SB 9 advances out of committee despite stiff opposition from Cal Cities, city officials, and community voices

Jun 23, 2021

Lead opposition testimony was provided by Blanca Pacheco, the mayor pro tem of Downey and the president of Cal Cities’ Los Angeles County Division. 


Despite fervent testimony by Pacheco and others, the bill passed out of the Housing and Community Development Committee on a 5-1 vote, with two abstaining.

SB 9 (Atkins), as presently drafted, would require cities to ministerially approve, without condition, discretion, or public input, a housing development containing two residential units on an individual parcel in single-family neighborhoods. Additionally, the measure would require local governments to ministerially approve an urban lot split, thus creating two independent lots that may be sold separately.

More than 175 cities have submitted letters of opposition or oppose unless amended since the bill’s introduction.
During a passionate testimony, Pacheco stated, “Cal Cities and the city of Downey have persistently pursued solutions to the housing supply and affordability crisis that is gripping many regions of the state. Unfortunately, SB 9 will not spur the much-needed housing construction we need and certainly not in a manner that supports local flexibility, decision-making, and community input.”

SB 9’s top-down, one-size-fits-all approach disregards existing, in-progress housing plans that will identify sites for more than two million new homes over the next eight years. It is certain to disrupt cities like Downey trying to implement their state-certified housing plans. For example, Downey’s eight-year housing projection plan — which will commence in January 2022 — has risen to 6,525 units, up from 1,457. Furthermore, the measure mandates more housing in existing single-family zones without any evidence that it would result in more affordable housing.

Housing affordability and homelessness are among the most critical issues facing California’s cities. Affordably priced homes are out of reach for many people and housing is not being built fast enough to meet the current or projected needs of people living in the state.

Cal Cities worked with the author for several months on amendments that would have addressed cities’ primary concerns, including limiting property owners to two additional residential units, clarifying the bill’s language to prevent abuse by large-scale investors and builders, and prohibiting the use of SB 9 in very high fire hazard severity zones.

The bill now moves to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations. Cities are urged to continue to oppose the measure, and to share their concerns with their legislators.

Cities concerned about SB 9 should also consider opposing AB 215 (Chiu) — the subject of a recent Action Alert — which would create a new, mid-cycle regional housing needs progress determination process. It would require cities and counties with “low progress” to consult with the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) and adopt pro-housing policies. Another one-size-fits-all approach, AB 215 turns what was intended only two years ago to be an incentive program into a mandatory requirement for cities to adopt state-supported policies and strategies.