Gavin Newsom Signs Bills to Roll Back Single-family Zoning in California

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed three housing bills last week after he beat back a recall effort, all aimed at rolling back local single-family zoning laws and encouraging new housing to be built, especially dense housing developments. SB 8, SB 9, and SB 10 were all signed into law on Thursday, Sep. 16. SB 8 overrides some local government authority to reduce the capacity of housing projects; and SB 10 promotes high-density developments in certain urban areas. The most controversial of the three is SB 9, which would allow homeowners to split single-family lots into two, and allow them to build duplexes on each, without the approval of local authorities, and regardless of single-family zoning in those areas. The idea is to encourage more housing units to be built, providing more supply and potentially lowering prices. However, the law is not likely to promote much new housing in urban areas like San Francisco, though it may have an impact in the suburbs. concluded that while the “nightmare scenario” of ending single-family housing in the state would not likely occur, SB 9 “would probably have a negligible impact on the California housing crisis, at least in the short-term.” California’s leaders have been hostile to single-family homes in recent decades, seeing them as exclusionary and wasteful — even though they are preferred by most families. Geographer Joel Kotkin has spoken frequently about California’s ongoing war on single-family homes, as state planners prefer the idea of dense urban populations, hypothetically connected by mass public transit systems such as the troubled high-speed rail project.