A bill moving through the state legislature would make major changes to zoning requirements in local neighborhoods, allowing multiple residential units within single-family housing lots.
In December 2020, District 39 Sen. Toni Atkins introduced Senate Bill 9 (SB 9), which “declares that ensuring access to affordable housing is a matter of statewide concern and not a municipal affair,” according to the bill.
According to the nonprofit Livable California, if the bill passes, developers will have three zoning scenarios to choose from, depending on lot size, and none would require public review, input, or hearings. The organization calls it a “radical density experiment.”
Where one home stands now, developers could build either four smaller stand-alone houses or two duplexes; a mix of houses, duplexes, and granny flats that don’t exceed 6 units; or up to 8 units from a mix of houses, duplexes, and granny flats, unless the city doesn’t approve the plan.
Additionally, the bill calls for a minimum lot size of 1,200 square feet, unless a city adopts an ordinance allowing smaller lots. It also prohibits a city from requiring more than one on-street parking space per unit, and no onsite parking is required.
If the project is within a half-mile walking distance of a “high-quality transit corridor” or a major transit stop, or if there’s a car-share vehicle located within one block, then no on-street parking is required.
While allowing for increased density, SB 9 doesn’t require any of the units to be affordable and shouldn’t be confused with Regional Housing Needs Assessment laws.
SB 9 would also restrict cities from requiring development fees to cover the cost of increased demand for sewers, water, road improvements, schools, or parks.
Proponents of the bill say it would contribute to much-needed housing construction, saying the state needs an estimated 1.8 million new homes by 2025, according to a statement by Senate Democrats.
“Senate Bill 9 promotes neighborhood-scale residential development by streamlining the process for a homeowner to create a duplex or subdivide an existing lot in residential areas,” the statement reads.
“This bill builds on the successful approach of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and expands options for homeowners who wish to be part of the solution in solving California’s housing crisis.”
Opponents of the bill say that there will likely be numerous unintended consequences from SB 9, from increased demand on city infrastructure due to higher-density housing, to potentially higher homeownership costs in the long term.
“This is not good news for young families trying to become homeowners, or homeowners who bought in single-family communities, nor cities who will be burdened with the cost of infrastructure and necessary staff to accommodate the type of density SB 9 would create,” local activist Nancy Scarbrough told The Epoch Times.
Scarbrough, who ran for Newport Beach City Council in 2020, has been following the bill closely. She has been involved as an active member of various community groups, including the Good Neighbor Policy Advisory Committee, Newport Heights Improvement Association, Coalition to Protect Mariners Mile, and Still Protecting Our Newport, and she says this has helped her to understand the impact SB 9 would have on communities all over California.
“People all over California who specifically bought their homes in a single-family neighborhood with certain expectations for space, privacy, safety, and community, will be forced to deal with significant impacts to their lives if this bill passes,” said Scarbrough.
The proposed bill has already passed the State Senate, the Assembly Committee on Local Government, and the Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development. SB 9 will next be heard by the Assembly Committee on Appropriations on Aug. 16 before being referred to the Assembly Floor on Aug. 19, 2021.