Controversial SB 10 Narrowly Passes State Assembly

By Lynn Hackman
Lynn Hackman
Lynn Hackman
Lynn is a reporter for the Southern California edition of The Epoch Times, based in Orange County. She has enjoyed a 25-year career as a senior-level strategic public relations and contingency planning executive. An editor, blogger, and columnist, Lynn also has experience as a television and radio show producer and host. For six years, she was co-host of Sunday Brunch with Tom and Lynn on KOCI 101.5 FM. She is also active in the Newport Beach community, serving as chair emeritus of the Newport Beach City Arts Commission, among various positions with other local organizations.
August 24, 2021 Updated: August 24, 2021

IRVINE, Calif.—Senate Bill 10 (SB 10), introduced by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), narrowly passed the state Assembly on Monday by a vote of 41-9, with only 41 votes necessary to send the bill to the state Senate for final approval before being sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom for consideration.

Seven of nine Democrat representatives voted against the bill including Richard Bloom, Tasha Boerner Horva, Jim Frazier, Al Muratsuchi, Patrick O’Donnell, Adrin Nazarian, Cottie Petrie-Norris, and Mark Stone, with Republicans Kelly Seyarto and Randy Voepel also voting against.

As reported in The Epoch Times on Aug. 18, SB 10 would allow city councils to adopt an ordinance to zone any parcel of land for up to 10 units of housing if it is in a transit-rich or jobs-rich area or is an urban infill site.

The bill allows jurisdictions to arbitrarily override citizen-approved local zoning ballot initiatives, Environmental Quality Act laws, and city general plans that protect communities from overreaching land development.

California’s Constitution protects voter rights to choose to protect private land areas such as shorelines, canyons, open space, urban boundary lines, historic districts, and single-family neighborhoods from unwanted or inappropriate development projects.

SB 10 would undermine the Constitution by allowing for high-density development throughout California in areas located near mass transportation or in job-rich areas.

None of the development allowed via SB 10 would be required to be low-income housing and shouldn’t be confused with existing mandates such as the Housing Accountability Act or the housing elements included in the Regional Housing Needs Assessment.

Weiner has defended the bill, which is sponsored by California YIMBY (Yes in My Back Yard), as one of the strategies necessary to address the state’s housing shortage, referring to the increased development as “light-touch density.”

“Making it easier and faster for cities to zone for mulit-unit housing is a critical piece of the puzzle,” Wiener said in a statement released after the bill passed.

“This voluntary tool will help local governments throughout California fundamentally reshape their zoning in infill areas, and help our state climb out of the housing crisis we face. Today is a step in the right direction, and we must continue to build on this victory to end California’s housing crisis.”

Epoch Times Photo
A view of Irvine, Calif., on May 6, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Supporters of SB 10 have argued that the bill will lead the way to providing more affordable housing, as well as reducing environmental impacts and climate pollution.

Opponents say the bill infringes on the rights communities have to build according to their general plans, takes away public input and also reduces the inventory of available single-family homes.

“These decisions should be left up to local municipalities, local general plans should prevail in my opinion” Garrett Calacci, president of Waterpointe Custom Home Builders in Orange County, told The Epoch Times.

“Local municipalities know what’s best for their city; cities have zoning for a reason,” Calacci said. “Legislation like this bill takes away local cities’ authority to plan their city according to what they feel is best for their residents and allow the residents to weigh in on what they feel is best for their communities.

“If the goal is more housing, and I get it, the state needs more housing, but there are other ways to go about it than completely scrapping local level plans.

“Encouraging developers to build more by streamlining the process, reduce fees, give other incentives.

“Allow the cities to zone appropriately rather than have a blanket law. That is not a good way to design communities.”

Calacci pointed out that the unintended consequences of laws like SB 10 could result in reducing the supply of single-family residences for middle-class buyers when developers can buy an R1 lot and maximize its value by building high-density developments.

“It’s going to price out the middle-class family because it will incentivize a developer to go in and outspend the guy just trying to buy a house he can afford for his family,” Calacci said.

“Let’s say the guy can spend $400,000 on a house, a developer can come in and pay twice that amount. It takes single-family homes out of the inventory for middle-class homeowners, and then forces them to pay the same amount for a little condo or apartment on the same land.”

Like SB 9, Wiener’s other bill currently being considered, SB 10 does not include any provision for jurisdictions impacted by the increase in density, requiring additional sewers, water, road improvements, schools, or parks as a result of higher density development.

Should both SB 9 and SB 10 pass, cities will be forced to pay for any infrastructure demands that arise from the resulting increase in population on their own dime.

SB 9 would allow for duplexes and lot splits in single-family residential zones to be allowed by-right, meaning without case-by-case approvals.

Legislators killed another of Wiener’s bills, SB 50, in January 2020 that had a similar concept to allow 10-unit market-rate apartments just about anywhere in the state.

Lynn Hackman
Lynn Hackman
Lynn is a reporter for the Southern California edition of The Epoch Times, based in Orange County. She has enjoyed a 25-year career as a senior-level strategic public relations and contingency planning executive. An editor, blogger, and columnist, Lynn also has experience as a television and radio show producer and host. For six years, she was co-host of Sunday Brunch with Tom and Lynn on KOCI 101.5 FM. She is also active in the Newport Beach community, serving as chair emeritus of the Newport Beach City Arts Commission, among various positions with other local organizations.