Onerous Stormwater Regulations Threaten Critical Housing
If California was as good at making it easy to build housing as it is making it difficult to build housing, we’d have no housing crisis at all. The San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board offers the latest example of how we can’t seem to get out our own way when it comes addressing one of the biggest issues of our time. Proposed regulations the Water Board is currently considering would impose onerous and excessive stormwater treatment requirements that threaten to stifle just the kind of infill housing near transit that the Bay Area needs to increase supply, improve affordability and reduce tailpipe emissions from vehicle trips.
In response, the Bay Area Council this week joined with the Housing Action Coalition, California YIMBY, and the Building Industry Association of the Bay Area in opposing the new regulations. Current regulations allow multi-unit infill housing to treat stormwater runoff in underground vaults. The new regulations wouldn’t necessarily change the standard to which stormwater would be treated, but would change the method for doing it that is significantly more expensive and, in some cases, could effectively prevent some housing projects from ever being built. That’s because the proposed regulation would require new housing projects to set aside extra land where stormwater treatment would take place, a requirement that is completely impractical for infill housing projects where available land is already tight and extremely expensive.
By some estimates, the proposed changes could negatively impact as much as half of housing production in San Jose and Oakland. The Council was joined in its opposition by state Senator Scott Wiener, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, and Assemblymember Tim Grayson, all leaders on housing and environmental issues. The Water Board is expected to make a final decision October 11 and the Council is asking that the board adopt a less expensive and less onerous option that would provide similar water treatment benefits.
Along with the Housing Action Coalition, the Council is also a cosponsor of AB 990 (Grayson), which would require the Board to allow for the less costly compliance method for transit-oriented housing. The bill is pending until January 2024 in the hope that the Water Board will choose to preserve the less onerous option. To engage on this issue or other housing-related issues, please contact Vice President of Housing Policy Louis Mirante.