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As of January 1, 2024, AB 1287 will amend the State Density Bonus Law by requiring cities and counties to award an additional (or second) density bonus for projects that have already allocated the maximum amount of affordable housing for very low-income, low-income, or moderate-income units.

Here is an example based on a 100-unit project: if a project first allocates 15% of the maximum allowable residential density for very-low income households, that project will be eligible for a 50% increase in density. This would allow for a total of 150 units, with 15 units set aside for very-low income households. If the same project also set aside 15% of the 100-unit base for moderate-income units, it would be eligible for an additional 50% bonus. This would allow for a total of 200 units (with 15 units set aside for low-income households and 15 units set aside for moderate-income households). As a result, the developer would be awarded a total bonus of up to 100% over the maximum allowable residential density. Note, however, that AB 1287 caps the affordable set aside at 50%. For projects that allocate the maximum of moderate-income units (44%), they would only be eligible to set aside another 6% of very-low income or moderate-income units to receive an additional bonus of 23.75% or 22.5%, respectively.

Expanding Development Potential

Assembly Bill 1287 marks a significant shift in California’s approach to housing development, particularly in increasing density. This bill allows developers to double the density of their projects, a substantial increase from the existing provisions. The critical change is the expansion of state density bonuses, especially when moderate-income units are included in the projects. Previously, developers could increase project densities by up to 50% if they incorporated low-income housing. Now, AB 1287 adds another layer, offering an additional bonus for including affordable and moderate-income units.

Impact on Local Regulations

An important aspect of AB 1287 is its influence on local government powers. The bill and Senate Bill 713 restrict municipalities from enacting development standards that could hinder a developer’s ability to utilize these density bonuses. This effectively places developers in a more advantageous position, reducing the ability of cities to oppose projects that meet the state’s density bonus criteria. For instance, if local regulations set a height limit for buildings, developers meeting the affordable housing requirements can bypass such restrictions.

Real-World Applications and Future Expectations

In Santa Monica, several projects are already leveraging these new rules to expand their scale significantly. Examples include proposed developments reaching up to 20 stories, a notable increase from previous limits. While only a few projects currently utilize these bonuses, a surge in such developments is expected.

Broader Legislative Context

AB 1287 is part of a broader legislative effort to address California housing issues. This includes measures to protect housing units lost to commercial development, with new rules mandating the replacement of demolished protected units, such as affordable or rent-controlled apartments. Additionally, the state is encouraging the adaptive reuse of existing buildings through Assembly Bills 529 and 1490, which aim to amend building standards and streamline processes for affordable housing projects.


Overall, AB 1287 and related legislation represent a significant shift towards higher-density development and affordable housing in California. While empowering developers with more flexibility and incentives, these changes also challenge local governments to adapt their regulations and strategies in the face of state-mandated density bonuses.

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