Gavin Newsom Signs Housing Bills Eliminating Nearly All Single-Family Zoning

California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed three housing-related bills into law, potentially making multi-family housing complexes simpler to build and allowing development in many single-family zones.

KTLA reports that Newsom signed the bills only two days after dodging the effort to recall him from office. In a statement announcing the signing of the bills, Newsom said, “The housing affordability crisis is undermining the California Dream for families across the state, and threatens our long-term growth and prosperity. Making a meaningful impact on this crisis will take bold investments, strong collaboration across sectors, and political courage from our leaders and communities to do the right thing and build housing for all.”

Over 250 cities opposed the most visible measure, SB 9, arguing that it will undercut municipal planning and control. According to the statement, SB 9 “facilitates the process for homeowners to build a duplex or split their current residential lot.” The measure mandates that communities allow up to four dwelling units on a formerly single-family site and agree to partition single-family lots so that they could be sold individually.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins said, “For too many Californians, the idea of owning a home, renting a house big enough for their family, or even just being able to live in the community where they work is a far-off dream. This law will help close the gap and make those dreams a reality.”

Atkins added options for local governments to halt construction that may jeopardize public safety or health or benefit housing speculators in the face of city resistance. Property owners who want to split a lot must swear that one of the dwelling units will be their primary residence for at least three years. However, 241 communities and the League of California Cities do not believe the options are enough to keep local governments from being undercut by the bill. The league wrote a letter to Newsom stating that the new law “undermines the ability of local governments to responsibly plan for the types of housing that communities need, circumvents the local government review process, and silences community voices.”

Newsom also signed SB 10, written by Senator Scott Wiener, making it simpler for local governments to rezone lands near transportation centers for multifamily housing with up to ten units per lot. Wiener’s bill was made optional in response to opposition, but several advocacy groups, including California YIMBY and California Community Builders, applauded the bill’s signing.

The final measure signed in the trio of bills is SB 8, which extends the Housing Crisis Act of 2019 until 2030 and “accelerates the approval process for housing projects, curtails local governments’ ability to downzone and limits fee increases on housing applications.” Author of SB 8, State Senator Nancy Skinner, said that her bill ensures “California’s local governments can’t just say ‘no’ or add unnecessary delays to housing that already meets local rules.”

Beverly Hills City Councilmember John Mirisch opposed the bills, stating that “the discussion of housing in California has devolved into a thinly veiled propaganda war on single-family neighborhoods.” Mirisch continued, “In a country that embraces the principles of pluralism, urban areas should offer a wide variety of living accommodations and lifestyle choices for families and people from all walks of life. And that includes single-family neighborhoods.”

In the statement announcing the passage of the bills, Newsom claims that “the suite of bills also will help address the interrelated problems of climate change and housing affordability by promoting denser housing closer to major employment hubs.”


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