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New housing bills stir familiar opposition

Legislation to enable duplexes, encourage density near transit progress in California Senate

Two bills that aim to encourage more housing — Senate Bill 9 and Senate Bill 10 — advanced in the state Senate's Governance and Finance Committee on April 22, 2021. Embarcadero Media file photo by Olivia Treynor.

After seeing his contentious housing legislation, Senate Bill 50, flounder at the finish line last year, state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, is taking a more delicate approach with his latest proposal to encourage residential density near jobs and transit.

Rather than requiring cities to approve dense developments near transit hubs and bus stops, Wiener's new proposal, SB 10, operates on a strictly voluntary basis. At a hearing of the Senate's Governance and Finance Committee last week, Wiener called SB 10, which creates a streamlined process for cities and counties to increase density in infill areas, a "pure local control bill."

Specifically, the bill would allow city and county governments to override local zoning restrictions and establish zones that allow up to 10 residential units per parcel if the parcel is located in a transit-rich area, a jobs-rich area or an urban infill site.

"No city is required to use or participate in SB 10," Wiener said at the April 22 hearing. "A city can ignore SB 10, do nothing and the bill will do nothing in that city."

Yet despite the sharp differences between his prior effort and the current one, the same criticisms that he had faced around SB 50 continue to follow him on SB 10. And much like in the past, Palo Alto is allying itself with other cities throughout the state that are actively opposing the legislation. In a letter that the city submitted to Wiener's office last month, Mayor Tom DuBois argued that the legislation will give local councils the power to overrule citizen initiatives, potentially disenfranchising the voters who adopted these initiatives.

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"It is an anti-democratic power that no Legislative branch of government should have, and which we — a City Council, and therefore such a branch — do not want," the letter states. "Such legislation echoes more of Russia than of California."

Much like with SB 50, local officials from Palo Alto and activists from groups such as Livable California and United Neighbors have characterized SB 10 as misguided legislation that does not address the issue at the crux of the state's housing crisis: affordability. Rather, DuBois wrote, such legislation would only increase land prices and "any housing that does emerge ends up housing only the highest wage-earners, not those who need it most."

Notwithstanding the voluntary nature of SB 10, Palo Alto's adversarial position to the bill reflects its broader stance against recent state legislation that enables more height and density for residential developments. In February, the council approved a resolution penned by council members Lydia Kou and Greer Stone that claims these bills "usurp the authority of local jurisdictions to determine its own land use policies and best practices that best suit their cities and residents and instead impose mandates that exacerbate the impacts to the city's budget, infrastructure, environmental sustainability, traffic congestion, parking and parkland."

Kou, who has been leading the council's opposition to the state legislation, argued at the Feb. 1 council meeting that this kind of legislation "does not give homeowners — people who have invested in their community a sense of confidence, not knowing what's going to be coming up next to them and what kind of cumulative negative impacts there will be."

Some in the state Legislature share that view. Even though the Governance and Finance Committee voted 4-1 on April 22 to advance SB 10, state Sen. Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, echoed many of the bill's opponents when he characterized the legislation as an attack on single-family zoning.

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"Whether it has teeth or is voluntary or not, it's indicative of a philosophy that I can't embrace — and that basically says that we're going to, as a government, create and incentivize and expedite a way to destroy single-family neighborhoods, which I think are critical," said Hertzberg, the lone dissenter, at the April 22 hearing.

But for the bill's many supporters, including the advocacy group California Yimby and its many local chapters, SB 10 and other proposed bills in the current legislative package are critical to address the state's housing shortage. SB 10 is among the bills that a group of Democratic senators introduced in December as part of a housing package that they've dubbed "Building Opportunities for All." The package also includes SB 9, legislation by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, that would allow homeowners to subdivide their lots to create duplexes. The bill is a follow-up to SB 1120, a similar proposal from Atkins that faltered on the final day of the 2020 legislative season when lawmakers failed to take the final vote on it by the midnight deadline.

To placate those who have argued that the bill would allow homeowners to build up to six residences per parcel — given that each lot is now allowed to also build an accessory dwelling unit and a junior accessory dwelling unit — SB 9 specifies that cities will not be required to issue permits for accessory dwelling units or junior accessory dwelling units for the new homes that are constructed as part of the parcel split.

