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Statewide Town Hall Opposing SB 9 & 10 Attracts More than 1,000 Participants graphic, showing how single family neighborhoods could be changed by state-level housing bills SB9 and SB10.


On Saturday, August 7, more than 1,000 people statewide gathered for a video town hall discussion to organize grass roots action to stop the passage of Senate Bills 9 and 10, currently pending before the California State Assembly.

The two bills would “make drastic and irreversible changes to single family neighborhoods throughout California,” said Beatriz Dieringer, the Mayor of Rolling Hills and host of the town hall.  Adding that all these changes will be made without any public discussion, Dieringer said that she and her colleagues prefer to consider the views of city residents when making zoning changes…but despite the objections of city and county officials, legislators in Sacramento continue to promote these kinds of bills.

“These bills completely override our single family zoning; they will eliminate single family neighborhoods all over our state, all without creating any affordable housing, which cities are required to provide planning and zoning to build,” said Dieringer.

“My city is in the high fire zone area, with narrow streets, and it would be very difficult to evacuate people in the event of a fire,” said Dieringer. “When I explain that we are like Paradise (where at least 85 people died and more than 18,000 structures were destroyed), legislators don’t seem to care that people will die. Something more needs to be done,” she said, “That’s why we are calling for a major grassroots action to stop these bills.”

As we have previously reported, SB 9 would allow two houses to be built on what is now a single-family lot, and then the lot could also be split, allowing another two units. This additional density would be in addition to the current ADU laws that permit one ADU and one junior ADU per lot, which means that, if SB 9 passes, there could be as many six units allowed on what is currently one single family lot. Setbacks between homes would also be reduced from 10 feet to four feet, which opponents say would also destroy back and side yards.

Meanwhile, SB 10 would allow cities to permit up to ten units on lots near job and transit-rich areas, creating small apartment buildings where there were once single family homes. And under the bill, developers would also not be required to many any improvements  to local infrastructure or to build any affordable housing. All the new construction could be priced at market rates.

Dan Carrig, former legislative director for the League of Cities, provided a more detailed overview the legislation at the meeting, saying it would make a “significant change to single family neighborhoods” – in effect changing local zoning at the state level when zoning changes are normally “made by local city or county officials with transparency and due process requirements.” So SB 9 and 10 would shift the power from local officials to state agencies, or at least make it easier to bypass local restrictions.

“Watch out for the word ‘ministerial,'” warned Carrig in reference to the kinds of approvals that would be given to new housing projects under the bills. The term “ministerial approval,” he said, would mean that any projects that conform to the definitions in the legislation would be approved without any public review or recourse. (Akin to how many Transit Oriented Communities projects in the city of Los Angles are currently approved.)

Also, currently, two additional housing units can be added to single family neighborhoods without review under the state’s Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) law.  That includes a detached ADU measuring between 800 -1200 square feet, and a Junior ADU, a smaller unit attached to the house. Both can be rented, but not sold separately from the property’s main residence. But SB9 goes further, potentially allowing the lot to be split and the dwellings sold separately. So SB 9 is often described as a “duplex” law…but it actually permits  between 2-4 units per parcel, not just two, explained Carrig. And, if the house is near transit, he said, there would be no parking requirements.

According to Carrig, agreeing with Dieringer, the language of SB9 could allow for any as 6 units per lot, depending on how it’s interpreted. And requests to place a 4-unit cap on the provision, he said, have not be addressed. In addition, there are no restrictions on building in a fire zone. Homeowners Association rules and CC&Rs could also be overridden under the bill, something Carrig said could lead to significant ligation.

“This is unregulated development with no affordable housing,” he said.

Meanwhile, SB 10, the measure that gives cities the option to re-zone single family lots for up to 10 units, makes even less sense to Carrig.

“It’s ridiculous to think a city would overrule its existing zoning,” said Carrig. “No city would do that without some kind of extreme pressure. It is completely disconnected from the local planning process being done by a city.”

