Letter: SB 10 vs. Measure J

by Georgina Valencia

I am always looking for the latest news on the various housing bills that have graced the California landscape this past handful of years. One good source is the journal California Planning and Development Report.

In said journal I read about Builder’s Remedy and was fascinated to later learn that one of our own developers here is Davis used the legal remedy to advance his project.

This past week I have come across another legal decision in this same journal that might set the stage for the possible set aside of Measure J. The legal discussion is regarding SB 10.

What was SB 10 intended to do? It was intended to allow local government the ability to allow 10 units on a single parcel of land without environmental review (i.e. CEQA). While the law is not a mandatory law, a local government can implement the law through ordinance and utilize the legal framework to facilitate the construction of housing.

What I find of greater interest is that the bill seems to open the door for local officials, such as a city council, to override density caps adopted by voters such as a Measure J.

Here I quote from Justice Hoffstadt and the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruling: “We so conclude,” wrote Justice Brian Hoffstadt, “because the housing shortage is a matter of statewide concern, because Senate Bill 10 conflicts with (and hence preempts) local initiatives that make housing density caps mandatory, and because Senate Bill 10’s more narrowly tailored mechanism of cloaking counties and cities in the mantle of state preemptive authority so that they may decide whether to supersede a local density cap on a parcel-by-parcel basis—rather than effecting a wholesale invalidation of all local density caps in every county and city—is not constitutionally problematic.”

I am not going to analyze this statement or the findings. I leave that to the audience.

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4 Comments

  1. Jim Frame

    Measure J doesn’t deal with density caps; in fact, the only form of the word “density” appears in the exemption section of the ordinance, citing the RHNA obligation for multifamily housing as criterion for exception.

  2. Matt Williams

    In addition to Jim’s comments, the challeng I see with Georgina’s observations/implications is that none of the ag parcels that are subject to Measure J are small enough to be anything close to 10 units.

  3. Tim Keller

    I think Jim and Matt are correct, but there is another potential way that this interferes’ with J:

    Lets say we approve one of the peripheral properties as proposed by the developers with the attendant very low density plans.

    Does this mean that the city or a developer could then, after approval over-ride the chosen density of the project and build something entirely differently?

    Now… Im a fan of density in general, but for the density to be a “good” thing it needs to be coupled with TRANSIT PLANNING… which would NOT be on the table in this scenario.     Density without transit is not something that will work well on our periphery.

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