The Legislature continues its efforts to increase the state’s housing supply, regardless of local land use policies and priorities. Senate Bill 9, introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, will require cities to approve by right through ministerial action up to four units on existing single-family parcels.  Senate Bill 9 has passed the State Senate and is now pending in the Assembly. The bill is opposed by many cities and Cal Cities. Senate Bill 9 would require up to four residential units to be allowed per existing lot in most single-family residential zones statewide, without any discretionary review.  Recent amendments to the bill clarified that the intent is that this applies to charter cities as well as general law cities.

The bill requires ministerial approval of a lot split into two separate lots, and requires cities to approve most projects constructing two units on any single-family residential parcel. This expands the existing law requiring cities to approve accessory dwelling units, commonly known as second units, to now encompass two full-scale residential units on each single-family zoned parcel. Cities and counties would be limited to imposing objective zoning and design standards, such as height limits and setback requirements, unless those standards would physically preclude the construction of two residential units. Senate Bill 9 does not apply to developments that would require the demolition or alteration of housing that is restricted to very low-, low-, or moderate-income housing, or developments on a registered historic landmark or within a designated historic district. As with recent ADU legislation, local parking requirements are limited if the project is within one-half mile of a transit corridor, or there is a car share vehicle located within one block of the parcel.

Local agencies would be required to consider ministerially “urban lot” splits, defined as being “located within a city the boundaries of which include some portion of either an urbanized area or urban cluster, as designated by the United States Census Bureau, or, for unincorporated areas, a legal parcel wholly within the boundaries of an urbanized area or urban cluster, as designated by the United States Census Bureau.” The minimum size for each resulting lot is 1,200 square feet.  Each lot shall be of roughly equal size.  The bill also contains the same exemptions as Senate Bill 35, prohibiting lot splits on several types of protected lands, e.g. wetlands, very-high fire hazard severity zones, unless the project complies with state mitigation requirements, hazardous waste sites, and conservation easement protected lands.

Under Senate Bill 9 eligible property owners would be able to split an urban lot into two lots, then build a duplex on each lot, and thereby build four units, where previously one unit would have been allowed.

Senate Bill 9 was previously introduced as Senate Bill 1120 during the 2019-2020 legislative session and passed both the Senate and the Assembly, but failed to advance to the Governor’s desk as the Assembly approved an amended version of SB 1120 only three minutes before the midnight deadline late last year, leaving the Senate no time to vote on Senate Bill 1120. The bill continues several years’ past efforts by Senator Weiner and other housing advocates, including the 2019’s Senate Bill 50. The next hearing is set for June 9, 2021 in the Assembly Committee on Local Government.