Gov. Gavin Newsom Thursday signed into law two housing bills allowing denser housing on single-family lots, which proponents say will help alleviate the housing crisis in California but which opponents worry will change the character of single-family neighborhoods and increase gentrification at the benefit of real estate interests.
After signing into law Senate bills 9 and 10, Newsom said, “The housing affordability crisis is undermining the California Dream for families across the state, and threatens our long-term growth and prosperity.”
“Making a meaningful impact on this crisis will take bold investments, strong collaboration across sectors and political courage from our leaders and communities to do the right thing and build housing for all,” he added.
Senate Bill 9, introduced by Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, will allow lots zoned for single-family housing to have up to four units.
“SB 9 will open up opportunities for homeowners to help ease our state’s housing shortage, while still protecting tenants from displacement. And it will help our communities welcome new families to the neighborhood and enable more folks to set foot on the path to buying their first home. I’m grateful for the governor’s partnership, and our shared determination to turn the corner on California’s housing crisis,” said Atkins.
The White House came out in support of Atkins’ bill on Sept. 1, saying efforts to change zoning regulations to allow more housing “are consistent with the administration’s stance on the need for zoning reform.”
Senate Bill 10, introduced by Wiener, will allow local governments to approve multi-family buildings with up to 10 market-rate units, along with potentially four “granny flats,” on lots zoned only for single-family homes.
On Friday, 27 cities in the San Gabriel Valley signed a letter urging Newsom to veto the bills, and the Los Angeles City Council on Aug. 18 passed resolutions in opposition of the bills.
“SB9 and 10 are the third annual attempt by San Francisco Sen. Scott Weiner to destroy local control over multi-family and single-family zoning in the state of California. This council has unanimously voted to oppose essentially the same bills twice before and we should do it again,” Councilman Paul Koretz said.
Councilman Mike Bonin, who voted in support of the resolutions to oppose the legislation, said that while he sees the problems, including systemic racism, involved in single-family zoning, he looked to which groups oppose and support the bills.
“I look at who’s behind (the bills) and who’s opposed to them and when I see the affordable housing organizations here in Los Angeles saying this doesn’t do it for us, that concerns me,” Bonin said.
Housing Is A Human Right, a division of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, came out in opposition to the bills and conducted a statewide poll that found 63% of Californians oppose SB9 and 67% oppose SB10.
“We know that (the bills) will cause developers to target our low- income Black and brown communities … there is no requirement for affordable housing or homeless housing, and given that we have 161,000 people who are homeless in the state of California, over 60,000 in the county and over 40,000 in the city, it is absolutely unconscionable to have a housing production bill that would not provide for our homeless community or for people who desperately need affordable housing,” Susie Shannon, policy director for Housing Is A Human Right, said in a call to Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
Councilman Paul Krekorian called the bills “trickle-down housing policy” and said it was a myth that building dense market-rate housing will bend the economic curve and benefit poor people by increasing the supply of housing.
“It was an absurd notion when Ronald Reagan proposed it. It is an absurd notion now,” Krekorian said. He advocated for proposing a bill that will offer different solutions to the housing crisis.
While some housing advocates opposed the bill for not including requirements for affordable housing, others, like the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley, support the measure for its potential to increase the number of homes in California. The Terner Center’s analysis of the bill found that it could create 714,000 new units statewide, including 127,000 in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Councilman Gil Cedillo voted against the City Council’s resolutions to oppose the bills, saying the Senate bills included opportunities for the city to address concerns.
“We must now act and act affirmatively and build our toolbox so that we can take the actions necessary to build housing,” Cedillo said. “At the end of the day, the prospect of not disturbing or disrupting these communities, not challenging these communities who want to maintain the apartheid that exists in the city is simply an argument for the status quo.”
Councilwoman Nithya Raman voted against the resolution that opposed Senate Bill 10.
“If we’re going to tell Sacramento to stay out of our way when it comes to housing policies, then we in Los Angeles have to be willing to do the work ourselves and all of the data that we have right now points to the fact that we haven’t been doing it,” Raman said.
She noted that the Los Angeles Department of City Planning told council members Tuesday that 71% of the residentially zoned land in Los Angeles is for single-family homes only, and any new multi-family construction has to be limited to 29% of the city.