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Veteran Professional Planner/Designer/Former Central CA Councilman Deconstructs Claims By LB-Area State Senator Gonzalez And Her Sac'to Colleagues On SB 9, Explains What It Will Really Mean For Single Family Home Neighborhoods In Long Beach And Statewide

by T Keith Gurnee*

Mr. Gurnee is a Professional Planner and Urban Designer, a former City Councilmember from San Luis Obispo, and past President of the California Planning Roundtable. His text below was provided to LBREPORT.com on June 17. It's lightly edited by us for text clarity, not substance.



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LBREPORT.com publisher's preface: A Sacramento bill, SB 9, would require cities to give checklist style City Clerk approval to split single family home lots and allow two dwelling units on each split, enabling four housing units where only one stood. Critics note that it doesn't explicitly forbid City Councils from enacting an ordinance potentially allowing up to eight units. SB 9 also forbids cities from requiring additional parking for the added units if the parcel is within a half mile walking distance of what it calls "high quality" public transit (can include buses running every 15 minutes.) In late May, the state Senate passed SB 9 on a 28-6 party-line vote that included "yes" votes by its co-author Gonzalez and state Senator Tom Umberg (D, SE LB-west OC) with 6 Democrats not casting recorded votes. That vote sent SB 9 to the state Assembly where in early May it cleared one Assembly Committee (6 Democrats, 2 Republicans, none from Long Beach) and will be considered this coming Tuesday June 22, 2021 by another Assembly (likewise six Democrats, two Republicans, none from Long Beach.) For recent LBREPORT.com coverage (including lists of SB's supporters and opponents), click here and here.

(June 18, 2021) -- In their headlong push to pass misguided housing bills, at least three Democrat State Senators have been misleading their constituents and their Sacramento legislative peers about SB 9. Over the past month, Senate Majority Leader Tony Atkins (D- San Diego), the author of SB 9, SB 9 co-author Senator Lena Gonzalez (D- Long Beach), and Senator Mike McGuire (D- Healdsburg) have made misleading statements about the bill's provisions and consequences. I analyze those with specificity below.

Senator Lena Gonzalez [source: June 11 Zoom meeting she offered to residents of east Long Beach's "Ranchos" neighborhood.]

1. SB 9 won't supersede any local zoning, design standards, or local parking requirements. False. SB 9 is designed to supersede local zoning, design standards, and parking requirements. It would require cities to approve ďurban lot splitsĒ and their developments ďministeriallyĒ with no discretionary review, no public hearings, and no notices to neighboring property owners. If local design standards impede a developerís ability to build two units of 800 ft.≤ or greater on lots created by an urban lot split, those standards can be overridden under SB 9. As for parking, SB 9 would require ďup to one parking space per unitĒ on urban lot splits, meaning it could require less parking than that. However, if the lot is within one half mile walking distance of a transit stop, SB 9 would prohibit cities from requiring any parking whatsoever to serve those units.

2. SB 9 wonít do much in Long Beach.. False. SB 9 will affect every single-family residential neighborhood in Long Beach that is not in a historic district. While the provision to limit demolition of existing residences to 25% of their floor area to accommodate urban lot split developments, SB 9 will still pending result in the densification of Long Beachís single-family neighborhoods. That densification will impact neighborhood infrastructure, increase already high housing prices, shrink yards, tree decimate canopies, increase traffic, and create stiff competition for any on-street parking in these neighborhoods.










3.We have a housing crisis and we need all forms of housing. False. We donít have a market rate housing crisis. We have a housing affordability crisis and bills like SB 9 do nothing about it. Most of these pending housing bills would maximize the production of higher-end market-rate housing at a time when the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) numbers that the state is imposing on most of its cities reveal that most of them are already exceeding their production of market rate housing but failing miserably in providing housing for moderate, low, and very low income households.

