SB 290

Nickname: California Density Bonus Law

Sponsor: Sen. Skinner

Year: 2021

Bill Text

What is it?

Here is a history lesson. The California Density Bonus Law (SDBL) was originally adopted in 1979. It was intended to support development of affordable housing through offering developers the ability to build more units above the applicable density range in exchange for building affordable units onsite. It was used as an incentive to provide the state with more affordable units. Throughout the years, there have been updates and changes.

The Density Bonus Law grants bonuses, concessions, waivers and parking reductions to projects with qualifying affordable housing. The law provides developers with necessary tools to increase development of affordable and senior housing. This includes up to a 50% increase in project densities for most projects depending on the amount of affordable housing provided. The bonus rises to an 80% increase for projects that are completely affordable. 


  • Provides one incentive or concession for density bonus projects that include at least 20% of the units for lower income students in a student housing development.
  • Eliminates the ability of local governments to disapprove a developer’s request for an incentive or concession, or a waiver or modification of development standards, on the grounds that it would have a specific adverse impact on the physical environment.
  • Provides parking standards of one-half space per bedroom for housing developments which include at least 40% moderate income units that are located within a half mile of a major transit stop.
  • Eliminates the requirement that for-sale units for moderate income households must be in a “common interest development” in order to qualify for a density bonus.
  • Clarifies that for purposes of qualifying for a density bonus, the “total units” in a housing development include affordable units that are designated to satisfy local inclusionary housing requirements.
  • Clarifies that for purposes of qualifying for a density bonus, affordable units for very low or lower income households can be either rental or for-sale units. (Affordable units for moderate income households still must be for-sale units and may not be rental units)