Despite hyperbolic and misleading criticism from various NIMBY groups, California is one step closer to important new state-level land use and housing reform. Contrary to bald statements that these bills would “crush” single-family zoning or “end homeownership” in California, these are modest, incremental measures that preserve substantial local control and respect private property rights.
Senate Bill 9 (Atkins)—the California HOME (Housing Opportunity & More Efficiency) Act—promotes small-scale neighborhood residential development by streamlining the process for a homeowner to create a duplex or subdivide an existing lot without discretionary review. SB 9 requires that new housing created as a result of the bill must meet specific qualifications that ensure the protection of historic districts, environmental quality, and existing tenants vulnerable to displacement.
And Senate Bill 10 (Wiener)—Local Control for Increased Housing Density—allows (but does not require) local governments to create a streamlined path, without CEQA compliance, to rezone infill neighborhoods for up to ten units per parcel if they choose to do so. To be eligible, an area must be urban infill or transit rich.
Both of these bills have passed in the legislature and will head to the governor for potential signature. Whether the governor will sign these bills when he is facing a recall election on September 14 is unclear.