Housing bills SB9 and SB10 were passed by the California Assembly last week, and – since both were passed by the Senate earlier this year – are now awaiting the Governor’s signature. Governor Gavin Newsom has until October 10 to sign or veto the measures.
SB 10, sponsored by Senator Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) is the less controversial of the two bills, because it would be optional. The bill would give cities and counties the option to zone any parcel of land near transit- or jobs-rich areas for up to 10 units of residential housing. Proponents of the bill say it gives local jurisdictions another tool to add more housing density, and it won support from many housing advocates even though it doesn’t actually require any affordable housing be built. Opponents fear it could be used to pressure local jurisdictions, with penalties and fines, to actually build housing that they are currently now only required to plan for and zone accordingly.
Local housing experts say it’s not likely to affect Los Angeles directly, given the City Council’s recent vote to oppose SB 10.
SB 9, the California Housing Opportunity and More Efficiency (HOME) Act, sometimes referred to as the “duplex” bill, though it would also allow lot-splitting and potentially between 4 and 6 units on a current single family lot (depending on the interpretation), was more controversial because it would in effect eliminate single family residential zoning in most neighborhoods across the state. SB9 gained more traction in the last few weeks when the bill’s author, California State Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), amended to bill to require the owner to agree to live in one of the units for a minimum of three years after getting approval for a lot split, and prohibiting ministerial lot splits on adjacent parcels by the same individual.
“It strikes a balance between granting flexibility to homeowners and protecting local control, historic neighborhoods, and environmentally sensitive areas,” said Atkins in a statement this week. “One of the critical aspects of SB 9 is that it would allow more families to build intergenerational wealth—a currency that is key to combating inequity and creating social mobility. The bill also protects existing renters by excluding properties where a tenant has resided in the past three years.”
Critics say the bill lacks enforcement of the three-year minimum residency requirement, and also that many families don’t have the resources to develop their lots when construction costs can approach nearly $300 per square foot.
“The problem is that there is no enforcement of the “intent” to maintain residency,” wrote Cindy Chvatal-Keane, President of the Hancock Park Homeowners Association and a co-chair of United Neighbors, a state-wide grassroots coalition of neighborhood groups, in a message to Hancock Park residents. “What’s more, Atkins does not explain how the average homeowner can possibly afford to finance a development project on their land. And neither of these bills will create much-needed affordable housing and don’t pretend to.”
David Garcia, Policy Director at the Terner Center at UC Berkeley, agreed in a recent article on CalMatters.org. According to Garcia, a recent study showed the legislation would have limited impact in the short term because most homeowners lack access to investment capital to develop their lots.
Convinced there are better solutions, however, opponents are not giving up, and are now focusing their grassroots lobbying efforts on Governor Newsom, who is facing a recall vote on September 15.
“The next big fight is with the Governor,” wrote Maria Kalban, another co-chair of United Neighbors. “We are saying to him that there are better solutions to more affordable housing than ruining single family neighborhoods. And we back that statement with an 80-page study United Neighbors did with lots of stakeholders, showing how easy it would be to produce more housing than the State claims it needs, without touching single-family neighborhoods.”
Kalban hopes the Governor will pay attention to homeowners across the state.
“The Governor would be ridiculous if he didn’t listen,” said Kalban. “No one in our group is saying no to more housing. We are all saying there are good places to build more and here is how we do it. The governor needs all of us supporting him, but we need him to support us as well.”
Kalban would like to see these bills go back to the drawing board and include other points of view in the deliberations.
“This would be a win-win for him if he made these bills 2-year bills and included all groups (homeowners, developers, affordable housing advocates, etc.) in a round table discussion that could lead to good solutions,” Kalban told the Buzz.
“We are disappointed in the passage of SB 9 and urge Governor Newsom to veto this flawed legislation. SB 9 empowers developers, usurps local democracy, silences community voices, and fails to guarantee affordable housing,” said League of California Cities Executive Director and CEO Carolyn Coleman in a statement.
“The ‘by right’ approval scheme created by SB 9 circumvents the important local government review process that includes extensive public engagement. And because there are no provisions in SB 9 that require new housing to be affordable, the new units will remain out of reach for many working-class families,” added Coleman.
Meanwhile, a newly formed group, Californians for Community Planning Initiative, has filed a new ballot initiative to prevent state legislators from continually trying to modify local zoning. The measure would “amend the State Constitution to ensure zoning, land-use and development decisions are made at the local level, and to stop the multitude of legislative bills like SB9 and SB10, emanating from Sacramento that seek to override municipal and county control over land-use and development,” according to the group’s press statement.
The initiative was filed for title and summary with the State Attorney General, starting the process to place the measure on the ballot for the General Election on November 8, 2022.
There are likely to be more developments on housing legislation in the near future, and we will do our best keep you posted.