The end of single-family neighborhoods in California is no longer a theoretical possibility, it is a reality.
Last year Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation (approved by our state legislators) that allows accessory dwelling units (ADUs) -- otherwise known as “granny flats” -- in single-family zoned neighborhoods, with no public notice or hearings. That legislation overrode local laws and City Council authority that provided review to protect neighborhoods from unreasonable intrusion and burdens. Speculators can purchase your neighbor’s house and add three additional dwellings (above the garage, in the garage and back yard, for example) without consideration of your privacy, parking or community impacts.
This year, a package of bills that will do far greater harm is rushing through Sacramento under cover of COVID-19. These bills are intended to increase housing density almost everywhere, eliminating public input, overriding local development standards, negating environmental protections, and even reducing or eliminating on site parking requirements for new buildings.
These bills also will give market rate and luxury housing developers power to override local zoning and land use requirements.
One bill, SB 1120, would allow speculators to split single-family lots in half and build as many as four new homes on each half. Where there was one home, with ADUs, there could be eight.
Many of the bills remove infrastructure fees and mitigations that cities rely on for impacts and city services, with no affordability requirements in exchange, doing virtually nothing to increase the supply of that desperately-needed affordable housing.
Another bill, SB 902, authorizes a simple majority of City Council members to overturn local voter-approved initiatives to zone for up to 10 units on protected land.
California has a growing shortage of affordable housing. In 2011, the state discontinued local redevelopment agencies, which were the funding sources for 80% of affordable housing. Instead of restoring that funding, legislators have shifted blame to cities and even families who live in single-family homes, offered developer incentives, and used density bonuses.
Market forces make building affordable housing unlikely without subsidies. The results are developer giveaways and more market-rate housing than needed, while the affordability gap grows.
These bills are being passed during an uncertain time; increased unemployment and economic uncertainty due to COVID-19 has already led to a shift in the housing market.
With remote-work options, people are fleeing high rents and high-density areas -- exactly the kinds of communities these bills will create. With virus concerns they prefer less crowded, more affordable cities and states -- with backyards.
What can you do?
* Tell State Legislators to recognize the uncertainty of our post pandemic future and oppose the Nine Bad Bills: SB 902; SB 1120; SB 1385; SB 995; SB 1085; AB 725; SB 1120; AB 2345; and AB 3040.
Senator Steve Glazer has historically been a strong supporter of local control. Email and ask him why he voted yes on the critical housing bills. His Orinda office phone is (925) 258-1176.
Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan will vote soon. Email and ask her to support local control and vote no on these bills. Her San Ramon office phone is (925) 328-1515.
* Email your city or town councilmembers to oppose the Nine Bad Bills.
Contact the Governor’s Office and ask him to veto the bills when they make it to his desk.
Learn and stay informed join Livable California, a non-profit dedicated to smart, sane, and affordable housing in the state.