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State requirements for land and housing inventory updated for 2018

Effective January 1, 2018, the following changes apply to California’s Planning and Zoning Law, amending the requirements that cities and counties must abide to report land and housing inventory in their localities. Assembly Bill No. 1397 establishes the following updated requirements:   

  1. Meeting a locality’s housing needs for designated income levels

Prior to AB 1397, the Planning and Zoning Law mandates that an “inventory of land suitable for residential development” must be included in the housing element of a city or county’s general development plans. This inventory must include vacant sites that have realistic and demonstrated potential for redevelopment.

A provision in the new measure states that these available parcels of land must meet a city or county’s needs to provide housing for designated income levels.

  1. Ensuring adequate water, sewer and dry utilities to support housing

AB 1397 amends the Planning and Zoning Law such that the inventory must list properties by assessor parcel number. Each parcel of land must have sufficient water, sewerage and dry utilities to support housing development.

AB 1397 improves on the former provisions that only request a general description of existing or planned water, sewer and dry utilities. The prior version of the law also does not require the information to be identified on a site-specific basis.


  • Providing a specific number of units that an identified area can accommodate


The Planning and Zoning Law requires local agencies to create a program designed to implement the policies and achieve the objectives of the housing element. A city or county must determine whether each site in the inventory can accommodate some portion of its share of the regional housing need.

AB 1397 adds to this provision by requiring the inventory to specify the number of units that each site can realistically accommodate. The inventory must be clear on whether the site can support lower income housing, moderate income housing or above moderate income housing needs.

The new measure declares that (1) non vacant sites identified in a previous housing element plan and (2) vacant sites included in at least two consecutive planning periods without being approved will be deemed inadequate for lower income households for the current housing element planning period.

  1. Adding standards to describe the development potential of housing sites

Prior to AB 1397, guidelines for describing the development potential of housing development sites included factors such as how much current land use can impede additional housing projects, development trends and market conditions and regulatory standards that encourage additional future residential development.

Through AB 1397, the following additional considerations are recommended:

  • The locality’s experience with converting existing land use to accommodate higher density residential development
  • The demand for the current manner of use
  • Existing leases or other contracts that would encourage sustaining the current manner of use or prevent redevelopment

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