By David M. Greenwald
Sacramento, CA – SB 9 passed out of the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee on a 5-1 vote, with two abstaining on Wednesday despite strong opposition provided by Blanca Pacheco, the mayor pro tem of Downey and the president of Cal Cities’ Los Angeles County Division.
SB 9, authored by Senator Toni Actkins would, according to opposition, “require cities to ministerially approve, without condition, discretion, or public input, a housing development containing two residential units on an individual parcel in single-family neighborhoods.”
Additionally, “the measure would require local governments to ministerially approve an urban lot split, thus creating two independent lots that may be sold separately.”
More than 175 cities have submitted letters of opposition, or oppose unless amended, since the bill’s introduction.
During a passionate testimony, Pacheco stated, “Cal Cities and the city of Downey have persistently pursued solutions to the housing supply and affordability crisis that is gripping many regions of the state. Unfortunately, SB 9 will not spur the much-needed housing construction we need and certainly not in a manner that supports local flexibility, decision-making, and community input.”
The League of California Cities stated, “SB 9’s top-down, one-size-fits-all approach disregards existing, in-progress housing plans that will identify sites for more than two million new homes over the next eight years.”
However, proponents like Toni Atkins argue that California must fix its housing crisis with increased density and duplexes.
“Now is the time to move forward with a statewide solution that can help… alleviate the housing crisis and bolster affordable housing statewide,” Senator Atkins wrote in an April op-ed in the Sacramento Bee. “I introduced Senate Bill 9, the California Housing Opportunity & More Efficiency Act, at the beginning of this legislative session to meet that need.
“The bill would streamline the process for a homeowner to create a duplex or subdivide an existing lot up to four units in residential areas. It builds on the successful approach of Accessory Dwelling Units and incorporates the option of creating intergenerational wealth for families, thus providing opportunity and stabilizing neighborhoods.”
She argues: “It also includes safeguards, including placing a limit on individuals from receiving ministerial lot splits on adjacent parcels, thereby preventing investor speculation-fueled purchases.”
The senator explained: “Demand continues to increase. By 2025, our state will need an estimated 1.8 million new homes to meet the growing demand. Right now, we are only building about 80,000 new homes per year—not nearly enough to meet the needs of struggling California families.”
She added, “This severe lack of housing has had a deep impact on our state and all who live here, leading to overcrowding, long commutes and an undue disadvantage for lower-income families. It has also contributed to people falling into homelessness. Homeownership is not only the ticket to the middle class, but also a prerequisite to building wealth that gets passed on to future generations.”
“I grew up in substandard rentals, because my parents could never afford a home of their own—despite working themselves to the bone their whole lives. Too many share that story. By allowing for a variety of housing options, #SB9 would help CA families build new futures,” Senator Atkins tweeted this week.
“Too many Californians are priced out of our communities, often even the ones they grew up in. #SB9 would provide families rental options in their price range in otherwise unaffordable neighborhoods—providing access to schools, parks, and resources that should be open to everyone,” California YIMBY tweeted.
“We cannot continue to let the naysaying and the booming voices of the extreme NIMBYs drown out the pleas of mom-and-pop homeowners who want to become part of the solution and the families who just want a chance to attain the California dream,” they added.
However, the measure remains controversial.
“It is certain to disrupt cities like Downey trying to implement their state-certified housing plan,” Cal Cities said in a release on Wednesday. “Downey’s eight-year housing projection plan—which will commence in January 2022—has risen to 6,525 units, up from 1,457.”
Furthermore, they argue, “the measure mandates more housing in existing single-family zones without any evidence that it would result in more affordable housing.”
The League sees housing affordability and homelessness as “among the most critical issues facing California’s cities. Affordably priced homes are out of reach for many people and housing is not being built fast enough to meet the current or projected needs of people living in the state.”
Cal Cities worked with the author for several months on amendments “that would have addressed cities’ primary concerns, including limiting property owners to two additional residential units, clarifying the bill’s language to prevent abuse by large-scale investors and builders, and prohibiting the use of SB 9 in very high fire hazard severity zones.”
The bill now moves to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.
—David M. Greenwald reporting