LA to Develop Guidelines on Building Multiple Units on Single-Family Lots

By Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
February 8, 2022Updated: February 9, 2022

Los Angeles will draft standards to guide the implementation of the statewide Senate bill that allows up to four housing units to be built on a single-family-zoned lot.

Senate Bill 9 (SB 9) was introduced last year as a possible solution to alleviate California’s housing crisis, and was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in September.

Though the city council previously opposed SB 9 in an August ordinance, on Feb. 8 the council unanimously approved the motion to instruct the LA Department of Building and Safety to issue guidelines for city departments until the city adopts a formal ordinance on the zoning laws.

The motion also instructed the Department of City Planning to develop limits on total dwelling units, as well as standards on lot design and parking. The department will report back to the city council with a list of exempted zones, which will include zones with high fire risk, protected species, substandard roads, and other sensitive areas.

Councilman Paul Koretz, who introduced the motion along with Councilman Bob Blumenfeld, emphasized the importance of “clear rules” for the “complicated process” of land development in the city.

“In adopting SB 9, the state of California has decided to make land development—which is one of the most complicated processes local jurisdictions undertake—ministerial,” Koretz said. “Clear rules are needed so constituents know what to expect. … It’s critical, because it’s really the wild, wild west until we implement these guidelines.”

In August, the city council signed a resolution opposing the Senate bill and the state’s interference in local land development.

“Sacramento has lost its credibility in LA with land use,” Council President Nury Martinez said in an August statement. “If they want to provide tools to continue to build, then talk to us about doing it, before they introduce bills to destroy our neighborhoods.”

Koretz, who also authored the resolution, said the bills don’t include affordable housing requirements and would drive up the cost of real estate.

“These bills … have been cleverly marketed as helping build affordable housing and protect the environment but they do the opposite,” Koretz said in an August statement. “In fact, these bills do nothing to help solve homelessness, nothing to build workforce housing or address any of the real shortages of affordable housing and would make developers and investors richer in the process. If they pass the California Assembly and are signed by the governor, they will drive up the cost of real estate by de facto up-zoning most properties and decimating environmental review.”

Councilman Gil Cedillo was the only councilmember who voted to oppose the August resolution, saying the bill gives the council an opportunity to address land-use issues in the city.

“We must now act and act affirmatively and build our toolbox so that we can take the actions necessary to build housing,” Cedillo said during an Aug. 19 council meeting.

However, Koretz noted during the Feb. 8 meeting that the motion to develop guidelines is something supported by people on both sides of the SB 9 debate.

Cedillo agreed, speaking in support of the motion ahead of the Feb. 8 vote.

“The legislature acted because we failed to act,” Cedillo said. “The legislature acted because we are in a crisis in terms of not having adequate housing stock. … So this is an opportunity for us, with SB 9, to finally address some of the structural and deep-seated problems that exist—frankly, racist challenges that exist within our planning and housing development within the city of Los Angeles.”

Some Angelenos wrote in to the city council to support the adoption of the guidelines for the Senate bill.

“[The motion] strikes me as necessary fine-tuning to an overly wide-ranging bill,” resident Stephen Randall said in a written public comment. “This motion will both honor the spirit and intention of SB 9 but will prevent abuses that will adversely affect our neighborhoods.”

Resident K. Stetler wrote in expressing concern for the overdevelopment of areas in their neighborhood.

“I am very concerned that real estate developers will take advantage of SB 9 to continue to build primarily more and more expensive housing and will continue to overbuild in areas that are not safe for too much density due to [tight access roads and fire zones],” Stetler said.

Several neighborhood councils, including the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council, Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council, and the Northwest Valley Village Neighborhood Council, wrote in to express their support for the motion.

The LA Department of Building and Safety will issue interim guidance for departments within 90 days, and the Department of City Planning will report back in 120 days with the formal ordinance and new standards for zoning.

The Department of City Planning, along with Councilmen Paul Koretz and Gil Cedillo, didn’t respond to a request for comment by press deadline.