On Sept. 16, 2021 Governor Newsom signed into law Senate Bill 9 (SB 9), which was sponsored by State Senate Pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego). The law supersedes local jurisdiction and allows homeowners to split their lots and build duplexes on lots currently zoned for single-family housing. 

The new law is part of a comprehensive housing legislation effort to increase the supply of housing in California and will go into effect in January 2022. 

Coronado’s other threat to local community control of planning and zoning, the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), is also part of California’s comprehensive housing legislation, but RHNA and SB 9 are not otherwise related.

Coronado City Council and staff have been closely following SB 9 for months. In March of 2021 Councilmember Mike Donovan wrote an editorial sounding the alarm on the bill. “In my view, the passing of SB 9 will pretty much devastate the distinctive residential character of our city. Unfortunately, this seems to be the goal of a majority of our state legislators.” Donovan encouraged Coronado citizens to research the bill and write letters to state legislators. 

In May of 2021 Kyra Ross, a lobbyist for the League of California Cities, presented information to the city council. “We have seen growing hostility toward local control as legislators in Sacramento have gotten more frustrated with the lack of new housing being built. The frustration has led to housing bills that are more punitive in nature, often forcing ministerial approval for development that meets standards set by the State, as opposed to local ordinances that take into account local community voices.” 

Ross added that, “Under the bill (SB 9) a developer could take a single home on one lot, split the lot, and put two homes plus two ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Unit). So a total of four units could go where there is today one unit.” 

Ross said the bill had strong support from housing advocates and strong opposition from local government groups, labor groups and social justice groups.

Advocates and coalitions for affordable housing, including ‘Housing is a Human Right,’ strongly opposed the bill. The group commissioned its own poll over the summer which showed a 71 percent voter opposition to SB 9. 

Critics say the bill does nothing to address affordable housing (no affordable units are required), and sets up potential windfalls for savvy developers, investors, and ‘rental giants’ who will now have a huge new market of opportunity in some of the state’s most desirable locations, including Coronado. 

The bill attempts to counter that by requiring the homeowner/developer to first pay off the existing mortgage before developing the property. Additionally, a last minute amendment to the bill requires the owner to agree to live in one of the units for a minimum of three years after getting approval for a lot split, and prohibits lot splits on adjacent parcels by the same individual.

“The average mortgage debt in California is about $371,000 — well out of the reach of the vast majority of California’s 6.8 million homeowners, if paid off all at once. Few homeowners will be able to launch an SB 9 project in their yard. Even more problematic is the challenge of nailing down the construction loan to build several new homes, during a time of huge building costs,” wrote former District 39 Assemblywoman and San Fernando City Councilmember Cindy Montanez in the urban planning trade publication, The Planning Report. 

SB9 was passed by the CA Senate earlier in the year and by the CA Assembly on August 26, 2021. Governor Newsom had until Oct. 10 to sign or veto the bill. 

Earlier this month Councilmember Donovan urged his constituents to write to the Governor asking him to veto the bill. Donovan noted that “over 240 California cities communicated their opposition to this “one size fits all” legislation that will harm these and other CA cities and towns with minimal positive impact on creating affordable housing.”

Both opponents and supporters agree that the bill is a move toward eliminating single family housing in California. Some believe the bill will help the state avoid sprawl by housing more people in already built-out neighborhoods. Others predict over burdening of infrastructure, roads, water, sewers, and the elimination of trees. 

Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey said the city will fully evaluate the anticipated impact on Coronado and present information to the community. Bailey is disappointed in the most recent legislation out of Sacramento. “SB9 is a sign that the state’s previous land use policies have been failures. Unfortunately this latest ‘fix’ will come at the expense of communities across the state, including Coronado,” he said. 

Senator Atkins’ office did not respond to multiple inquiries over the past three months asking how she thought the legislation would affect her constituents in Coronado. 

Atkins did however issue a statement following the Governor’s signature on her bill. “I’m thrilled that the California Governor has signed SB 9! This bill has long been one of my priorities, and after years of collaboration with my colleagues and community partners, it’s great to see it become law. Now more families can pursue their version of the California Dream.”

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