2 Days After Smashing Recall Effort, Newsom Signs Controversial Housing Bill SB9

by on September 17, 2021 · 8 comments

in California, San Diego

Ocean Beach 1946.

Two days after literally smashing the recall effort with 64% of the vote, Governor Gavin Newsom signed one of the most controversial housing bills on his desk. Newsom signed Senate Bill 9 by Senate leader Toni Atkins, formerly of San Diego, on Thursday.

Newsom said, “The housing affordability crisis is undermining the California Dream for families across the state, and threatens our long-term growth and prosperity.”

No one would argue with that statement, although SB 9 doesn’t create affordable housing.

In fact, 241 cities came out against SB 9. In a letter from the League of California Cities, 241 cities asked Newsom not to sign the measure. The letter stated:

“SB 9 does not guarantee the construction of affordable housing nor will it spur additional housing development in a manner that supports local flexibility, decision-making, and community input.

“Policymakers must avoid pushing new, unproven policies that would undermine local planning, change the rules midstream, or conflict with the myriad of new housing laws recently passed that cities are now implementing. We strongly urge you to VETO SB 9.”

Of course, the League (which goes by Cal Cities) was very disappointed in Newsom’s signature on it. Local cities, such as Lemon Grove, Santee, Oceanside, Coronado signed it, as did Los Angeles and another 136 cities, large and small, rural and metropolitan. (For a copy of the letter and the list of 241 cities, go here.)

Proponents of the bill say the new law will “slice” through zoning rules and codes. It would require cities to approve up to four housing units on what was a single-family lot. They would also have to approve splitting single-family lots so they could be sold separately.

Atkins, she says, embedded ways in the bill where local governments can block construction that might harm public safety or public health or benefit housing speculators. Property owners seeking to split a lot would have to swear that they plan to have one of the housing units as their principal residence for at least three years. (My emphasis.)

CalCities executive director Carolyn Coleman said the bill “would undermine the ability of local governments to responsibly plan for the type of housing that communities need, while usurping local democracy and the input of local residents.”

The advocacy group California Community Builders has said legislation approved by lawmakers this year would help narrow a racial wealth gap in California, where more than 60% of whites own their homes compared to 35% of Blacks and about 40% of Latinos.

With help from local opponent, let’s look at the law itself. The owner occupancy reference is a mere three years from the time of lot split.

(g) (1) A local agency shall require an applicant for an urban lot split to sign an affidavit stating that the applicant intends to occupy one of the housing units as their principal residence for a minimum of three years from the date of the approval of the urban lot split.

San Diego resident Danna Givot has researched this issue. In a recent article, Givot wrote:

Thereafter, the owner has to actually demolish the existing buildings (during which time s/he is unlikely to be living on the premises), get approval for the new structures, and begin and ultimately complete construction on the project.

This phase – post lot-split – will likely take the better part of two years or more, leaving very little time for the owner to actually occupy the premises.  Having said this, there are two other key issues that will protect the owner from ever actually occupying the premises:

1) s/he only signed paperwork indicating an intent to occupy the property and an intention is not a commitment;

2) in San Diego, as evidenced by JADU owner-occupancy requirements, the city has precious few resources to enforce such laws, which DSD will tell you are “complaint driven” by members of the public.  And what are the penalties for the owner not occupying the premises for a minimum of three years?

There do not appear to be any teeth to the law. So much for three years of owner occupancy for SB9! It is naïve at best and disingenuous if one is honest, to believe that Senator Atkins’ 3 year intent to occupy SB9 lot splits will result in either owner-occupied properties or maintenance of neighborhood character.

But is all this simply crying over spilled milk? SB 9 is now law (or will be soon).

How it will play out in OB – one of the densest neighborhoods in the city – will remain to be seen.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Bearded OBcean September 17, 2021 at 1:06 pm

Funny, isn’t it? Newsom took no public position on the bill before the election. I wonder why…


Tessa September 17, 2021 at 3:08 pm

SB 9 – oh no!
A couple of weeks ago, my neighbors and I were out on our patio discussing the potential of this new bill. Our landlady will be able to squeeze a couple more little houses on our already pretty closely placed little cottages. To call our area dense is – well, I guess it could be denser. But who wants to live so squished together, especially at the exhorbitant rents we pay? The winners, I guess, are those who bought “early” when homes were still affordable here, and – of course – developers. Toni Atkins certainly ask me.


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman September 17, 2021 at 7:43 pm

Why do you say Toni Atkins is “formerly of San Diego?” Has she moved away?
Is she not “representing” me anymore? Be still my heart — dare I hope?
As for Governor Newsom, I’m guessing they won’t be subdividing his backyard
anytime soon in his fancy Sacramento neighborhood. Let’s face it: the guy is a
hypocrite, even though he survived the Recall.


Frank Gormlie September 17, 2021 at 7:47 pm

Sure, and waiting until after the recall was a savvy move, and ya can’t blame him. It also shows the division among big “D” democrats.


Chris September 18, 2021 at 5:10 am

That pretty much goes for everyone in his line of work, regardless of their political stance. That’s why it always amuses me when someone is “shocked” when an elected public official lies or backtracks on a promise or as you pointed out does something hypocritical.


Chris September 18, 2021 at 6:22 am

But let’s face it. Despite Gavin Newsom’s hypocrisies, I can’t imagine anyone is surprised by this. Denser housing has always been something he supported of and a large chunk of his supporters voted for him on that very premise. I myself voted for him knowing this. Whether or not denser housing will drive down overall housing costs remains to be seen.


marc johnson September 18, 2021 at 6:49 am

OB will look like Manila.


Frank Gormlie September 20, 2021 at 9:43 am

Did you check out that 1946 aerial photo of OB?


Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: