We’re all busy. I get that.
Heck, I was in a zombie haze the first 10 years of my daughter’s life. The next 10 were only a little less zombie-like. LA is busy and we’re all crazed with commitments pulling us in a thousand different directions.
Unfortunately, life continues on with or without us paying attention.
Fortunately, I’ve got your back on the topic of the crazy new housing legislation the governor signed into law last week.
Where Did Single Family Zoning Go?
SB9 & SB10 are at least five years in the making and have been pushed almost exclusively by one senator from San Francisco named Scott Weiner (transplanted from NJ), along with a lot of support from a powerful senator in San Diego named Toni Atkins (who happens to be be married to a developer).
These bills allow high density building on single family lots and are widely considered to be the “end of single family zoning” in California, although many would argue that the ADU laws a couple of years ago already did that.
With these bills, you can keep your single family home on your lot, but you can’t expect your neighbor to do the same.
Both bills were passed by the legislature in August and signed into law by our governor, fresh off his big recall victory
These bills Will End The Housing Crisis, Right?
Versions of these bills from preceding years always required affordable housing units.
Inexplicably, this year was the exception.
The bills don’t require affordable units and they don’t require the units even be sold. You tell me whether more market rate luxury units are going to fix our housing crisis.
What Is In These Bills?
SB9 allows a ministerial lot split and has been referred to by proponents as a harmless “duplex” law. What they ignore is that ADU laws passed at the state level a couple of years ago already allow owners to put one primary unit, one Junior ADU and one regular ADU on each lot.
Three units on each split lot is NOT a duplex law.
No parking is required and no infrastructure contributions are required by the builder. No HOA or historical districts can prevent this law. No city or community pushback is allowed and good-bye to covenants like those that protect Candy Cane Lane.
Literally, a “ministerial” application means that the applicant shows up at the city desk and gets the permit without any additional discussion.
One of uglier aspects of these laws is that under the guise that it is somehow exclusionary and racist to own a single family home, proponents of these bills are now putting a target on the home owners in low income communities and communities of color, which are already being described in the media as “high opportunity zones.”
In fact, I recently presented on this topic in front of a community group and an audience member who is a real estate agent commented that his clients are already looking for property to develop and are specifically interested in “lower priced communities.”
We’re all “lower priced” to somebody, but can you imagine what is going to happen to our most vulnerable, lower priced areas??
I also want to mention that this eradication of single family zoning has already been tried in at least two urban communities and it was a spectacular disaster.
One size simply does not “fit all” when it comes to urban planning. And many days I’m not even sure Northern CA and Southern CA should be the same state. What does transplant Scott Weiner even know about our end of the state? And Toni Atkins is in San Diego, a city that is downright provincial and totally removed from everything.
In case I haven’t painted a dire enough picture, let me add that SB10 is worse than SB9. SB10 allows 10 units on a SINGLE FAMILY LOT in “transit-rich areas” and urban infill projects. Most of urban LA, including our community, will likely fall within transit rich areas.
And did I mention that the definition for “transit rich” is slippery? In fact, I believe it can be defined by transitory bus routes.
ADU laws can probably also be applied to SB10 because these are single family lot developments. To accommodate 11 units, development will have to be vertical. I call these projects “middle fingers to the neighborhood.” NO AFFORDABLE UNITS. Thankfully, high fire zones are excluded, which is not the case with SB9.
We Just Got Hammered
I cannot overemphasize how devastatingly disruptive these bills can be. And for what? Not for affordable housing. No, we just got screwed so developers can build more luxury rate units cheaper and pocket the difference.
Proponents of these bills used their huge developer-backed budgets to scream about racist single-family zoning and fixing our housing crisis, yet these bills do nothing but exacerbate the affordability of housing and will decimate communities of color.
It bears noting that the City of LA and hundreds of other cities passed resolutions opposing these bills. Sacramento, drunk on its own power, didn’t even blink.
Is It Still Possible To Stop This Impending Disaster?
Sadly, these laws are now on the books. Developers can start buying up properties and start development as of January 1st. Projects started can’t be undone.
But there is one ray of hope.
A group led by Bill Brand, Mayor of Redondo Beach, called “Californians for Community Planning” filed paperwork in August for the next ballot in November 2022.
This group wants an amendment to our state constitution to require that planning and land use be local.
Think about it.
No matter what your views are on the politics of housing, each local community should be making its own choices and within a context where we can vote out people we don’t agree with.
The petition was filed on August 25th and is currently under a 30-day public commenting period. After the commenting period closes, the Attorney General has approximately six weeks to issue a title and summary. After that, a fiscal analysis will be conducted.
Once signature gathering commences, 1 million signatures are required within 180 days. If enough are gathered, the measure will be on the ballot.
With 7.5 million single family home owners in California facing a big hit to their property values and lifestyle, I hope we can get at least a million signatures.
This is truly a grassroots effort and it will be up against huge developer money. Please help me get the word out about the initiative and please join me in making a modest donation to support the effort. Think of it as a down payment on keeping your home value.
Tracy is active in a number of local community organizations including the Neighborhood Council PLUC, Kentwood Home Guardians and Emerson Ave Community Garden Club. The views expressed in this post are Tracy’s alone, and should not be construed in any way as an opinion of any of these groups.