State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, a member of the Democratic group that is spearheading on the housing package, argued at the April 22 meeting of the Governance and Finance Committee that the legislation "really strikes an appropriate balance between respecting local control and creating the environment and opportunity for production of small-scale development that we so badly need to combat this acute housing crisis that exists in California." The bill, he said, effectively expands the number of units allowed on a lot from three to four.

"SB 9 promotes small-scale, neighborhood-driven residential development by streamlining the process for a homeowner to create a duplex or subdivide an existing lot in residential areas, up to four units," McGuire said at the hearing, shortly before the committee voted 5-0 to advance the legislation.

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New housing bills stir familiar opposition

Legislation to enable duplexes, encourage density near transit progress in California Senate

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Apr 29, 2021, 12:29 pm
Updated: Mon, May 3, 2021, 8:48 am

After seeing his contentious housing legislation, Senate Bill 50, flounder at the finish line last year, state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, is taking a more delicate approach with his latest proposal to encourage residential density near jobs and transit.

Rather than requiring cities to approve dense developments near transit hubs and bus stops, Wiener's new proposal, SB 10, operates on a strictly voluntary basis. At a hearing of the Senate's Governance and Finance Committee last week, Wiener called SB 10, which creates a streamlined process for cities and counties to increase density in infill areas, a "pure local control bill."

Specifically, the bill would allow city and county governments to override local zoning restrictions and establish zones that allow up to 10 residential units per parcel if the parcel is located in a transit-rich area, a jobs-rich area or an urban infill site.

"No city is required to use or participate in SB 10," Wiener said at the April 22 hearing. "A city can ignore SB 10, do nothing and the bill will do nothing in that city."

Yet despite the sharp differences between his prior effort and the current one, the same criticisms that he had faced around SB 50 continue to follow him on SB 10. And much like in the past, Palo Alto is allying itself with other cities throughout the state that are actively opposing the legislation. In a letter that the city submitted to Wiener's office last month, Mayor Tom DuBois argued that the legislation will give local councils the power to overrule citizen initiatives, potentially disenfranchising the voters who adopted these initiatives.

"It is an anti-democratic power that no Legislative branch of government should have, and which we — a City Council, and therefore such a branch — do not want," the letter states. "Such legislation echoes more of Russia than of California."

Much like with SB 50, local officials from Palo Alto and activists from groups such as Livable California and United Neighbors have characterized SB 10 as misguided legislation that does not address the issue at the crux of the state's housing crisis: affordability. Rather, DuBois wrote, such legislation would only increase land prices and "any housing that does emerge ends up housing only the highest wage-earners, not those who need it most."

Notwithstanding the voluntary nature of SB 10, Palo Alto's adversarial position to the bill reflects its broader stance against recent state legislation that enables more height and density for residential developments. In February, the council approved a resolution penned by council members Lydia Kou and Greer Stone that claims these bills "usurp the authority of local jurisdictions to determine its own land use policies and best practices that best suit their cities and residents and instead impose mandates that exacerbate the impacts to the city's budget, infrastructure, environmental sustainability, traffic congestion, parking and parkland."

Kou, who has been leading the council's opposition to the state legislation, argued at the Feb. 1 council meeting that this kind of legislation "does not give homeowners — people who have invested in their community a sense of confidence, not knowing what's going to be coming up next to them and what kind of cumulative negative impacts there will be."

Some in the state Legislature share that view. Even though the Governance and Finance Committee voted 4-1 on April 22 to advance SB 10, state Sen. Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, echoed many of the bill's opponents when he characterized the legislation as an attack on single-family zoning.

"Whether it has teeth or is voluntary or not, it's indicative of a philosophy that I can't embrace — and that basically says that we're going to, as a government, create and incentivize and expedite a way to destroy single-family neighborhoods, which I think are critical," said Hertzberg, the lone dissenter, at the April 22 hearing.

But for the bill's many supporters, including the advocacy group California Yimby and its many local chapters, SB 10 and other proposed bills in the current legislative package are critical to address the state's housing shortage. SB 10 is among the bills that a group of Democratic senators introduced in December as part of a housing package that they've dubbed "Building Opportunities for All." The package also includes SB 9, legislation by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, that would allow homeowners to subdivide their lots to create duplexes. The bill is a follow-up to SB 1120, a similar proposal from Atkins that faltered on the final day of the 2020 legislative season when lawmakers failed to take the final vote on it by the midnight deadline.