Sponsor

4. SB 9 will not affect the PD 11 zoning in "The Ranchos". False. Unless The Ranchos qualifies as a historic district, there is nothing in SB 9 that would exempt this neighborhood from its provisions. Therefore, SB 9, itís urban lot splits, and their development would certainly apply to The Ranchos neighborhood. An analysis of the ordinance enacted by the city of Long Beach regarding The Ranchos Estates Planned Development District (PD 11) reveals that "The District is characterized by single-family dwellings, the majority of which are only one story in height and are situated in the rear portion of the lot." If thatís the case, it seems there would be ample room for a developer to buy a home, break up the land with an urban lot split, and develop it under SB 9. The ordinance also states that "Permitted uses are as specified in the R-1-N District of the Zoning Regulations." That means the lots in The Ranchos are zoned for single-family residential uses. While the ordinance has a number of development standards that must be met, it could be argued that SB nine would still apply to the PD 11 District.

Sponsor


5. SB 9 allows up to only four (4) units max. Not six units or eight units. There is absolutely no way that more than four units would be allowed on parcels created by urban lot splits. False. While SB 9 would not require local governments to allow ADUís and Junior ADUís on urban lot splits, it doesn't prohibit them from permitting the addition of ADUís and Junior ADUís on urban lot splits under a local ordinance. It could be argued that local jurisdictions could ministerially approve of the four units on an urban lot split parcel -- two units plus an ADU and Junior ADU per parcel-- for a total of eight (8) units where one home once existed.

Sponsor

Sponsor

6. Canít demolish over 25% of existing structures and must have at least 1200 ft.≤ for each unit size. Misleading. Itís true that the intent of SB 9 is not to allow them demolition of more than 25% of that existing structures, yet the bill would allow the demolition of more than if there is a local ordinance that allows more to happen. As for the 1200 square-foot limit, it pertains only to the minimum lot size required for parcels created by an urban lot split, not the size of the unit itself.

7. SB 9 will not mandate parking requirements. Misleading. What Sen. Gonzalez didnít say was that SB 9 would prohibit local governments from requiring any off-street parking for urban lot splits d within one half mile walking distance of a high quality transit stop. There will be fierce competition for parking on local streets in single-family neighborhoods as a result of this provision. Clogged residential streets will also reduce public safety and access by emergency vehicles.

8. Asked how SB 9 and other State housing legislation affect water, energy, trash, and utilities infrastructure, she answered that we have it on our minds but we arenít going to work on that [right now]." Unfortunately true. Sheís right, the state isnít working on it. Instead, the legislature is absolutely ignoring significant water resource and infrastructure deficiencies with SB 9 and its other housing bills. Water mains, sewers, fire flows, storm drainage etc. in established single-family neighborhoods were sized for single-family homes, not multifamily densities. Higher densities will overburden existing infrastructure requiring future upgrades at the expense of cities and homeowners rather than the state of California.

9. In response to an audience question to confirm and that the state housing bills would not pertain to Long Beach, Gonzalez responded "That sums it up pretty well." False. SB 9 will apply to all single-family neighborhoods in Long Beach, save for those that are in historic districts. Gonzalez went on to say that the stateís housing bills would mostly affect areas in northern California and the inland Empire areas with larger lots. In reality, it is estimated that the roughly 7 million single-family homes in California could be up for grabs regardless of the region.

10. When asked if cities could create their own PD 11 zones to protect their residential neighborhoods or by creating new historic districts to cover certain neighborhoods, could they avoid the impact of this state housing legislation, Sen. Gonzalez responded they couldn't do so once SB 9 becomes law. Probably true. One should expect a number of California neighborhoods will apply to become historic districts to avoid the impacts of SB 9, only to have a future bill introduced to prohibit that practice after a certain date.

