Housing crisis

Can California subdivide toward a solution to the housing crisis?

In September, Governor Newsom signed into law Senate Bill 9 authorizing the development of up to four residential units on every single-family lot in California.

Many cities have already been moving towards eliminating one house per lot for years, but now it’s becoming universal across the state.

The law effectively eliminates traditional single-family zoning. Called “The Duplex Bill,” opponents and city officials see it as a huge shift in how we structure our communities and the death of local residential neighborhoods while heralding unrestricted construction in every corner of the state. .

Exploitation provisions are still being flushed out, but its impact on the state could be huge.

Generally, single-family zoning prohibits a homeowner from subdividing an existing property without going through a thorough and punitive process. Building more than one living unit on a property is strictly regulated by most local zoning laws.

Recently, the state mandated that accessory dwelling unit laws, known as ADUs, can be created on just about any owner lot. The most recent laws allow a landlord to convert part of their existing home into a rental unit, allowing a landlord to have up to three living units on their property for grandma, a caretaker, or for rent.

Detached single family zoning, or SFD, is the most dominant land use in California. Even in most cities with several categories of residential areas, the single family can represent up to 90% of the actual land area.

Major cities such as Los Angeles or San Jose have up to 65% of all land area designated residential listed as SFD. Many North Bay communities are zoned over 95% SFD residential.

Due to the state’s extreme housing shortages, this practice has been scrutinized as a fundamental barrier to building more housing and reducing construction costs.

Basically, the bill allows a homeowner to subdivide their property and create up to four independent residences by dividing it in half and then building a house and an ADU on each lot. In theory, the owner must live in one of the accommodations, but this may vary.

In addition, the JADU law allows a landlord to create part of his residence for rent. Therefore, each existing single-family home could potentially have up to six dwelling units.

While SB 9 allows local agencies to impose objective zoning, subdivision, and design standards, it does not permit a local agency’s subjective judgment in determining whether a proposed lot division or development should be approved. or refused. It is intended to be administrative, or by the book.

Here are some qualification criteria for dividing up your assets:

  1. A parcel map is required to subdivide an existing parcel and create at most two new parcels approximately equal in size, not less than 40% of the original parcel. This should be administratively managed by the municipality.
  2. Although no parcel is less than 1,200 square feet, local agencies may adopt smaller minimum lot sizes. Under no circumstances may a lot be less than 800 square feet.
  3. The original parcel to be subdivided must or be within an existing single family residential area in a city or unincorporated urbanized area known as an “Urban Group”.
  4. The parcel must not be in a historic district or be on historic property.
  5. The package must not already be split via SB9 or next to an SB split lot.
  6. The parcel to be divided must not require demolition or significant alteration and cannot be one of the following:
  • Affordable housing for middle, low or very low income families or individuals
  • Housing at controlled rent
  • Existing tenancies that have been occupied by a tenant within the last three years.

Scary or exciting? Will this eliminate California’s housing shortage?

I do not think so. We can assume that many people will take advantage of this and try to split their lots while incurring the ire of their neighbors and community.

But I don’t see a widespread implementation of this. In Berkeley, where single-family zoning has already been effectively abolished, few homeowners have used this option.

While an estimate of 714,000 new homes could theoretically be created, it remains below the 1.4 million homes required. Many people will push back arguing that this will only generate more traffic, carbon dioxide, urban blight and headaches.

However, we have to think about housing the people who already live here in cramped apartments, basement slums or in their cars.

We need to find ways to integrate more housing into our neighborhoods while maintaining the community feeling and appeal that has drawn us to where we live today.

Although I disdain architectural design controls, I believe that global community design umbrellas are deserved.