CA Housing Bills: 48 Hours After Recall, Newsom Risks Alienating Middle-Class Voters … Once Again

By Justin HAGER

Less than 48 hours after surviving a recall that was spurred by complaints that he is out of touch with struggling lower- and middle-class Californians, Gov. Gavin Newsom used two swift strokes of his pen to sign SB 9 and SB 10 and potentially alienate middle-class homeowners by all but eliminating local single family zoning ordinances.

As discussed in previous CV Weekly articles, SB 9 effectively guarantees approval of existing single-family lots to be subdivided into smaller lots, with the potential for up to four housing units on each current single-family lot. SB 10 allows cities and developers to bypass CEQA review and build up to 10 units on certain urban lots that have access to high quality transit and other infrastructure.

The bills are intended to address Californians skyrocketing housing prices, its lack of affordable housing and stubborn homelessness rates and garnered support from some of California’s biggest political names including Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins.

Newsom reiterated his belief that the bills will help restore the middle-class dream of home ownership in California in a signing statement he issued immediately following the signing ceremony.

“The housing affordability crisis is undermining the California Dream for families across the state, and threatens our long-term growth and prosperity,” said Gov. Newsom. “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.”

But critics, including more than 240 California cities, argue that the legislation doesn’t offer any guarantees of affordable housing but does run the risk of undermining local planning and control, ruining vibrant single-family neighborhoods, and creating dangerous strains on already limited infrastructure resources like water, sanitation, road capacity and fire prevention efforts. Opponents are already working on the process of undoing the legislation via the citizen’s initiative process on the 2022 ballot. A group calling itself Californians for Community Planning has proposed an initiative to amend the California Constitution “to make zoning and land use local affairs and bring a halt to the centralized zoning and land-use directives coming out of Sacramento,” according to its website. Once the attorney general gives the initiative a title and summary, supporters would have 180 days to collect more than one million signatures to qualify for the ballot.