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SB 9 Would Result in Major Rezoning of Single Family Residential Areas in California

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, 39th District Senator 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 do not exceed 6 units; or up to 8 units from a mix of houses, duplexes, and granny flats, unless the city does not 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 is a car share vehicle located within one block, then no on-street parking is required.

Epoch Times Photo
A neighborhood in Huntington Beach, Calif., on May. 5, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

While allowing for increased density, SB 9 does not require any of the units to be affordable and should not 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 point 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 release 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,” states the release.

“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 Scarbourgh told The Epoch Times.

Scarbourgh, who ran for the Newport Beach City Council in 2020, has been following the bill closely. She says that her involvement 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, 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 August 16 before being referred to the Assembly Floor on August 19, 2021.

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.

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