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Surplus Land Act Guidelines Now Available

By Vanessa Gonzales posted 04-12-2021 04:41 PM


Earlier this month, the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) at long last released the final Surplus Land Act guidelines. HCD’s guidelines had been anticipated for release in January, however the department needed more time to work through issues raised in public comments by CSDA and other stakeholders.

What is the Surplus Land Act? In 2019, Governor Newsom signed AB 1486 (Ting, 2019) into law, which aimed to connect developers who are interested in building more affordable homes to surplus local public land that is both available and suitable for housing development. This law made several changes to the requirements in the Surplus Land Act that local agencies must adhere to when disposing of surplus public land.

Beginning January 1, 2021, local agencies are required to send, and HCD is required to review, negotiation summaries for each surplus land transaction in the state. HCD is also required to notify local agencies of violations and may notify the Attorney General and assess fines, as necessary.

Special District Exemption Added Back Into Guidelines

Thank you to all special districts who took the time to submit public comment during a very hectic holiday season! Because of your efforts, CSDA advocates were able to carry out productive discussions with HCD staff and the final guidelines now include a special district exemption, which had been missing from the draft guidelines.

This exemption is essential to special districts’ ability to continue business operations and provides special districts with the authority to declare land as “exempt surplus land” at a regular public meeting if the declaration is supported by written findings demonstrating that the land is used by a district for agency’s use expressly authorized in Government Code Section 54221(c).

In the case of a local agency that is a district, aside from those whose primary mission or purpose is to supply the public with a transportation system, “agency’s use” may include commercial or industrial uses or activities, including nongovernmental retail, entertainment, or office development, or be for the sole purpose of investment or generation of revenue.

Disposition of Surplus Land Definition Includes Leases

In the final guidelines, “disposition of surplus land” expands the definition to mean the sale or lease of local agency-owned land formally declared surplus. Due to the special district exemption, land declared to be exempt by the local agency can be exempt from these guidelines provided that the governing board of the special district declares the property to be “exempt surplus land” as noted above.

For more information, please visit public lands for affordable housing development webpage.

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