California City says that it cannot approve any new homes for residents because of the presence of mountain lions.
Woodside, a small suburb in Silicon Valley, put an indefinite stop to approving duplexes that were legalized under the newly passed Senate Bill (S.B.). 9. They cited a clause in the legislation which excludes protected wildlife habitats. The entire city, according to officials, is considered a protected mountain-lion habitat.
The local newspaper will be open Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. Almanac Newspaper reported Jackie Young’s January 27 memo stating that mountain lions were a potential candidate to be added to the state’s endangered species list. Because “Woodside – in its entirety – is habitat for a candidate species, no parcel within Woodside is currently eligible for an SB 9 project,” wrote Young.
Dick Brown of Woodside, a Woodside mayor said that they love animals in remarks to the Almanac. “Every home built means that one more acre is taken from mountain lions’ habitat.” “Where are they going?”
It is indeed.
It allows property owners to divide single-family zoned lots in two and build a duplex on each half—effectively allowing four homes where only one was permitted before. These lot divisions and duplexes must be approved by local governments “ministerially,” which means that neither the neighbours nor bureaucrats have to delay them through endless hearings.
Many cities are reluctant to give up their developmental-stopping power to the state. Some are looking for ways to reduce the effect of S.B. 9, while maintaining compliance with the law on paper.
Woodside is holding on to an existing provision of the law that allows localities to ban duplexes from parcels designated as “habitats for protected species.”
This is the town’s most prominent effort to prevent duplexes from its single-family communities. This is not the only example.
S.B. 9, allows cities, for example to prohibit duplexes and lot divisions in historical districts. The Pasadena planning commission recommended that the whole city be made a historic preservation area in December 2021.
Sonoma also passed an ordinance in the same month requiring duplexes constructed under S.B. 9 to be either rented to low-income tenants or sold to people with higher incomes. They create an incentive to not build duplexes because property owners must rent out or sell them at well below market rates.
There are many other provisions in the S.B. 9 This means many local governments won’t need to take any action to mitigate the legal impact. Dylan Casey is the executive director at the California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund.
The Bay Area has large hills, which are located in and around the city. [Southern California]Those are high-severity fire zones, and all are exempt. Exempt are historic areas. Casey says it’s a problem of policy. These areas all allow single-family homes. They are considered areas suitable to be lived in by the local government.
This is not a new phenomenon. California housing politics have been a game of cat-and mouse since the beginning. There is a state government constantly trying to improve production but there are local governments trying to keep new homes from coming up in their territory.
For instance, the first California law deregulating the construction of accessory dwelling units (ADUs)—alternatively called granny flats, in-law suites, or casitas—dates back to 1982. These units were still blocked by cities, who imposed unreasonable height and dimensions restrictions on them. They also required them to have off-street parking or charged prohibitive fees.
Over the course of 37 years, 13 more bills were passed to reduce those fees and regulations to allow homeowners to convert their garage or shed into housing.
Casey says, “If cities have the opportunity to place barriers to certain laws,”
According to him, the state has a much better start point when it comes to S.B. 9. It is illegal for cities to impose restrictions on the size or shape of duplexes. But, the law does not bar municipalities from blocking these new houses. He suggests that more legislative action is required.
Unenforced laws, even those that are most favorable to supply housing, can make a law unenforceable. Without consequence, local governments may dismantle state-legalized projects.
CaRLA, an organization of libertarian public interests lawyers, had to mount a number of legal challenges to get hold out local governments to cease enforcing illegal ADU regulations.
It is good to know that high housing costs are becoming a major issue in California. And as people begin to realize that poor zoning laws can be to blame, the state has taken an aggressive stance against “not my backyard” (NIMBY), local governments.
Sonja Trauss is the executive director at YIMBY Law. The law also sued cities for unlawfully closing down housing projects. The attorney general could enforce, and it was the norm. But they didn’t.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta, in November announced that a 12 person unit was created within the Department of Justice of the state to enforce tenant protection and state housing laws. A new Housing Accountability Unit was also established by the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development to enforce housing laws.
The company has already written a series of warning letters to San Francisco advising them of the possibility that delays in two zones-compliant apartments projects are likely violating state law. San Francisco’s refusal to grant the same projects is why YIMBY Law sued.
Experiments from all over the country have shown that it is difficult to eliminate single-family-only zones laws. This can lead to increased housing construction. If done correctly, you can achieve some incredible results.
California’s efforts for legalization of ADUs over the years have finally paid off. CityLab This is described as “a backyard apartment explosion.” The permits are available in as little as a matter of hours. A homeowner can also build their new home within just two to three months. New technologies are being used by builders to reduce costs and speed up construction. This is what happens if you do not regulate a product until it dies.
We hope that an aggressive combination of pro-supply laws and public and private enforcement will create a similar duplex revolution. A few of these could be used to house mountain lions.