CA: Zoning Changes Are on The Way

For the past few years, legislators have grappled with new ways of addressing the California housing affordability crisis, which basically boils down to the need for more housing units.

McKinsey & Co. estimated in 2016 that California needed to build/create 3.5 million more homes by 2025 just to meet current housing needs (a number that Gov. Newsom has embraced). This goal will not come close to being achieved due to a myriad of state and local regulations.

The current solution being vigorously explored and debated concerns the allowance of more units to be built on single-family home lots that current zoning laws permit, effectively ending single-family home zoning.

For example, some zoning proposals would allow single-family home lots to be split into two parcels with two units/homes on each parcel. This equates to having 4 homes, albeit smaller homes, on one currently zoned single-family home lot. And that isn’t counting the already allowed (State law) two Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) per house—provided one is attached to the main home structure. Additional garages or parking areas are not mandated which means over-parked neighborhood streets.

Nearly two-thirds of the residences in California are single-family homes, according to U.S. Census data. In the city of Los Angeles, 62% of the developable land is zoned for single-family homes. The impacts of State mandated zoning changes are staggering.

In Sacramento, State Senator Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) has feverishly proposed a seemingly endless succession of transit-density housing bills over the past few years – allowing more apartments and condos to be built closer to “transportation hubs” (which are really only bus stops and a few metro rail stations.).

To do this, Weiner’s bills have focused on putting all land zoning decisions in Sacramento’s control; stripping them away from local governments. Some of those Sacramento bills even give the developer the final determination of what gets built where–meaning neighborhood zoning will be at the whim of the developers and communities will have no say in what their neighborhoods will be like.

The latest version of Weiner’s bill, SB50, was defeated last year in the California Senate—barely. Yet, since that defeat, Weiner has grown his coalition and is revamping SB50, which is expected to be introduced again under another bill number this year. According to State Assembly Representative, Jesse Gabriel, he is anticipating that the new iteration of the bill “will pass” when it is introduced. That can mean trouble for every California neighborhood, and your home investment.

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