SB 9 – California Senate Bill 9

There seems to be ample fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the new senate bill 9 ( SB 9 ). City governments are described as scrambling to enact urgent ordinances. Many of the news reports emphasize that four homes would be built where there is currently only one.

The biggest change seems to be that city governments will have to write down the criteria to allow or deny a building permit rather than relying on personal subjective opinions. The first SB 9 application in Palo Alto was indeed to build four homes where there had been one. However, the lot is big enough to divide into four lots each 90’x100′. It would appear the first SB 9 application was indeed used as a way to avoid the time-consuming and costly process of satisfying arbitrary opinions.

Forcing local city planning and permitting to rely upon objective measurable standards could be a step towards local democracy. Currently, architectural review board members and other planning officials have wide latitude to base their denials on personal subjective opinions. If the criteria is written down, local residents can work together to change them.

The Turner Center at Cal Berkeley estimated it would make financial sense for property owners of 5.4% of the state’s 7.5 million single-family lots or about 410,000 parcels zoned for one traditional, single-family house, to add units.

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