11. When asked about what affect SB 9 would have on other cities, she responded that "We are talking with the League of California Cities." Disingenuous. While she might be talking with the League, she failed to acknowledge that the League of California Cities has taken a formal position to strongly oppose SB 9. The letter was sent to SB 9 author Senator Toni Atkins after she declined the Leagueís request to amend the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Tony Atkins

State Senator Toni Atkins is at the pinnacle of power in Sacramento. Any state senator who would dare to vote against a bill she has authored might find themselves with reduced staffs or shuffled off to a broom closet as their office. Here are some examples of her remarks and after the May 26, 2021 Senate floor proceedings that passed SB 9:

1. Atkins stated in a Tweet that "we are striking a balance between zoning and local control. We are respecting local governments and local control." False. Nothing could be further from the truth. SB 9 will usurp local control and the self-determination of local governments.

2. We are just trying to bring down the cost of housing. False. Subdividing and densifying established single-family neighborhoods and increasing the development potential of every single-family lot will increase the already soaring prices of those properties. With the recent polling of millennialís showing their hopes to eventually own their own home, SB 9 will push the American dream of homeownership further away from their ability to achieve it.

3. We are providing resources to bring that (housing) production forward. False What resources? Where is the water to sustain this level of development in this parched state? Where are the ďresourcesĒ necessary to expand infrastructure to serve it?

4. Other State Senators toeing the Atkins line spoke about how "thoughtful" her legislation was. False. Thoughtful? Try thoughtless.

State Senator Mike McGuire

On behalf of Sen. Atkins, Sen. McGuire presented SB 9 to the Assembly Local Government Committee on June 6, 2021 (6 Democrats, 2 Republicans, none from the Long Beach area) where he forcefully urged its passage. Here are statements he made to that committee:

1. SB 9 will allow no more than four units on urban lot splits. False. Once again, SB 9 does not require local governments to allow ADUís and Junior ADUís on urban lot splits, but it does not prohibit local governments from allowing them under a local ordinance. Should local governments have such an ordinance, it could allow for a total of up to eight (8) units where one home once existed.

2. SB 9 will not affect properties covered by a Homeowners Association (HOA). False. There is nothing in the language of SB 9 that expressly exempts HOAís from its provisions. If you live in a neighborhood that is covered by an HOA, SB 9 will apply to your neighborhood.

In Conclusion

These legislators will stop at nothing to get SB 9 enacted as law. Not only are they misleading those who elected them, they are misleading their own peers in the legislature (who may not have the time or inclination to read these bills or understand their consequences.)

These legislators arenít doing things us. They are doing things to us.


LBREPORT.com publisher's follow-up: During her May 11 Zoom meeting, state Senator Gonzalez indicated that she would post the Zoom video for subsequent on-demand access. As of June 18, she hasn't. On or about May 24 (days before SB 9's state Senate passage, she offered the "Ranchos" neighborhood group written responses to questions she didn't answer during the Zoom meeting. The Ranchos neighborhood group said on its website that she accompanied her written responses with the following message: "As a state office, the answers provided focus in on the policy related. This document is meant to be an informative document for our neighbors and not intended for press or mass distribution."

LBREPORT.com obtained the document offered to the neighborhood group by Senator Gonzalez, ignores her attempt to block public and press scrutiny of her offered contentions and publishes the document in full for our readers to review at this link.

Sen Gonzalez hasn't disclosed who authored the document she offered to the Ranchos neighborhood group. She presumably either knows or should know who wrote it. LBREPORT.com has requested the information from her office. We've received no reply.

Readers may also notice that her offered written response listed SB 9's supporters but not its opponents. This wouldn't pass muster on a high school term paper.

Until Senator Gonzalez discloses who authored the written responses, we believe it deserves to be treated as one would treat any anonymously offered text.


Support really independent news in Long Beach. No one in LBREPORT.com's ownership, reporting or editorial decision-making has ties to development interests, advocacy groups or other special interests; or is seeking or receiving benefits of City development-related decisions; or holds a City Hall appointive position; or has contributed sums to political campaigns for Long Beach incumbents or challengers. LBREPORT.com isn't part of an out of town corporate cluster and no one its ownership, editorial or publishing decisionmaking has been part of the governing board of any City government body or other entity on whose policies we report. LBREPORT.com is reader and advertiser supported. You can help keep really independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.


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