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Guest editorial: Say Goodbye To Your Single Family Neighborhoods

The California state legislature is poised to pass two bills that will destroy neighborhoods and forever alter the concept of single-family communities. The legislative body is not setting out to ruin neighborhoods specifically, but that’s exactly what SB9 and SB10 will do. The bills have already been passed by the state senate and await approval by the assembly.

Positioned as a way to solve the “housing crisis,” the bills will override local land use plans and zoning designations to pave the way for split lots and multifamily dwellings to replace single family homes, with little oversight and no public input. Neither bill, however, stipulates affordable housing, referring to the resulting new units as market rate.

SB9 and SB10 were written by state senators Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) respectively. Both say they want to see an end to single family home ownership in California. Weiner has publicly stated that “single family homes and yards are immoral.”

SB9 rezones, by state statute, virtually all parcels within single family residential zones. It preempts local zoning, prohibits public hearings and discretionary decisions on split lot housing, and exempts those developments from environmental review. Residential lots may be split to accommodate two units on each half. Previous legislation already removed local control from accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and junior ADUs built on residential lots. That means a single-family property could be modified with an ADU, JADU and then be subdivided to host four more units. That puts eight units on a parcel intended by local land use plans to hold just one.

Applications to split lots must be approved “ministerially.” There is no consideration for community values, i.e., heritage trees, views, bike paths, open space. With only four-foot setbacks required and split lots as small as 1,200 square feet, units can be crammed together with no greenspace. Developers are not required to contribute to infrastructure or provide parking. Cities that normally collect fees from developers for road improvements, parks, and schools, will have to make up the difference themselves.

Orange County state senators Bob Archuleta (SD-32), Tom Umberg (SD-34) and Dave Min (SD-37) voted yes on SB9. Pat Bates (SD-36) voted no, and Josh Newman (SD-29) did not have a vote recorded.

SB9 does exempt historic districts, hazardous waste sites, high fire zones or land designated for conservation.

Enter SB10. That bill gives city councils and county supervisors the ability to ministerially rezone properties in loosely defined “urban infill” or “transit rich” areas for 10-unit buildings. “Urban infill” in California means virtually any lot containing housing or businesses, or any vacant lot. “Transit rich” means there is a bus line 1/2 mile away. SB 10 will allow 10-unit “market-rate” apartment buildings plus granny flats on most blocks in most communities, including in business districts and single-family neighborhoods.

The only exemption is areas deemed to be high fire zones by the state. The bill does not reconcile the impacts on infrastructure or require parking. It invalidates CR&R restrictions and, most egregious, it allows local governing bodies to overturn zoning restrictions enacted by voter initiative.

Attorney Robert Perlmutter, who has represented Orange County citizens on land use issues, wrote a letter to Senator Atkins legal counsel regarding SB10. “As the California Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed,” he wrote,” the initiative power is not a right granted to the people. Rather it is a power reserved by them in their constitution. A fundamental aspect of the initiative power at the local level is that it gives the voters the final legislative word. SB10 would turn this principle on its head by giving local legislative bodies the final legislative word over the voters.”

In his view, Perlmutter added, “the legislature does not have the constitutional power to allow city council or boards of supervisors to overturn the will of the voters in this manner.”

Evidently attorneys Min and Umberg are unaware of this constitutional inconvenience, as both voted yes on SB10. Archuleta also voted yes. Pat Bates gets it and voted no. Attorney Newman may also understand the fine points and did not record a vote.

Developers and investors are salivating. Homeowners who may see this legislation as an opportunity to cash in on their residential investment might be disappointed. Homeowners must pay off their mortgages when they split their lots and the new parcels will be reassessed at the resulting higher value. Homeowners may not want to take on a higher property tax burden, but developers will. And why not. Backed by a stable of investors, they can outbid families looking for a home to live in, and replace the single residence with four, six, eight or 10 units with no pesky local ordinances to work around, no fees to pay, no environmental impact reports to produce, and no public hearings to endure.

AB10 could be voted on by the assembly as soon. Sharon Quirk-Silva (AD-65) voted yes in committee. Orange County assembly delegates Phillip Chen (AD-55), Steven Choi (AD-68), Tom Daly (AD-69), Janet Nguyen (AD-72), Laurie Davis (AD-73) and Cottie Petrie-Norris (AD-74) have yet to be heard.

I would like to thank Tina Richards editor of the Foothills Sentry newspaper for supplying the research in her opinion to the editor article. Tina closely follows land use issues and the impacts they have on Orange County communities.

SB 10 will be voted on in the Assembly and we have a one-month summer recess to fight both SB 9 and SB 10 before legislators return on August 16! Call Today to stop SB 10. Here is the website to fight back. https://www.livablecalifornia.org/please-oppose-sb-10/

Sacramento “trickle-down” housing proponents are trying to revive the divisive pre-COVID legislation SB 50 through a group of bad bills, the worst of which are SB 9 and SB 10.

They both passed in the senate. Without your intervention, meaning you contacting your assembly member, many of the bad bills may become law this summer.

We are the key to stopping these bills, written by legislators who believe that high-priced dense housing will “trickle-down” to those who cannot afford it. Here is a summary of both bills.

SB 9 (Let us End Homeownership, by Toni Atkins and Scott Wiener) Crushes single-family zoning in California, a threat to 7 million homeowners at all income levels. Wiener has called yards and single-family homes “immoral.” SB 9 allows 4 market-rate homes where 1 home now stands (or up to 6 units, if developers use an obscure “two-step” that is allowed by this bill). SB 9 requires NO affordable units. It clearly opens all single-family streets to the unchecked, greedy, and disruptive investor speculation pouring into the single-family-home market today. SB 9 is the beginning of the end of homeownership in California. It is the worst and most divisive bill of 2021. It’s lookalike bill in 2020, SB 1120, was the worst and most divisive bill of 2020.

SB 10 (14-Unit Buildings Everywhere, by Scott Wiener) Allows any city council to overturn voter-approved ballot measures that protect shorelines, farms, and other lands — killing a 108-year-old California voter right. Equally horrifying, SB 10 allows any city council to rezone almost any parcel to allow 10-unit luxury apartments, plus 2 ADUs and 2 JADUs (granny flats), overriding all zoning including single-family and commercial. It invites the demolition and gentrification of older, diverse, multi-family and single-family areas. SB 10 requires NO affordable units. Like SB 9, its ugly cousin, SB 10 opens neighborhoods to unchecked speculation.

Send letters opposing SB 9 and SB 10 to the Legislative Portal at: https://calegislation.lc.ca.gov/Advocates/faces/index.xhtml You need two letters: one against SB 9, one against SB 10. PDF or Word.

Letters from groups, even block clubs, have great impact: Create a name for yourselves that fits you. Craft a letter: Put your group name or logo, and address, at the top. You must sign the bottom.

How to Use the State Portal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2iKYZzRCUY

These decisions made in Sacramento will affect all of our lives and that of our families and future children. I ask everyone to learn about what is happening in California and if it affects you negatively ask them to stop with this horrible legislation.

The City of Stanton has taken a position against both SB 9 and SB10.

This guest editorial was written by David John Shawver, Mayor of the City of Stanton.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks Mayor Shawver for the effort to put this research together.

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