The two senate housing development reform bills approved by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 16 could lead to the “destruction of suburbia in California,” says former Mayor of Costa Mesa and developer Jim Righeimer.
Senate Bill 9 will allow single homeowners to divide their property into two lots and built on each of those lots. In addition, Senate Bill 10 will allow local agencies to build up to 10 dwelling units on any parcel if the parcel is within a transit-rich area or infilled land. Both bills were created to alleviate the housing shortage crisis in California and will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022.
“There is no longer [single-family housing] in California. All [single-family housing] lots in California now can have an additional two units put on the property in the backyard … That is, you live in your normal neighborhood and your next-door neighbor says ‘I want to put two more apartments in my back yard.’ They can do it, and the city can’t do anything about it,” Righeimer said in an interview with California Insider.
Righeimer said that these housing development plans and reforms will only add density to the single-family neighborhoods without solving any inherent problems. He said that rent may decrease in the short run by building more houses, but it will increase in the long term once units get filled.
He also thinks the law will add more value to single-family housing, which ultimately attracts more investors to buy these houses. He noted that billion-dollar corporations are more likely to invest in the area and build duplexes on single-family lots to rent them out. The average homebuyer would need to compete against corporations who want to make their investment in California. Ultimately, people become renters their whole life and single-family ownership will be wiped out, he said.
Righeimer emphasized that middle-class people who live in a single-family zone would be hurt the most because these areas are more likely to build more duplexes. As time goes on, more apartments will be emerging in California and cities will become denser.
“Middle-class people are going to be hurt more in the quality of life in their neighborhood than our people in wealthy areas that aren’t as likely to do it even though they can,” said Righeimer.
The state senators, who introduced these housing initiatives, believe the bills will immediately solve the housing shortage in California.
Senator Atkins (D-San Diego), who introduced SB 9, has been a longtime advocate for housing reforms.
“SB 9 is one piece of the puzzle. It is a modest production bill that would provide opportunity to more working families and create gentle density increase while respecting our neighborhoods.” Atkins posted on Twitter.
“SB 9 will help homeowners who opt to use it. It would open up a new income stream, allow them to help elderly parents looking for a place to live, and help them create wealth to pass on to their kids.
“With SB10, cities would be better able to build housing near job centers and public transit, meaning workers would have more opportunity to live near their jobs instead of commuting.”
To provide further clarification to California voters, Atkins created a website for SB9. The website is specifically made to debunk the myths of SB 9 and to alleviate concerns that Californians might have.
According to the website, SB 9 only allows homeowners to build a maximum of four units on a single-family parcel and was made to prevent institutional investors from buying single houses and split them for extra profit.
“This bill benefits homeowners, and homeowners alone. SB 9 contains an owner-occupancy requirement, which requires a homeowner to live in one of the units for three years from the time they get approval for a lot split. Additionally, this bill prohibits the development of small subdivisions and prohibits ministerial lot splits on adjacent parcels by the same individual to prevent investor speculation,” the website states.