In mid-September, California passed two new Senate bills that have many Californians wondering what the future of their neighborhoods might look like. The new pair of bills, SB-9 and 10, have effectively put an end to single-family zoning restrictions statewide. Due to the ongoing housing crisis throughout California, these new bills are aimed at making it easier for homeowners and developers to create more housing throughout the State of California.
Senate Bills 9 & 10 do not take effect until January 1, 2022, and while the hope is that they will create more opportunities for housing, experts say there is no evidence that either bill will allow for the creation of nearly enough housing to mitigate the housing crisis.
So what do these bills change?
SB-9 is the bill most are taking a closer look at. What it means for property owners is that those living on property traditionally zoned for single-family lots will now be able to add a second home to their lot, or split the lot into two lots, or even split the lot in two and place duplexes on each.
In neighborhoods with single-family zoning laws, these lots have typically been reserved for one home plus an “accessory dwelling unit”. The new law will not only allow for the new property allotments, but they will require cities and counties California-wide to approve such development proposals so long as they meet local design and sizing requirements.
What are the exceptions?
The new bills do allow for some exceptions to the rules. Most notably the requirements for council approval of these proposals do not apply to historic neighborhoods or historic landmarks. Other exceptions include low-income or rent-controlled housing, farmland, wetlands or properties at high risk of fire and/or flood.
New zoning proposals will also be required to comply with local building height, yard size, and design specification requirements. Property owners must also provide an affidavit stating their intent to live in one of the units or homes on the property for at least 3 years. If the property is near public transit, no additional parking requirements apply - however, if it is not, they may require up to one additional off-street parking spot on the lot.
What is SB-10?
Senate Bill 10 streamlines the application process to rezone neighborhoods near large public transit centers to increase density with apartment complexes up to 10 units. It streamlines the normally lengthy and costly process by allowing applicants to bypass reviews by the California Environmental Quality Act.
Will this help the housing crisis?
Essentially, at this time there is no evidence to suggest these new bills will put a significant dent in the new development of housing needed to provide the amount needed to mitigate the crisis. A recent study by the Terner Center for Housing Development found that only 5.4% of California’s current single-family lots have the potential to be developed under SB-9.
What’s more is that these new bills have other important “side effects” - like not addressing affordability issues, providing a loophole to skirt Environmental Impact reviews by CEQA, loss of local governance and review processes, and the increase of parking issues just to name a few.
Nevada County Passes Restrictions for Short Term Rentals
Hot on the heels of Placer County’s Urgency Ordinance, Nevada County followed suit, passing its own ordinance restricting the approval of new Short Term Rental (STR) applications. Beginning September 29, 2021, there has been a 45-day moratorium placed on the acceptance of new STR applications. What this means is for new homeowners looking to purchase a home for the purpose of turning it into an STR, your application will not be approved for the foreseeable future if Placer County’s extension is any indication.
The aim of the new moratorium is to allow housing provisions to be prioritized to the full-time residence and to offset property destruction and noise pollution in certain neighborhoods. What this means for local real estate, however, is that it can lessen property interest for potential second-home or vacation-home buyers and in turn depreciate the “seller’s market”.
The moratorium does not apply to any applications currently in process (prior to September 29), nor does it apply to any reapplications for property owners that currently hold an STR license or properties currently in escrow that were intended for STR use explicitly.