Objective Design Standards for Streamlined and Ministerial Residential Developments

Annadel Housing DevelopmentPhoto courtesy of Annadel Apartments


On November 19, 2019, the Council adopted the Objective Design Standards. The Ordinance can be accessed here.


Recent California legislation has been adopted to address the housing shortage within the State, requiring a streamlined and ministerial process for specific residential developments. A streamlined and ministerial review, per State legislation, requires projects to be reviewed against existing objective standards rather than through a City’s traditional discretionary entitlement process, in specified timeframes. While the City Code does include a number of design-oriented standards, general guidance regarding the design for residential development are in the City’s Design Guidelines, which are largely subjective in nature.

Two California bills, discussed throughout this report, are the impetus for the proposed objective design standards. It is anticipated that in coming years additional legislation will be enacted requiring additional ministerial processes. Therefore, while the two bills listed below provide recent examples, the proposed ordinance has been written to also address future legislation that may require ministerial processes.

California State Senate Bill 35 (SB35 – Government Code Section 65913.4), which went into effect on January 1, 2018, was part of a comprehensive package aimed at addressing the State’s housing shortage and high costs. SB 35 requires the availability of a streamlined ministerial approval process for developments located in jurisdictions that have not yet made sufficient progress towards their required allocation of the regional housing need. The City of Santa Rosa is subject to SB35, meaning an eligible project within the City must be streamlined and not subject to discretionary review (i.e.: Conditional Use Permit and/or Design Review).

For a project to be eligible for the streamlined SB 35 process they are required to meet specific criteria, including but not limited to, the following:

  • Provide a specified level of affordability;
  • Be located on an infill site;
  • Comply with residential and mixed-use General Plan or Zoning provisions; and
  • Comply with other requirements such as locational and/or demolition restrictions.

California Assembly Bill 2162 (AB2162 – Government Code Sections 65583), which went into effect on January 1, 2019, was adopted to address shortages in Supportive and Emergency Housing. AB2162 requires that specified Supportive Housing developments undergo a streamlined and ministerial review and are not subject to discretionary review (e.g.: Conditional Use Permit, Design Review and/or Landmark Alteration Permit).

For a project to be eligible for the streamlined and ministerial AB2162 process it is required to meet specific criteria, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Units within the development are subject to a recorded affordability restriction for
  • 55 years;
  • One hundred percent of the units within the development, excluding managers’ units, are dedicated to lower-income households and are receiving public funding to ensure affordability of the housing to lower-income Californians;
  • A specified number of units are designated as supportive housing;
  • Nonresidential floor areas are used for onsite supportive services in specified amounts;
  • Units within the development, excluding managers’ units, include at least one bathroom and a kitchen or other cooking facilities.

Project Description

The purpose of the Objective Design Standards initiative is to prepare and adopt clear and objective residential design standards that respond to recent State legislation and are sourced from the City’s Design Guidelines. New multifamily and supportive housing residential development is currently required to go through the City’s discretionary Design Review process, which includes review for compliance with the City’s Design Guidelines. The Design Guidelines are subjective in nature to demonstrate preferences while allowing discretion and flexibility, and as such, cannot be enforced through a streamlined ministerial process. The proposed Objective Design Standards aim to incorporate the intent of the Santa Rosa Design Guidelines, and other best design practices, to the greatest extent possible, while complying with the intent of recent legislation to facilitate and expedite the construction of housing in Santa Rosa.

Past Meetings

  • June 20, 2019:  Joint Design Review Board / Cultural Heritage Board Meeting
  • September 12, 2019: Planning Commission Public Hearing
  • November 12, 2019: City Council Public Hearing


  1. Amy Nicholson

    Senior Planner
    Phone: 707-543-3258