Cities prepare suit against SB9

Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand points to homes that illustrate his concern about SB 9, which would allow multiple units on lots zoned for single family homes. Photo by JP Cordero

by Garth Meyer

Redondo Beach City Attorney Mike Webb is drafting a lawsuit to block SB 9, the state law that allows single-family lots to be split, for development of two to four houses.

The city council voted unanimously in December to file the suit, which Carson and Torrance have agreed to join. Webb anticipates filing within six weeks.

“SB9 is just a giant upzoning across the entire state,” said Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand, who is leading an initiative effort to overturn SB 9.

Historically, cities have controlled local zoning. SB 9 proponents contend state action is necessary because cities have failed to zone for adequate affordable housing.

“The state has the right to make rules on municipal affairs, only as a matter of statewide concern,” Webb said. “A (policy like SB9) has to be narrowly tailored to avoid interfering with local government. And I don’t think SB 9 is either of those things.”  

The new law does not mandate affordable housing be built on split lots. Its supporters contend property values will fall as a result of an increase in the supply of housing. Opponents contend that Southern California’s high property values discourage development of affordable housing, even on split lots.

“SB9 doesn’t create affordable housing, just more market rate housing,” Webb said.

The law, which took effect Jan. 1, obligates cities to approve lot splits unless they violate public health and/or safety or the environment. The law requires an owner to live on the property at least three years after the split.

Another limitation bans the purchase of  a single-family lot to develop it while evicting or displacing current residents.

No SB9 applications yet in city

Redondo Beach Community Development Director Brandy Forbes said this week that she has received inquiries about lot splits permitted by SB 9.

“But we haven’t had any applications for any of it,” she said. “Right now we just have a handful of people wanting to understand it more.”

Forbes said the city has issued, on average, 25 permits a year for ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units), which were legalized three years ago. ER

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