Carrig worries that SB 10 is a precursor to leverage actions to force even more local rezoning. In his opinion, SB 10 could add to the pressure from state agencies to zone for housing, possibly even making cities responsible for housing production, even though cities themselves don’t actually build homes.

In closing, Carrig said he is concerned these bills could drive up the cost of real estate because properties will become even more attractive to developers, disrupting the ability of young families to buy homes and potentially destabilizing single family neighborhoods.

Next in the town hall presentations, Maria and Jeff Kalban, founders of United Neighbors, a coalition of neighborhoods around the state opposed to SB 9 and 10,  provided a graphic presentation of how the bills could change single family neighborhoods.

“These bills would end local control and do nothing to build affordable housing,” said Maria Kalban. “The legislation is the perfect tool for a developer who is already set up with financing by providing density by-right, no input from community.”

Kalban also focused on the environmental and infrastructure impact of the bills.

“80 precent of tree canopy in Los Angeles is in our back yards,” she said. And “construction is cited as the number one reason for losing tree canopies ,according to a UCLA Study. Without backyard trees and green space, cities get hotter. By removing permeable surfaces to catch and filter rain water, we waste rain when it does fall. These bills are an environmental disaster, with no environmental review, that would cause displacement and gentrification in low and moderate income neighborhoods.”

As an alternative to up-zoning single family neighborhoods, Jeff Kalban proposed looking at under-built commercial corridors as ideal location for housing.

“Low density commercial could be a great location for development,” said Kalban, an architect. “They can generate tax revenue, which can fund more affordable housing and help support schools.”

And Lynetta McElroy of Leimert Park responded to the claim that single family neighborhoods are the result of racist policies. On the contrary, McElroy said, home ownership is the primary vehicle for families of all ethnicities to build wealth, a view supported by housing experts. McElroy also appeared in short video, explaining how she opposes the legislation that would result in the massive transfer of wealth from homeowners to corporate owners.

“I’m not selling, I’m staying here,” declared McElroy in the video.

At the town hall, McElroy explained that she got involved in the effort to stop these bills because, “South LA is ground zero; this is where developers come and destroy our homes. These are the seats of black culture,” said McElroy. “When these homes are gone, we are gone.  Please continue this fight.  Retain the character of these communities.”

Cynthia Montanez, a former state legislator now serving as a city council member in the city of San Feranando, and also the CEO of Tree People, said “big money interests are determined to destroy single family neighborhoods across the state and they are not even addressing the lack of affordability.”

“We will lose all say over the zoning,” said Montanez, “Our communities will never be the same. Cities like San Fernando, where the population is 93% Latino, is one of the few places where communities of color have been able to live [and] will be destroyed.”

To illustrate that point, Montanez shared the story of how her parents bought their home and later used the equity they’d built to send their kids to college.

“Legislators have lost touch with working families,” said Montanez. “They spew this rhetoric that we need to build more affordable homes, yet their policies have made it nearly impossible for people to be able to afford the homes in the neighborhood  that we live in.”

“Working class people can’t afford to develop these properties,” she explained. So gentrification will happen and “they do nothing to protect homeownership or build affordable housing. Low income neighborhoods will be hurt first because land is cheaper.”

Legislative observers say this week is the time to contact your local Assemblymember, because they are back in session and September 10 is  last day for bills to be passed out of committee. October 19 is last day for bills to signed or vetoed by the governor during the current legislative session.

Finally, the LA City Council is schedule to take up the matter tomorrow, with a vote on a motion by CD5 Council Member Paul Koretz to formally oppose the two bills.  And unlike previous years when such state-level bills densification bills were considered and rejected by the Council, the vote this time around is unlikely to be unanimous.  For example, as we have previously reported, CD4 Councilmember Nithya Raman is on record opposing SB9 (because it does not require any affordable housing)…but she supports SB10 (because its provisions are optional, not required, for cities).


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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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