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Senate Bill 10 would allow local governments to override voter-approved restrictions on rezoning and upzone without going through a California Environmental Quality Act review. File photo
SB 9 and SB 10 would allow local governments to override voter-approved restrictions on rezoning and allow a total of eight market-rate units on parcels currently zoned for single-family housing. File photo
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Controversial bills could change the future of housing in California

REGION – Debates over two California State Senate housing bills have been heating up in recent weeks as the pending legislation could decide the future of housing and zoning laws in the State of California.

SB 9, by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), would allow up to four units and a total of eight market-rate units on lots that are currently zoned for single-family housing.

Developers would not be required to pay for any infrastructure improvements to those lots. If this bill passes, property owners could create a duplex or subdivide the property into two lots and build up to two units on each lot for a maximum of four units.

SB 10, authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would allow buildings with up to 10 market-rate units on lots that are currently zoned for single-family housing.

The legislation would also allow local governments to override voter-approved restrictions on rezoning and allow local governments to upzone without going through a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review.

A recent poll commissioned by Housing is a Human Right, the housing advocacy division of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, showed that more than 70% of California voters oppose both bills.

The poll results showed that half of these voters are concerned about the bills’ lack of affordable housing requirements.

Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner told The Coast News that these two bills fail to actually address the real housing shortage in California.

“What they say is that there’s a housing shortage, but we say there’s an affordable housing shortage because, in California, people simply can’t afford to live in certain areas or they’re spending a far higher percentage of their income on their housing so that they’re overburdened,” Heebner said.

“That’s the issue: their strange thought is that if you increase the supply of housing, it will eventually trickle down into becoming affordable, but we know a few things,” Heebner continues. “Number one, trickle-down theories don’t work. And number two, when will it become affordable in Solana Beach, Del Mar, Coronado, Newport Beach? Thirty years from now when they’re dilapidated? I think we can do better.”

Heebner also took issue with the fact that developers would not be required to pay for any infrastructure improvements to this influx of units.

“Neighborhoods will be disrupted,” Heebner said. “All the good planning that has gone into creating a general plan and kind of good zoning throughout all of our cities will just be thrown to the wind because these bills do not come with any infrastructure money for water, extra money for schools, extra money for stormwater cleanup.”

When it comes to both SB 9 and SB 10, Heebner said it will only benefit developers, not residents.

“If you upzone, if you increase the potential development on a lot, it is going to increase the cost of that lot. So the resulting units are all going to be more expensive, not less expensive,” Heebner said.

Critics have also pointed out that Atkins’ wife, Jennifer LeSar, founder and CEO of LeSar Development Consultants, stands to benefit significantly from this type of legislation.

According to the Los Angeles Times, LeSar’s clientele for her “two affordable housing and economic development firms has grown nearly fourfold since 2013,” and she is “now in a position to potentially garner even more business as Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders, including her spouse, propose increasingly bold responses to the state’s housing affordability crisis.”

Matthew Lewis, director of communications for California Yes in My Back Yard (YIMBY), told The Coast News that they support these two bills because it is a step in the right direction of addressing the housing shortage.

“Our overall policy agenda is to make it legal to build all of the different types of housing that Californians need in order to make it affordable,” Lewis said. “And by all the different types, I mean there’s many different kinds of homes. That includes things like duplexes and fourplexes, it includes small apartment buildings of up to 10 units like SB 10 would make. It also includes larger buildings that can start to integrate affordability requirements for lower-income tenants.

“We need a lot of all of the above because we’re so far behind in housing production based on population growth over the last three or four decades.”

When it comes to the bills’ lack of affordable housing requirements, Lewis said city leaders who are actually concerned about affordable housing must first pursue it within their own cities.

“Every city in the state of California, the city council and the mayor have the power right now to start putting a measure on the local ballot to raise bonds and property taxes that would fund the affordable housing I’m talking about. In fact, in most cities, that is one of the primary sources of affordable housing finance,” Lewis said.

“If [city leaders] are not aggressively pursuing affordable housing bonds in their city, I don’t believe them when they say they’re concerned about affordable housing because they know that is the only way to build affordable housing,” Lewis said. “They’re sort of like demanding something that they wouldn’t actually do themselves, and that says a lot to me about where their hearts really are on this question.”

California’s Legislature has until August 31 to advance and pass either or both bills.

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