Hermosa Beach Council sent measure to comply with State lot split law

by Dan Blackburn

A state-mandated plan to increase housing supplies throughout California could be satisfied in Hermosa Beach by passage of an urgency ordinance, which the city’s Planning Commission unanimously endorsed during its meeting two weeks ago.

The proposed ordinance goes to the City Council for consideration at its Dec. 14 meeting.

Commissioners made several alterations to staff recommendations, but essentially passed an ordinance that conforms to elements of the state’s housing requirements contained in legislation known as SB 9.

The urgency ordinance will meet the state’s Jan. 1 deadline. A permanent ordinance accomplishing the same purposes will be considered by the council after the first of the year.

The state legislation, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in September, allows lot splits for the construction of additional housing units under specific circumstances.

Property owners of lots that are a minimum of 2,400 square feet will be allowed to split the property into equal portions and construct housing on the newly created lot.

Conformity with local requirements concerned commissioners, who considered, then rejected, a staff proposal to limit new residential buildings to 800 square feet.

Commissioners readily agreed on three points: that public participation in the issue has been disappointing; that the matter is complicated; and that city officials are limited in what can be done to “tweak” the state law.

Commissioner Rob Saemann made a prediction: “The state is going to tell us what to do, anyway, so what’s the difference? If we are going to do this, and we are, then at least let it make some sense.”

Community Development Director Ken Robertson told the panel, “This has been, to say the least, a challenge to come up with what we think is the best approach to this new law. But we had to act in haste so that we could have a recommendation to bring to the city council to provide at least some guard rails or reasonable standards so that projects that might come to us next year make some sense. A lot of cities are having this struggle. This is what we had to do.”

Much of the commission’s discussion centered around minimum frontage requirements. While each expressed support for a 25 foot street frontage requirement, Donegan noted the state mandate was more flexible, and would preclude a “nonconforming” specific frontage requirement.

“If we say 25 feet firm, then we have violated SB 9,” he said.

The commission abandoned the requirement in the council proposal.

Saemann worried about “the damage we are doing to the city by allowing (less than 25 foot wide) lots. That’s insanity to me. If we do this, we are really just pillaging the city to satisfy the state’s requirements.”

But, Saemann added,”The good news is, none of this is probably ever going to happen, because an empty 40×100 lot is about $3 million right now in Hermosa Beach, and I don’t know anyone who is going to spend 3 million bucks to split the lot and then build two 800-square-foot houses. So if we have nothing to say about this, then let’s quit debating it because we can’t change anything.” ER


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