To placate those who have argued that the bill would allow homeowners to build up to six residences per parcel — given that each lot is now allowed to also build an accessory dwelling unit and a junior accessory dwelling unit — SB 9 specifies that cities will not be required to issue permits for accessory dwelling units or junior accessory dwelling units for the new homes that are constructed as part of the parcel split.

State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, a member of the Democratic group that is spearheading on the housing package, argued at the April 22 meeting of the Governance and Finance Committee that the legislation "really strikes an appropriate balance between respecting local control and creating the environment and opportunity for production of small-scale development that we so badly need to combat this acute housing crisis that exists in California." The bill, he said, effectively expands the number of units allowed on a lot from three to four.

"SB 9 promotes small-scale, neighborhood-driven residential development by streamlining the process for a homeowner to create a duplex or subdivide an existing lot in residential areas, up to four units," McGuire said at the hearing, shortly before the committee voted 5-0 to advance the legislation.

Comments

Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Apr 30, 2021 at 6:49 am
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Apr 30, 2021 at 6:49 am

The words "transit rich" suggest a transit system that offers a dependable alternative to automobile use. Maybe Sacramento should focus on legislation that results in a such a system and leave housing to local government.

As for our jobs:housing imbalance, Palo Alto is jobs rich and lacking in housing b/c of the actions of development oriented city councils that did not require sufficient mitigations on commercial development. The majority on those councils made their campaign donors happy (and wealthier!) and they were successful in their campaigns, but the community suffered - and is still suffering - as a result. There has to be a remedy to correct this that provides adequate levels of city services to support housing growth, including water supply and public safety. I think this is called Smart Growth. It is ironic that Palo Alto didn't choose to be iconic in that area.

As the saying goes, follow the money. And while doing this, take a look at where Weiner's $upport comes from.


anon1234
Registered user
College Terrace
on Apr 30, 2021 at 8:37 am
anon1234, College Terrace
Registered user
on Apr 30, 2021 at 8:37 am

A careful reading of both SB 9 and 10 shows that they are NOT duplex bills.
Lots splits and state mandates allow six to eight units where one was before and reduce rear and side setbacks to four feet!
No affordable units are required.
No contributions to infrastructure improvements that will be needed are required.
This represents a huge loss of backyard habitat. Loss of trees.
The bills are not voluntary rather imposed across the state.
The bills will contribute to the the wealth of land speculators big real estate interests and drive prices for tenants/ buyers up as land values continue to sky rocket!
Terrible bills that if successful will cause real harm!
Like the poster above says, follow the money!


Citizen
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2021 at 8:52 am
Citizen, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Apr 30, 2021 at 8:52 am

Didn’t CA just lose a seat in Congress because we’re losing more people than we’re getting? The state legislature should be focused on drought, fire and supporting quality of life, especially by investing in civic assets where towns have affordable housing but are losing people (can’t attract job creators for lack of civic assets), or where they are losing people due to the damage to liveability from the developer-obsequious overdevelopment push of recent years.

The 2017 tax changes were brutal to California homeowners in the middle class and seriously disadvantaged them in other ways while advantaging investors. The problem of investors snapping up housing which is the biggest moneymaker just sitting on it long term rather than ensuring it gets lived in. Investors now account for 20% of home sales in Atlanta, how much is it here?

We have drought problems and people moving out precisely because developers have been allowed to destroy quality of life to make a fast buck using false arguments about affordability. (Honestly, they’ve gotten liberals to act as idiotlogically over the false argument that new dense developments result in “affordability” as conservatives do over tax cuts for the rich: no matter how often doing so causes the opposite result of the promises, they just claim we didn’t do enough of it—and the result is exactly the same for both, the super rich get wealthier at everyone else’s expense.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 30, 2021 at 8:58 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Apr 30, 2021 at 8:58 am

Horrible bills that do nothing to promote affordability and only densification and gentrification as per the lobbyists' backer$. I'm so relieved that the pro-development majority on the City Council was finally voted out!

