Permitting Timelines
AB 2234: Planning and zoning: Housing: Postentitlement phase permits

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In the third installment of CALBO’s “Guide to Changes in State Law”, CALBO’s Legislative Team discusses one of the major issues impacting California: the housing crisis. Annually, the legislature looks for ways to reduce costs and increase development within California.  As CALBO members know, this is a very important issue that has significant implications for our efforts at the local level.  That is why we take pride in our efforts to work with organizations like the California Building Industry Association to promote cost-effective and most importantly safe and necessary regulations for public safety in the built industry. In 2022, the legislature passed yet another bill putting a shot clock on permit review for development projects.

Assembly Bill 2234 (AB 2234) by the incoming Speaker of the Assembly Robert Rivas, establishes new time limits on building departments and local enforcement agencies to streamline the review of building permits depending on development project size. This bill was signed by Governor Newsom at the end of September and will become law in 2023. This bill has multiple regulations including requirements for posting examples of completed building permits for specific housing types, time limits for permit review, and online permitting requirements for larger jurisdictions. We will discuss each of these areas below.

By January 1, 2024, all local jurisdictions will be required to post on their respective websites a complete set of approved and completed post-entitlement phase permits (or building permits) for the following five housing types: accessory dwelling unit (ADU), duplex, multifamily, mixed-use, and townhome.  Local agencies must post examples of a completed building permit for each of these housing types online by the start of 2024.  We recommend you touch base with your city attorneys to discuss what copyright, privacy, and other legal aspects your local building department will have to consider before this deadline is reached to comply with the new law.

Another aspect of AB 2234 is a time limit on building permit review. Beginning on January 1, 2023, your building department will have to comply with specific timelines for building permit review depending on project size. For any development project proposed with 25 units or fewer, local building departments will be required to review a building permit and return a comprehensive request for revisions to an applicant within 30 business days of a completed application. For a development project of 26 units or more, your jurisdiction will have 60 business days to return a full set of revisions to a permit applicant. A violation of these time limits will cause your local city, county, or city and county to be in violation of the Housing Accountability Act opening the potential of lawsuits to your local jurisdiction. 

Despite these strict requirements, there are some exemptions that would pause these time limits or remove them completely. If your local enforcement agency can make written findings that the time limits would have a specific, adverse impact on public health and safety and that additional time is necessary to review the application the time limits will be stopped. Additionally, if an outside entity is reviewing the application the timelines are paused until the outside agency returns the application to the local enforcement agency. When the application is returned, the time limits will resume at where they were before the permit was sent to an outside entity. For example, if you have a 26-unit development project and an outside agency is called to review a permit 20 business days into the review timeline, once the local enforcement agency receives back the application, the local building department will have 40 business days to finish the review of the permit. Finally, time limits can be extended or stopped if both the local agency and the applicant mutually agree that they are unnecessary. 

A final aspect of AB 2234 is new requirements for local agencies to provide an option for online permits to be accepted by the jurisdiction through the establishment of an online permitting system for building permits.  Specifically, any local agency located in a county with a population size of 1.1 million (as determined in the 2020 census) or more and jurisdictions with a population of 75,000 or more will have to provide an option to accept online permits on their internet website by January 1, 2024. Jurisdictions may extend the time by up to 5 years if the local government makes a written finding that adopting an online permitting system would require a substantial increase in permitting fees. Building departments that fit in this category must accept emailed permits and documents by email and respond to inquiries from an applicant regarding the current processing status of their permit by email until the online option is established.

Smaller jurisdictions must also comply with the online permitting mandate, though the requirement does not begin until January 1, 2028.  Specifically, jurisdictions located in a county with a population size of 1.1 million or less will have until 2028 to meet the standard laid out in AB 2234.

AB 2234 is a complex law with multiple sections of the bill that will impact your jurisdictions in different years, so a summary of the details is located here:

  • Beginning in 2023 all jurisdictions will have strict time limits to review permits, 30 business days for a development project of 25 units or more and 60 business days for a development project of 26 units or more. Please review the exemptions above to these time limits but a violation of this ordinance will result in a violation of the Housing Accountability Act.
  • By 2024, all jurisdictions will have to post online examples of completed applications for common housing types: ADU, duplex, multifamily, mixed-use, and townhome.
  • Jurisdictions with a county population size of 1.1 million or more or a jurisdiction with a population of 75,000 or more will have to provide an online option to apply, complete, and retrieve building permit applications on its internet website by January 1, 2024.
  • By January 1, 2028, most jurisdictions will have to provide an online option to apply, complete, and retrieve applications on your internet website. These timelines can be extended by up to 5 years if the local government makes a finding this would result in a significant increase in permitting fees.
  • Jurisdictions will have to be able to provide the current processing status of an applicant’s permit by email until a permit processing option is established once the deadline in the bill is reached.

Should you have any questions or concerns on this bill, please feel free to contact CALBO’s Public Affairs Manager, Brady Guertin at bguertin@calbo.org or 916-457-1103.