yes! AB 2011 sets forth streamlined processes for two “pathways”: one is for multifamily housing development projects with 100% affordable units and the other is for mixed-income housing developments along commercial corridors. If a project meets all the requirements of either pathway, then the project will be subject to ministerial review.

What are some of the general requirements the two pathways have in common?

Projects under both pathways must be on commercial parcels in urban areas, away from industrial zones, freeways, and facilities that actively extract or refine oil or natural gas. The projects are CEQA-exempt and will be subject to certain affordability and density requirements. Developers must pay prevailing wage but are not required to certify that a skilled and trained workforce will be used, like for an SB 6 project.

Furthermore, objective design review may be conducted by the local planning commission. The local government may exempt a parcel from development through AB 2011 if the local agency can show that there are one or more parcels that qualify under the requirements of AB 2011 and could be developed without a net loss of both total potential residential density or potential residential density of affordable housing.

How do the two pathways generally differ?

A project that applies under AB 2011 with 100% affordable units will be subject to a recorded deed restriction.

Alternatively, a project that applies under AB 2011 as a mixed-income development along a commercial corridor must be on a site that is less than 20 acres and abuts a commercial corridor. Additionally, the development is still subject to local setback requirements and parking requirements concerning bicycles, electric vehicles, and persons with disabilities. However, the project may take advantage of the highest available height limit. Lastly, developers must give written notice of the pending application to each commercial tenant on the parcel when their application is submitted and, if applicable, provide relocation assistance to a tenant upon expiration of their commercial lease.


This article is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Please contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal issue. The opinions expressed are the opinion of the author.

If you have any questions or desire further information, reach out to any of the members of our Land Use and Municipal Law Department: Andrew Faber (, Jolie Houston (, and Sam Bidgoli ( We are also available via Berliner Cohen’s main telephone line at (408) 286-5800.