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New housing laws may impact Ojai

DT Ojai

Grant Phillips, Ojai Valley News reporter 

On Sept. 16, just two days after Gov. Gavin Newsom survived a recall election, he signed into order several Senate bills related to land use.

Senate Bills 8, 9 and 10 are an attempt to create affordable housing throughout California, but the bills have several far-reaching implications.

 

SB9 changes single-family zoning throughout California and allows homeowners to split their lots into four separate units.

SB10 allows for hundreds of cities to approve 10-unit market-rate apartments, along with two accessory dwelling units and two junior ADUs, allowing city councils to overturn voter-approved ballot measures that protect from overdevelopment via height limits, land use, or other limit-based concepts. The requirements for these 10- unit structures are: they must be located in a “transit-rich area” or an “urban infilled site.”

A “transit-rich area” is defined as a parcel within onehalf mile of a major transit stop or high-quality bus corridor.

An “urban infill site” has a looser definition and can apply to any sites that satisfy several requirements related to residential zoning and urban land use located within a city.

Certain sections of Ojai would qualify within SB9 and SB10 zoning. 

“We prefer to have local control, and be able to identify our own needs and issues and make laws accordingly,” said City Manager James Vega. “These take away our ability to do that.”

City Council extended its Growth Management Plan, implemented in 1979, during its council meeting. The extension received a 4-0 vote of approval, with Councilmember Randy Haney abstaining.

“A residential Growth Management Plan helps to preserve the natural environment and preserve open space,” said Vega. “They provide an allotment, which is a maximum number of new housing units that may be developed in a year.”

This is in direct conflict with Senate Bill 330, adopted in 2019, which prohibits cities from implementing growth management measures limiting the number of new housing units to be permitted.

Senate Bill 330 was extended until 2030 as part of Senate Bill 8.

“A statewide initiative was filed with the attorney general for a title summary last week, that would, if adopted by the state electorate, restore local control over housing,” said City Attorney Matt Summers.

Approval of the initiative would override a majority of these state laws in connection with housing limitations.

Ojai, along with 300 other cities throughout the state, joined the League of California Cities whose representatives spoke in favor of Newsom vetoing the bills.

“Three hundred cities are looking into implications now that the bills have been signed,” said Mayor Pro Tem William Weirick. “There is a massive level of discontent in this state right now on this among many cities.”

But state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, author of SB10, said the bill is a necessity for creating affordable and sustainable housing options throughout the state.

"By building apartment buildings, even smaller ones, you are being more inclusive and allowing more kinds of people at different income levels," said Wiener.

A California Housing Partnership 2020 report revealed California is in need of 1.3 million units of affordable housing. “These are one-size-fi ts-all housing policies being developed by the state,” said Vega.

“These policies don’t necessarily make sense for Ojai.” Several concerned parties have advocated against the state Senate bills, including the Aids Healthcare Foundation, or AHF, which fi led a lawsuit Sept. 22, calling the “SB 10 Gentrifi cation Bill unconstitutional.”

Several private land-protection initiatives have also been enacted throughout the state, but SB 9 and 10 could provide the ability for councils to overturn them.

One such initiative, Ventura County’s Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources, or SOAR, was created in 1995. The law requires voter approval before rezoning private unincorporated open space, agricultural land, or rural land. If overturned, this could potentially open up several areas for development of 10-unit complexes under SB10.

SB 9 would allow homeowners to split their lots into duplexes, allowing up to four units without local design review. SB 10 could allow two ADUs and two junior ADUs, bringing the total to 14 units.

“These likely will allow for more dense development within the city, and the city won’t have control over it under SB 9 and 10,” said Vega.

SB10 has one significant limitation: It does not apply to parcels in a very high-fire severity zone, nor parcels in open space, park, or recreational lands approved by the voters.

All three bills will take effect Jan. 1. 

 

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