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Study Session to Provide Details on Zoning Code Amendment that Could Allow Housing on Church Property

Published on Monday, February 22, 2021 | 5:00 am

In a study session at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24, the city’s Planning Commission will discuss a future amendment to the zoning code that would allow housing and affordable housing opportunities on properties designated as religious facilities.

Recent efforts by California churches and faith-based organizations referred to as “YIGBY” (Yes in God’s Backyard) have prompted discussion on the use of land owned by religious organizations for purposes other than worship.

The Planning Commission discussed the item twice last summer. In October, staff asked the City Council for direction on moving forward with the possibility.

Although the council members were receptive to the idea, they directed the Planning Commission to dive more deeply into the issue “with a sense of urgency.”

“The zoning code identifies religious institutions with temporary homeless shelter as a land-use type that is permitted or conditionally permitted in various zoning districts throughout the city,” according to a city staff report.

The land-use type is defined as a “religious assembly use” with temporary facilities for the homeless. This land use is also allowed with a conditional use permit (CUP) or a minor CUP in all residential zoning districts, including single-family residential, as well as most zoning districts throughout the city’s specific plan areas, according to the report.

Many churches are required to set aside substantial portions of their properties for parking. The YIGBY effort seeks to respond to the state’s housing crisis by allowing for the redevelopment of church parking lots into permanent affordable housing for low-income and moderate-income households. 

At a recent meeting, City Council members requested staff to present the status of an amendment to the zoning code that would allow for housing as an ancillary use at local churches. 

The issue came before the Planning Commission twice during the summer. 

The commission suggested that any housing proposed on sites owned by religious facilities should consist of affordable housing units only. The commission additionally suggested that this amendment could be addressed through the specific plan update and recommended that should this item return to the commission for consideration, options related to the specific plan update be included for review.

A recent bill signed into law, Assembly Bill 1851, prohibits local agencies from denying a housing project proposed on property owned by religious institutions solely on the basis of parking and would provide minimum parking standards for such projects.

San Diego and Walnut Creek have passed such zoning code amendments.

The meeting can be viewed at

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