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The City’s development and design standards determine the maximum number of housing units allowed on a site and include requirements related to density, height, floor area ratio (FAR), lot coverage, parking, open space, and setbacks.

Applicants always have an option to go through a discretionary process to request deviations, but there is also a way to deviate from standards through a ministerial approval process.

See below for details.

Density Bonus

The State Density Bonus Law (Government Code Sections 65915-65918) is a State tool to incentivize the creation of regulated affordable housing units. In fact, despite its name, the Density Bonus is not only about exceeding maximum density. Confused? Read on to learn the real power of the State Density Bonus Law.

State Density Bonus Law (Government Code sections 65915-65918) (“Density Bonus Law”)

Density Bonus Law incentivizes the construction of affordable housing by allowing a developer to add additional housing units to a project that includes at least five housing units beyond the zoned capacity and secure other “incentives” in exchange for a commitment from the developer to include a certain percentage of deed-restricted affordable units in the project. When a developer meets the requirements of the Density Bonus Law, the City will permit increased building density and other incentives and concessions, including the waiver of conflicting development standards (e.g. height, parking requirements), unless certain exceptions apply.

Affordable Housing Requirements

The number of required affordable housing units for a project is determined by the affordability level (e.g., very low income, low income, and moderate income). Housing units can be for rent or for sale. For example, a project that designates housing units for very low-income households who make up to 50% of the area median income, the project would need to set aside 5% of the total units for very low-income households and would then be eligible for a 20% density bonus plus one concession or incentive, such as a reduction in site development standards or a modification of zoning code requirements. The project would also be eligible for unlimited waivers to development standards.

More Information

The Density Bonus Law (Government Code sections 65915-65918). The City’s density bonus ordinance, which implements State Density Bonus Law, can be found in chapter 17.704 of the Sacramento City Code.

combining a density bonus with a ministerial permit

Ministerial permits (covered in detail on the faster planning & building approvals page) provide an administrative approval process for housing and mixed-use development projects of two or more units where no public hearing or additional environmental review under CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) is required.

Density Bonus Under a Ministerial Approval Process

A typical request for a density bonus will be reviewed under an existing discretionary process when an applicant submits a planning entitlement application. State law requires that a project be approved if it is eligible. However, the project still must go through the discretionary process for approval, which can include public hearings and the potential for appeals, as well as additional environmental review under CEQA. An alternative is to use the State Density Bonus Law under a ministerial approval process.

A project eligible for either the City of Sacramento ministerial housing permit or the State of California SB 35 ministerial approval process (see faster planning & building approvals page for details) can continue to be reviewed ministerially when combined with a request for a density bonus under the State Density Bonus Law. The two ministerial permits are reviewed within a short period of time (typically 60 or 90 days) without public hearings or additional environmental review under CEQA, while being allowed to deviate from objective development and design standards through the Density Bonus Law. See faster planning & building approvals page for details.


Parking requirements can leave less space available for additional housing units or other amenities such as open space or common areas. This can lead to higher project and construction costs in cases where the required parking is more than the market demands or the applicant would provide on their own.

Reducing or Waiving Parking Incentives

The City recognizes that housing for people is a higher priority than housing for cars as is reflected in recent changes to parking requirements:

No parking requirements

  • Within ¼ mile of any existing or proposed light rail station for any property
  • On lots of 6,400 square feet or less
  • For the nonresidential land uses if part of a mixed-use project that includes at least 50% of building square footage is devoted to residential uses
  • Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), including when one or more ADUs replace existing parking

50% reduction of required parking spaces

  • Between ¼ mile and ½ mile of any existing or proposed light rail station for any property
  • For each affordable or senior housing unit

Reduced parking through an administrative parking waiver (number of spaces waived can vary, see the Administrative Parking CDD-0167 application)