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California Senate Bill 9 – What SB 9 housing law means for single-family zoning?

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Gov. Gavin Newsom signed California Senate Bill 9 (SB 9) into law that effectively put an end to traditional single-family zoning restrictions in most neighborhoods statewide. What does California Senate Bill 9 (SB 9) housing law mean for single-family zoning in your neighborhoods?

Senate Bills 9, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2022, will make it easier for Californians to build more than one housing unit on properties that for decades have been reserved exclusively for single-family homes and will allow cities greater flexibility to place small apartment complexes in neighborhoods near public transit.

Although the law represents new approaches toward alleviating the state’s housing crisis, experts say it is not likely to produce the number of units needed to fully resolve the issue.

Here are answers to some questions regarding SB 9.

What are the caveats?
If someone chooses to split their property into two lots, each new lot must be at least 1,200 square feet in size, according to the new state law.

A proposed project or property split cannot result in the demolition or alteration of affordable or rent-controlled housing or market-rate housing that has been occupied by a tenant in the past three years. Properties listed as historic landmarks or those located within a historic district are off-limits for new development under this law.

Any unit created as a result of this law cannot be used for short-term rentals. They must be rented for a term longer than 30 days, according to the law.

Who can do this?
Homeowners or landlords can apply to upzone their properties through their local jurisdiction but only if they plan to live on the property.

Property owners must sign an affidavit stating they will occupy one of the housing units as their primary residence for at least three years after splitting their property or adding additional units.

Does this law allow for offices and new housing units on single-family properties?
No. Any new units created under SB 9 must only be used for residential purposes.

Do cities and counties have to abide by this new law?
Under SB 9, local government officials may only deny a development application if they find the proposed project would have a “specific, adverse impact” on “public health and safety or the physical environment” and there are no feasible and satisfactory mitigation options.

Will local rules about maximum square footage, building height and parking apply?
Proposals under this new law must adhere to objective zoning and design review standards established by local cities and counties.

Will this law put a dent in California’s housing shortage?
A recent study by the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley estimated that just 5.4% of the state’s current single-family lots had the potential to be developed under Senate Bill 9, making the construction of up to 714,000 new housing units financially feasible. That’s only a fraction of the 3.5 million new housing units Gov. Newsom wants to see built by 2025.

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