Restoring Local Control Over Land-Use Decisions

Single-family zoning has been abolished in the state of California. The moment the recall election was behind him, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bills 9 and 10, and now low-density neighborhoods everywhere in the state could become construction sites as developers turn single-family homes into two homes plus two accessory dwelling units, also known as “granny flats.”

Senate Bill 9 requires city governments to approve these developments in any area that the state law allows them, which is virtually everywhere with a few exceptions, such as wetlands or protected habitat. Local officials can’t hold a public hearing to consider the projects. They can’t require studies of the projects’ impact on the environment or the community. They can’t require new multi-family developments to have off-street parking. They can’t impose fees on developers to help pay for water, sewer or power infrastructure, schools, street repair, sanitation or public safety services.

According to the new state laws, the only thing city officials can do is sign off.

However, according to the state constitution, the people of California have the power to change this with a citizens’ initiative. And a coalition of local officials is currently working on doing exactly that.

Initiative No. 21-0016 was submitted to the state attorney general on August 26 and is awaiting an official title and summary for the circulating petitions so signature gathering can begin.

“The purpose of this measure is to ensure that all decisions regarding local land use controls, including zoning and regulations, are made by the affected communities,” the initiative states. “Community development should not be controlled by state planners, but by local governments that know and can address the needs of, and the impacts upon, local communities.”

Senate Bill 10 looks like it is giving local communities control over development, but in fact it allows a government body, such as a city council, to override voter-approved initiatives on land use issues. So even if voters put certain areas off-limits for development, SB 10 allows local government bodies to toss out those restrictions and encourage developers to turn a single-family home into a ten-unit apartment building plus four “granny flats,” without a public hearing or any reports on the impact of the project on the environment, parking or traffic.

If this was a game of rock-paper-scissors, SB 9 and SB 10 are the rock that smashes the scissors of local zoning. But the local control initiative is the paper the covers the rock.

The initiative would amend the state constitution and establish once and for all that when a state law conflicts with a county or city provision, plan or regulation regarding zoning, development or use of land, the local measure prevails over the conflicting state law. And the initiative specifically protects voter-approved local measures that regulate zoning, development or land use, stating that these shall not be “overturned or otherwise nullified by any legislative body.”

There’s an exception in the measure that would continue to allow state control over areas governed by the California Coastal Act of 1976, as well as for the siting of a large power plant or a water, communications or transportation infrastructure project. Local governments would not be able to stop these projects that address “a matter of statewide concern” and are in “the best interests of the state.” But the authors were careful to specify that a transit-oriented development project, whether residential, commercial or mixed use, is not to be considered a “transportation infrastructure project.”

The initiative’s proponents are a diverse group. John Heath is the executive director of a non-profit affordable housing and property management firm in South Los Angeles. He’s also the co-founder of United Homeowners’ Association, a non-profit volunteer organization representing residents of View Park, Windsor Hills and View Heights, communities located midway between USC and LAX and likely to be targeted by developers for densification. Bill Brand is the mayor of the already dense community of Redondo Beach. Peggy Huang is mayor of Yorba Linda, a city that had to evacuate residents during major wildfires in 2008 and 2020. Jovita Mendoza is a council member in the northern California city of Brentwood. Dennis Richards is a former planning commissioner for the city of San Francisco.

They’re calling their measure the Brand-Huang-Mendoza Tripartisan Land Use Initiative and say it will “Stop the Sacramento Land Grab.” It will reverse existing state laws, including SB 9 and SB 10, that take zoning authority away from local communities, and it will block any future efforts by Sacramento to force cities to approve increased density where it isn’t wanted. …

Click here to read the full article from the OC Register


  1. Stan Sexton says

    Once investors start building ADUs in the back yards of the homes on your street, and using satellite maps to find more houses with big yards, you had better plan on not parking on the street. Yes, Newscum waited until after the recall to sign these bills, and to also mention that you’ll need to let your lawn go brown and enjoy the brownouts coming. Oh, he also signed the infill bills that allowed investors to build thousands of high-density apartments without adequate parking. Since those $2000 one-bedroom units will accommodate at least 4 people with two cars, make some room in front of your house for their parking needs. Also remember that all the “immigrants” will need subsidized units at your expense and that those millions of new apartments need water and power we don’t have. Thank You Mr. Newsom.

    • I think you mean Thank You Mr. and Mrs. Voter. Let’s place responsibility where it belongs!

      Newscum is a scumbag and idiot but he didn’t just walk in one day and sit down in the Governors chair. Voters put him there and they just did it again.

  2. I’m building a small pond in my small yard where the spotted owl can hang out.

  3. Just because he beat the recall doesn’t change the fact that Gov Nuisance isr next to biggest moron a-hole in the country second only to the moron occupant of the Whte House.

  4. I have a very active friend and discussed the issues of AUD’s.

    Just in the City of Santa Barbara the impacts on neighborhoods will be striking. It is estimated that the population in these single family neighborhoods will DOUBLE in the next decade. Those fed up will sell and will not be discriminating about who they sell to (read that as developers).

    Think of the impacts on “on-street parking” and daily vehicle trips on already heavily used streets.

    You voted for them (Democrats) and they are now the Communist radicals. I have a friend who’s family fled Places like Prague. The Communists have hammered personal auto ownership and use, with the only thing available is badly run buses.

    There is no fixing the mess in Sacramento. The uber rich Dem’s are holing up in gated communities and stating the rest of us can eat cake.

    So why again are you allowing a gov. that encourages welfare living (30% of the total welfare types in the nation live in Calif.).

    Understand these people are not morons (sorry JL) they are intentional and massive elitist.

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