Density Bonus

City of Santa Rosa Density Bonus Ordinance Update

City Council Hearing Postponed to January 8th 

The City Council public hearing for the Density Bonus Ordinance Update, which was tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, December 4, 2018, will be held on Tuesday, January 8th.  The public hearing will commence at or after 5:00 PM, in the City Council Chamber, City Hall, 100 Santa Rosa Avenue, Santa Rosa. The public notice will be published in the Press Democrat Newspaper no lessthan 10 days before the hearing.  Contact Andy Gustavson, Senior Planner,if you have any questions or comments regarding this matter.

City Council Hearing:

The Density Bonus Ordinance Update will be heard by the City Council on January 8, 2018, at or after 5 pm, City Council Chambers, City Hall, 100 Santa Rosa Avenue, Santa Rosa.

The ordinance update, recommended by the Planning Commission and the Planning and Economic Development, will implement recent State Density Bonus Law changes including a Citywide 35% density bonus for eligible housing development (5 or more units) and related provisions. It also includes a Supplemental Density Bonus Program within the boundaries of the Downtown Station Area Specific Plan and the North Santa Rosa Station Area Specific Plan, which allows up to 100% density bonus (including the 35% State Density Bonus) for eligible housing development. The Supplemental Density Bonus Program requires a Minor Use Permit and includes protections for Preservation Districts and residential neighborhoods.

Links to the ordinance update and related information are listed below.


Background: 

On December 4, 2017, a series of three workshops were conducted with housing developers, affordable housing providers, and the community to gather feedback and direction on the recommended supplemental density bonus as well as review State Law consistency amendments. The proposed Update responds to the following key workshop comments.

  • Focus supplemental density bonuses on housing opportunity sites and within the City’s Priority Development Areas (PDAs).
  • Reduce potential land use conflicts between higher-density projects and adjacent, less-dense, neighborhoods.
  • Ensure that supplemental density bonus requirements can be achieved by market-rate developers and housing providers.
  • Remove or clarify subjective standards and expectations.
  • Provide clear direction on application requirements.
  • Adjust eligibility requirements to be more feasible.
  • Simplify the procedure for evaluating supplemental density bonus applications.

On July 26, 2018, the Planning Commission held a public hearing on the proposed ordinance and voted to continue the item to a date uncertain to provide staff time to respond to comments and questions raised by the public and by the Commission.

On October 25, 2018, the Planning Commission resumed its public hearing on the proposed ordinance and recommended 5-1-1 that the Council certify the Negative Declaration prepared for the project and adopt the proposed ordinance to update the Density Bonus Chapter of the Zoning Code.

Summary:  

The proposed Update would amend Zoning Code Chapter 20-31 consistent with State law and would create a supplemental density bonus program within the City’s Downtown Station Area Specific Plan and North Santa Rosa Station Area Specific Plan boundaries, with the potential of up to 100% density bonus in certain areas.  The key changes include the following. 

State Density Bonus Law Compliance

  • Eligible projects, city-wide, may earn 35% density bonus and up to 3 concessions and incentives. 
  • The required affordability term expanded from 35 years to 55 years
  • Several definitions and new terminology added for consistency with State law and clarify supplemental bonus provisions.
  • Specialized Housing and Commercial projects are eligible for density bonus.
  • Replacement of existing units required and expanded parking reductions allowed.
  • Certain concessions and incentives are “pre-approved” to streamline the density bonus review process.
  • Waiver of simultaneous affordable unit development requirement may be granted if financing of eligible project is infeasible. 
  • New mandatory State provision that qualifies Student Housing for a State density bonus.

Supplemental Density Bonus

  • Eligible projects located within the Downtown Station Area Specific Plan or North Santa Rosa Station Area Specific Plan boundaries may earn 100% density bonus - depending on proximity to schools, transit facilities, and housing opportunity sites – and may earn up to three concessions and incentives.
  • Eligible projects quality for supplemental density based on provision of affordable housing and community benefits.
  • Projects eligible for supplemental density bonus are subject to a Minor Conditional Use Permit (which is a public, discretionary, process).
  • The effectiveness of the supplemental density bonus regulation will be reviewed by the Council after a period of five years.


Santa Rosa’s Density Bonus Ordinance, Chapter 20-31 of the Santa Rosa City Code, is intended to provide incentives to produce affordable housing, senior housing and the development of child care facilities. The intent of the ordinance is to implement the goals, objectives, and policies of Santa Rosa General Plan 2035 and further to implement and be subject to California Government Code Section 65915.

The City’s current ordinance allows for consideration of a density bonus of up to 35%, in compliance with State law.

The City is aware that current State law allows local jurisdictions to approve density bonuses higher than 35%. However, such an increase is not a requirement, nor is it allowed by the City Code. There are also several recently adopted State laws related to density bonus, including AB 1442, AB 2556, AB 2501 and AB 1934, which are summarized below. None of this State legislation mandates the City to grant a density bonus higher than 35%.

The Santa Rosa Density Bonus Ordinance is silent with regard to the ability to increase density bonus beyond the stated 35% maximum. As such, without City Council approval of an ordinance amendment, the maximum allowed density bonus by the City at this time is 35%.

In October 2016, the City Council accepted the Housing Action Plan, which includes a variety of programs aimed at addressing the City’s ongoing unmet housing needs. One of the initiatives is to explore an ordinance amendment to allow a density bonus in excess of 35%.

In May 2017, the City entered into a contract with Metropolitan Planning Group (M-Group) to assist with the Density Bonus Ordinance Update project. Outreach for the project is expected in late summer 2017, with stakeholder meetings planned to gain an understanding of community, resident and applicant sentiment. Consideration of the proposed ordinance amendment by the Planning Commission is planned in November 2017, with action by the City Council in late December 2017 or January 2018.

Project Documents

Policy White Paper: City of Santa Rosa Density Bonus Ordinance Update - recommendations for a supplemental density bonus program

State Law Changes

Since the City’s Density Bonus Ordinance was last updated in 2012, there have been various changes to State law pertaining to Density Bonuses, which are summarized below:

AB 2442 – Expanded the categories of housing that qualify for a density bonus to include replacement of income-restricted housing, housing subject to rent control, and housing occupied by very-low and low-income households.

AB 2556 – Clarified implementation of required replacement of affordable units in density bonus projects.

AB 2501 – Requires local governments to “round up” all density calculations. Santa Rosa’s ordinance already requires that density bonus calculations resulting in fractional units be rounded up. This law also requires permit streamlining for density bonus projects, with specific limitations on requirements during development review process.

AB 1934 (sunsets January 1, 2022) – Provides density bonuses for commercial developers who partner with affordable housing developers to develop affordable housing units in conjunction with their commercial project.

AB 744 - Upon a request from a developer, it requires local jurisdictions to approve alternative parking ratios for eligible projects. It does not require a local jurisdiction to provide a density bonus above 35%.


  1. Andy Gustavson

    Senior Planner/Zoning Administrator
    Phone: 707-543-3236