Annenberg Radio

SB 9 + 10 and What Happens Next

The fight for local control, more housing units and single-family zoning is not over just yet.

Two streets of single-family housing in a neighborhood.

Though Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 9 and 10 into law in mid-September, which will allow more housing units on properties previously designated for single-family zoning, the fight over local control for land use and zoning decisions is not quite over. Alexandra Applegate reports why opponents to the bill have not lost hope yet.

While SB 9 and 10 won’t take effect until January 2022, Californians for Community Planning, who oppose the bills, have already filed a ballot initiative that would redirect zoning and land use decisions back to local cities and counties. If they’re successful, Californians will get to vote on this issue in November 2022.

Groups that have been campaigning for months against the bills, like United Neighbors, are now joining the effort to back the ballot initiative to try to compromise with the state on these approved bills. Maria Pavlou Kablan, who founded United Neighbors eight months ago, said she fully supports the ballot initiative.

MARIA PAVLOU KALBAN: That’s an effort we will probably get behind with all of our organizations because tPahey’re going to need signatures and donations.

More than 244 California cities along with the League of California Cities, an association that represents local governments, have voiced their opposition to SB 9 and 10.

These groups believe that taking away local control and changing zoning laws will not solve the housing crisis and note that SB 9 and 10 do not have any requirements for affordable housing.

MARIA PAVLOU KALBAN: Bottom line: Nobody understands better than the people in your own community where you want to build. Packing more and more people into smaller and smaller spaces is not my idea of a great solution.

Others do not think California communities will see that much change from these bills. One of them is USC professor and chair of the school’s Department of Public Policy, Gary Painter.

GARY PAINTER: It’s the end of single-family zoning in California but it’s not the end of single-family housing in California and I think that’s an important distinction. It’s only going to move from single-family to multi-family if there’s a demand from the marketplace to do so. We’re going to see additional housing units but it’s not going to be a wholesale change in the character of communities as some might fear.

Painter argues that because so many cities in California have historically been against adding housing or density in their jurisdictions, local control is the reason for the housing crisis.

GARY PAINTER: Local control has led us to an outcome that has actually harmed affordability in California and it’s harmed our families because they’re paying higher portions of their income in rent. What we need to do is find a path forward that allows for higher levels of affordability in our communities. The only way to do that is if we kind of enforce, from a higher level of government, better behavior in all local jurisdictions.

Regardless of the reality of the bill’s implications, the pair of bills have been contested by public agencies, advocacy groups and individuals across the state. Since the bills were passed, United Neighbors has seen an increase in interest in the organization. More people are now asking how they can get involved, says Pavlou Kalban.

MARIA PAVLOU KALBAN: We’re working with City Council members and trying to show them alternatives that we think would be better and try to work within the system to see how we can all win in a situation like this.

Californians for Community Choice will need to gather almost one million signatures from California voters to get their proposed ballot initiative on the 2022 ballot.