Removing local control is tyrannical and authoritarian and anti-choice and will remove all diversity that makes life interesting. As it is, we're so over-crowded we can no longer easily go hear performances in Berkeley and don't tell me to take the train -- the train station parking lots are now filled with transit-rich housing so there's no parking! Taking Uber/Lyft to the train DOUBLES car traffic and shows the absurdity of the car-light fairy tales.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 30, 2021 at 12:22 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Apr 30, 2021 at 12:22 pm

The bills have to pass. Check our congressional reps to see how they vote. Berman shows Los altos as his address - that is how he is referred to - don't think that this type of activity will go over big in Los Altos. But Berman is a Weiner. This whole idea is based on a policy of social equity which in realitiy has no applicability to the issue. People are using that as a wedge.


Allen Akin
Registered user
Professorville
on Apr 30, 2021 at 1:29 pm
Allen Akin, Professorville
Registered user
on Apr 30, 2021 at 1:29 pm

If Newsom signs these bills, he becomes "the man who destroyed single-family housing in California". Would that eliminate any possibility he could win national office? Would that increase the chance he'll be voted out in the recall election? He has some difficult political calculations to make.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on May 1, 2021 at 8:35 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on May 1, 2021 at 8:35 am

In the SFC 05/01 - "Palo Alto Housing debate's wide echoes". This "article", aka hit piece is more than one full page filled with the same "talking points" of "truths" pushed by the same suspects that appear and push their political rants on a regular basis. This group loves to make Palo Alto a target and get the local papers to push their story line. A percentage of the population lives and breathes pushing an agenda which only provides cherry picked POV's. It fails to mention that the biggest landholder with the most money is Stanford University and much of the city population is dependent on the many opportunities which spin off being next to a world wide noted university and the technical development relative to SU proximity. That alone defines the resident population in this city to some degree and the resulting tech companies and government agencies in this area.

Mr. Weiner's city of the Castro in SF is a totally different financial and social environment. He is busy trying to put square pegs in round holes - literally and figuratively. And the folks in Berkley at UC are in their own political maelstrom busily defining every one else against their standards which are progressively off the charts.

What is it that they all do not get? The people who live here have a purpose specific to this area and the government agencies that surround the University and tech industries. Housing is competitive in this area. And it has nothing to do with race - it has to do with brains. Brains come in all colors and they all are capable of focus on regional activities. In this state every area has a regional definition. WE have a regional definition and it is not UC Berkley or SF - the city falling apart at the seams. We are not going to become SF or Berkley - we are who we are which is the best.


chris
Registered user
University South
on May 3, 2021 at 2:18 pm
chris, University South
Registered user
on May 3, 2021 at 2:18 pm

With its unsustainable financial model, Palo Alto is going to be begging the state for subsidies.
See the other article on the budget.

Do you think the state will be inclined to give Palo Alto any money if the current city council continues all attempts to build housing in Palo Alto?

It has nothing to do with what bills Newsom signs or doesn't sign. In the meantime, say goodbye to your libraries, community services, and current police and fire staffing. Palo Altan want all the goodies but are not willing to make the sacrifices to pay for them.


Novelera
Registered user
Midtown
on May 3, 2021 at 2:40 pm
Novelera, Midtown
Registered user
on May 3, 2021 at 2:40 pm

OK, here's where Wiener gets his donations:

Web Link


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on May 3, 2021 at 3:36 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on May 3, 2021 at 3:36 pm

Read the business section of your papers - it shows the major real estate transactions. The bay area is getting bought up by out-of-state companies at a fast rate. Starve the local businesses, including hotel chains until they go out of business. Starve mom and pop wineries until they go out of business. Delay projects that are on the books so that labor does not have a job. There is someone waiting to buy all of this up. And this is not typical business transactions - this is a result of the Covid and political actions in process.

Palo Alto seems to have a target on it's back - people are trying to turn this place into a Hooverville. San Jose already has some elements with it's inability to get the homeless out of the Guadalupe River Park. How bizarre since they have empty buildings where they can put people. Why isn't that happening? They need to have the people out and in your face evident vs providing the space they have. There is more going on here and half the political groupies are signed on. Pay Attention.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 3, 2021 at 4:06 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 3, 2021 at 4:06 pm

@Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is absolutely right. Pay attention.

Not a day goes by without another huge transaction -- or three -- being reported. Pretty soon we'll have no retail left to pay sales tax -- or to serve OUR needs.


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