California Weighs Controversial Housing Development Bills

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Two controversial housing bills could soon head to Gov. Gavin Newsom and give cities an option to slightly “upzone” single-family lots in hopes of helping to alleviate California’s relentless housing and affordability crisis.

State lawmakers are set to vote this week on Senate Bill 10, which would allow a streamlined approval process for up to 10 units on single-family zones in “transit-rich” areas or on urban infill sites. Senate Bill 9 would allow homeowners to build a duplex or divide their property into two lots.

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“California’s severe housing shortage requires many strategies, and making it easier and faster for cities to zone for multi-unit housing is a critical piece of the puzzle,” state Sen. Scott Wiener, the author of the bill, said in a statement.

Last week, the Los Angeles City Council approved resolutions opposing both bills. Councilman Paul Koretz, who authored the resolutions, said the state bills reward luxury developers and investors by “removing local zoning and environmental control,” and they would “worsen the affordable housing crisis.” 

“[SB 9 and 10] … will drive up the cost of real estate by de facto upzoning most properties and decimating environmental review,” Koretz said in a statement.

A report from the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley this summer showed SB 9 would allow new development on just 5.4 percent of existing single-family lots, and that most single-family parcels would not see any new development, the L.A. Times reported. 

Supporters for the bills include the California Apartment Association, California Chamber of Commerce, Facebook, Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, and the cities of San Diego and Oakland. While California YIMBY endorsed the bills because of the state’s severe shortage of middle-income housing, the group pointed out it is illegal to build middle-income housing in more than 70 percent of the state.

“Even small projects with fewer than 10 homes are often mired in expensive, decades-long legal appeals and litigation,” California YIMBY explained. “Abuses of the legal process result in the delay or prevention of tens of thousands of homes per year.”

Gregory Cornfield can be reached at gcornfield@commercialobserver.com.