May 30, 2024 Your Source for Brentwood News

Column: SB 9 Ended R-1 Zoning, but It’s Not Meeting Goals

By Tom Elias

More than a year after it took effect, the landmark housing density law known as SB 9 has drawn many derogatory labels: a usurper of local powers, a neighborhood wrecker, a destroyer of dreams, and more. But the most accurate epithet for it today is something much simpler. So far, it’s a flop.

SB 9, sponsored by San Diego’s Democratic state Sen. Toni Atkins, was intended to help solve the California housing shortage by encouraging owners of current single-family homes to divide their lots in two, with each half eligible for a duplex and an additional dwelling unit, often known as an ADU.

So six housing units are now authorized almost automatically on most single-family properties in this state. The SB 9 sponsors believed when it passed in the fall of 2020 that this would create enormous financial incentives for current homeowners to sell to developers.

After all, a new cottage industry had arisen since permitting of ADUs, also known as “granny units,” became virtually automatic in January 2020, with almost all new homes featuring them and many existing homeowners buying and renting out prefabricated units.

But enthusiasm for the kind of density SB 9 intended to create has not come close to matching the homeowner and developer interest in building ADUs. A report early this year from UC Berkeley’s consistently pro-density Terner Center for Housing Innovation described the law’s impact so far as “limited or nonexistent.”

The failure so far of this law may comfort some homeowners interested in maintaining their roomy lifestyles and the character of their neighborhoods, but the conditions causing it may not be permanent.

For one thing, nothing in SB 9 compels anyone to build as much as a single affordable unit, or any units designated for low-income residents.

With both median home prices and the cost of building a single one-bedroom unit in California both hovering above $800,000, it’s difficult to see how creating bunches of duplexes will be much help to families who currently don’t own homes and thus have not built up many tens of thousands of dollars in equity.

The contrast with building large apartment or condominium complexes is sharp: They must include at least some affordable units. They also can get a “density bonus” allowing them to create more units if they provide more than the required percentage of affordable or low-income ones.

So the market for new duplexes is not hot today, especially in a time of dropping population. Then there’s the matter of financing: Interest on home and construction loans is higher today than almost any time in the last 20 years, as the Federal Reserve Board keeps upping interest rates to stem inflation.

That depresses both home prices and sales everywhere in the nation, including California, and makes it difficult for developers to fund new projects.

There’s also a shortage of construction workers, similar to the dearth of workers that has seen “help wanted” signs appear in thousands of restaurant and store windows.   

All these conditions might be temporary, possibly changing considerably as inflation slows.

But there’s also the matter of reluctance by current homeowners to carve up their properties or sell out and move elsewhere.

The steady rise of California property values over the 14 years since the Great Recession – until it halted or slowed in mid-2021 – has left huge numbers of longtime homeowners flush with equity, sometimes mounting into the millions of dollars.

If they access some of that resource via refinancing or reverse mortgages, a lot of the financial incentive for creating six homes out of one can disappear.

All of which means SB 9 does not figure to become a major housing factor anytime soon.

This has caused its onetime enthusiastic backers to deny they ever saw it as a major part of the solution. One example is Atkins, the state Senate’s president then and now. She told a reporter SB 9 “was never intended to be an overnight fix to our housing shortage…it was intended to increase the housing supply over time.”

It still may do that someday, but reality right now is that SB 9 has not amounted to much.

Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It,” is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net.

Related Posts

Opinion: Is Brentwood in Danger of Losing Its Farmers Market?

May 28, 2024

May 28, 2024

By Carolyn Jordan, Chair, Brentwood Community Council The Brentwood Farmers’ Market at Gretna Green and San Vicente has been with...

Pultizer Prize Winning Rapper Signs Deal To Purchase Pricey Brentwood Estate

May 27, 2024

May 27, 2024

Deal Would Be One of the Biggest Real Estate Sales in 2024  Pulitzer Prize winning rapper Kendrick Lamar has agreed...

Los Angeles County Rent Relief Program Opens Second Round of Applications

May 20, 2024

May 20, 2024

Applications Accepted Until June 4, Funding and Support Have Been Increased  The Los Angeles County Rent Relief Program (LARRP) has...

Sony Eyes Purchase of Paramount Global and Selling Iconic Hollywood Lot

May 12, 2024

May 12, 2024

Potential Acquisition Could Reshape Entertainment Landscape There are reports that Sony Group Corporation is considering purchasing Paramount Global which would...

Los Angeles County Issues Beach Closure and Water Use Warning

May 12, 2024

May 12, 2024

Residents Urged to Use Caution Amid Elevated Bacterial Levels The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has issued an...

Los Angeles County Reports Slight Plateau in Homelessness-Related Mortality Rates

May 9, 2024

May 9, 2024

Report Shows Slight Increase in Overall Mortality Rate but Signals Slowing of Deaths The Los Angeles County Department of Public...

Ubuntu’s “TwentyTues” Wine Specials on Its Serene Patio Bring Plant-Based Delights

May 9, 2024

May 9, 2024

Vegan Women’s Summit Restaurant Week Comes to Ubuntu With Special Menu Ubuntu, the plant-based restaurant boasting West African-inspired flavors and...

UCLA Chancellor to Establish New Campus Security Office Amid Criticism and Independent Review

May 5, 2024

May 5, 2024

Block Faces Backlash for Handling of Pro-Palestine Encampment Attack and LAPD Raid In the aftermath of the four-hour attack on...

An Interview With the Owners of Tito’s Tacos, Lynne Davidson and Wirt Morton

May 3, 2024

May 3, 2024

New Menu Items, This Year’s Fiesta Mexicana and a New Documentary By Dolores Quintana With the new chicken burrito slated...

Westside Man Man Pleads Guilty to Decade-Long $1 Million Tax Evasion Scheme

April 30, 2024

April 30, 2024

Beverly Hills Resident Admits to Concealing Income From IRS Haim Jerry Kohen, a resident of Beverly Hills, California, admitted guilt...

Opinion: Toxic Exposure May Impact Veterans’ Health Even Today

April 29, 2024

April 29, 2024

By Cristina Johnson  Military service members spend years in hazardous environments unknowingly, often developing fatal illnesses decades after their service....

Outrage Erupts Over Demolition of Iconic Midcentury Craig Ellwood Home in Brentwood

April 21, 2024

April 21, 2024

Destruction of Zimmerman House Creates Internet Backlash Preservationists lamented last year when another treasure of L.A.’s midcentury modern architecture vanished,...

Marine Corps Member Sentenced to Federal Prison for Firebombing Clinic and Domestic Terrorism Plots

April 16, 2024

April 16, 2024

Man Receives 9-Year Sentence for Neo-Nazi Plots Including Hollywood Hills Home Invasion Plans  A man from Orange County, convicted of...

Los Angeles County District Attorney Announces Charges In Brutal Venice Sexual Assaults

April 16, 2024

April 16, 2024

Charges Filed Against Suspect in Venice Canals Case by LADA George Gascon Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón has...

California Launches Dream For All Shared Appreciation Loan to Foster Homeownership

April 7, 2024

April 7, 2024

Innovative Program Provides Down Payment Assistance for First-Time Homebuyers The California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) has opened submissions for the...