Editor’s Note: This is the first in a three-part series to educate myBurbank readers and our community about the bad housing bills pending in Sacramento this year. Part One: Introduction and focus on the content of the bad housing bills which will affect every neighborhood in Burbank with massive up-zoning and leave the city and its residents without a right to determine its own future.
by Emily Gabel-Luddy
Past Mayor of Burbank; former city planner/former member of American Planning Association
As if dealing with the Coronavirus, record-breaking heat, and a historic drought is not enough of a challenge, California state legislators — senators and assembly members — are preparing to pass two pieces of legislation, SB9, and SB10, that will eliminate local control over where and how development will impact your community! And because our attention has been focused on these other very serious challenges, few people are aware of this looming threat to our neighborhoods and its potentially catastrophic consequences to Burbank.
It is essential that we are all educated on the content of these bills and how they can affect the quality of life for you, your family, and your neighbors.
These bills threaten neighborhoods with overwhelming density with no thought to context, infrastructure or access to transit or livability. Very few folks have heard of them, much less realize what they mean to cities and the stability of communities.
My colleagues and I have prepared three articles to help you understand the issues involved. The first addresses the content of these bills; the second shows the impact of existing densification law on our neighborhoods and questions the State’s lack of accountability, and the final piece addresses what really happened after similar laws were enacted in Minnesota.
These bills have been championed by State senators primarily from the Bay Area who point to the need for affordable housing in California and claim that increasing the number of housing units allowed on single-family lots is the only solution. Sacramento has chosen to rely on private sector developers and real estate interests to resolve very real social issues related to housing, generational wealth, economic opportunity, disparities, and displacement.
The strategy that they have chosen is to put all their eggs in one basket – the presumption being that increasing the number of houses that can be built by-right on all single-family lots in California will somehow magically solve all of the aforementioned ills.
If passed, Senate Bill 9 (SB9) will increase the number of units that can be built on a Burbank single-family lot from one home to 4, 5, 6, or more. Because the bill requires ministerial “over-the-counter” approval for additional density, our Burbank City Council will be prohibited from adding requirements such as parking spaces, housing sized for families and not just single professionals, and green space.
SB10 would go one step further — allowing an increase in the number of units to go up to 14 dwellings if a majority of the City Council votes to approve the process. But again, the City is prohibited from adding any requirements to projects. Neither Bill, SB9 nor SB10, place any requirement on these developments that units would be “affordable” — the alleged reason for the bills in the first place.
This series will discuss these bills focussing on: the complete loss of local self-determination of Burbank and every other community in California — meaning you will no longer have any voice on land use or zoning; the absence of any metrics in these bills to define what success in affordable housing looks like; the true results of affordable housing efforts in Minneapolis (one of the first cities to upzone all single-family lots to three units). It concludes with recommendations of how/where to address affordable housing with State-City participation and partnership, not state policy that serves to enable more wealth transfer to investors.
Cities lost the direct ability to produce affordable housing 10 years ago when the State eliminated — and has not restored — the local subsidies needed to support its construction.
Our City Council recently submitted to the State a thorough and practical approach to developing affordable housing in our City. Our Council has made decisions for additional housing in places that make sense while striving to protect Burbank without undermining our infrastructure and tax base.
Many neighbors have elected to build the accessory dwelling units already permitted by State law with over 800 applications already submitted. However early data indicates that accessory dwelling up-zoning may be driving more lack of affordability.
Notwithstanding Burbank’s efforts to be constructive and forward-looking within the context of our own community, the State is poised to yank the rug out from under us, leaving important decisions related to the lives of our neighbors to the whims of for-profit real estate developers and investors.
Content of the Bad Bills
What SB9 DOES:
- It permits a single-family lot to be split in 2 with no requirement for notice, hearing, or even common improvements like an ADA sidewalk. The new lot will allow 2 more units. The original lot can already have a home and 2 ADU’s.
- It increases the number of units on all single-family lots to at least 4 where one now stands.
- It prohibits cities from requiring impact or infrastructure demand assessments for water, sewer, energy, solid waste, or school classrooms.
- It prohibits cities from requiring any parking if within 1/2 mile of transit; and if outside the 1/2 mile radius only one parking space per unit.
- It prohibits cities from requiring a side- or rear-yard setback from the property line of more than 48-inches.
What SB9 does NOT do:
- It does not require any affordable housing and prohibits local government from requiring it.
- It does not analyze any cumulative impacts.
- It does not value “green” open space. Is too much open space bad? Where will shade trees thrive to help reduce energy costs? Ignores the reality of heat-island effects in an era of climate change reality.
- It does not examine the real effects of similar proposals elsewhere. For example, Portland neighborhoods found themselves steamrolled with congested streets after the city banned on-site parking requirements. In Burbank and Southern California, parking will be off-loaded to the public residential streets, and trash day will get even more complicated.
What SB10 DOES:
- It permits up to 14 dwelling units on a lot by a vote of a majority of council members.
- It over-rides local voter initiatives. A one-person-one vote for a land-use initiative in a city will be permanently extinguished by virtue of a Council vote.
- It stops future Councils from down-zoning properties once they have been up-zoned under SB10. If they try, SB10 requires CEQA studies, and infrastructure assessments — studies not required to impose overwhelming density, to begin with.
What SB10 does NOT do:
- It does not require any affordable housing
- It does not require CEQA assessment or evaluation of densification on infrastructure demand for water, sewer, energy, solid waste, or school classrooms.
For anyone who wants to dig deeper into these bills and what they mean, a Zoom Statewide Town Hall will be held to discuss these bills on Saturday, August 7, from 10 a.m. to noon.
The Town Hall will provide you and your neighbors more information on the physical impacts to neighborhoods and communities; the effects on displacement and gentrification; and add perspectives from diverse participants.
For more information go to livablecalifornia.org
NEXT UP: Who Benefits? What Does Affordable Housing Success Look Like?