By David M. Greenwald
Sacramento, CA – The recall now behind him, Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday wasted little time attempting to address perhaps his signature issue, addressing the housing crisis. Most notably and controversially he signed SB 9 – which eliminates single family zoning restrictions on duplex and four-plexes, but also SB 8 and SB 10.
In a statement from the Governor’s office they believe the legislation will “expand housing production in California, streamline housing permitting, and increase density to create more inclusive and vibrant neighborhoods across the state.”
They also hope that bills will “address the interrelated problems of climate change and housing affordability by promoting denser housing closer to major employment hubs – a critical element in limiting California’s greenhouse gas emissions.”
“The housing affordability crisis is undermining the California Dream for families across the state, and threatens our long-term growth and prosperity,” said Governor Newsom.
He added, “Making a meaningful impact on this crisis will take bold investments, strong collaboration across sectors and political courage from our leaders and communities to do the right thing and build housing for all. I thank Pro Tem Atkins and all the Legislature’s leaders on housing for their vision and partnership to keep California moving forward on this fundamental issue.”
SB 9 facilitates the process for homeowners to build a duplex or split their current residential lot, expanding housing options for people of all incomes that will create more opportunities for homeowners to add units on their existing properties. It includes provisions to prevent the displacement of existing renters and protect historic districts, fire-prone areas and environmental quality.
However, while many housing advocates have welcomed SB 9 as a way to increase density, the League of California cities had called on Governor Newsom “to veto this flawed legislation.”
“SB 9 empowers developers, usurps local democracy, silences community voices, and fails to guarantee affordable housing,” League of Cities Director Carolyn Coleman said in August. “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. “
However, the signature marks a big win for Senator Toni Atkins.
“I appreciate Governor Newsom’s continued commitment to solving one of the most vexing issues facing our state – increasing the amount of housing and widening access for more Californians,” said Senator Atkins.
She added, “SB 9 will open up opportunities for homeowners to help ease our state’s housing shortage, while still protecting tenants from displacement. And it will help our communities welcome new families to the neighborhood and enable more folks to set foot on the path to buying their first home. I’m grateful for the Governor’s partnership, and our shared determination to turn the corner on California’s housing crisis.”
Atkins issued a statement on her own as well, “For too many Californians, the idea of owning a home, renting a house big enough for their family, or even just being able to live in the community where they work is a far-off dream. This law will help close the gap and make those dreams a reality. The years-long housing crisis has had a deep impact on our state, and has contributed to overcrowding, long commutes, and undue disadvantage for lower-income families.”
SB 10 by Senator Scott Wiener meanwhile creates a streamlined zoning process for new multi-unit housing near transit or in urban infill areas, whith up to 10 units per parcel.
The legislation simplifies the CEQA requirements for upzoning, giving local leaders another tool to voluntarily increase density and provide affordable rental opportunities to more Californians.
“California’s severe housing shortage is badly damaging our state, and we need many approaches to tackle it,” said Senator Wiener. “SB 10 provides one important approach: making it dramatically easier and faster for cities to zone for more housing. It shouldn’t take five or 10 years for cities to re-zone, and SB 10 gives cities a powerful new tool to get the job done quickly. I want to thank the Governor for signing this essential bill and for continuing to lead on housing.”
Also signed was SB 8 authored by Senator Nancy Skinner, extending the provisions of the Housing Crisis Act of 2019 through 2030.
Supporters say the measure “accelerates the approval process for housing projects, curtails local governments’ ability to downzone and limits fee increases on housing applications, among other key accountability provisions.”
“California needs more housing, and we need it now,” said Senator Skinner. “Thank you, Governor Newsom, for signing these bills that will enable homeowners and our communities to add much-needed and affordable housing efficiently and without delay. Housing close to jobs, schools and services helps our housing shortage, and is essential to meeting California’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.”
“Since taking office, the Governor has signed major legislation to boost housing production and remove barriers to construction of accessory dwelling units, and signed 16 CEQA reform bills to streamline state laws to maximize housing production,” a release noted.
“The 2019-20 State Budget made a historic $1.75 billion investment in new housing and created major incentives for cities to approve new home construction. In the first weeks of his administration, Governor Newsom signed an executive order that created an inventory of all excess state land and the Administration has launched partnerships with California cities to develop affordable housing on that land.”