Just some bills sitting on Capitol Hill 

No, these aren’t a WiFi password sequence: SB9 and SB10 are State Senate bills that, following significant progress at the State Capitol this week, induced hoopla and backslapping among pro-housing officials and advocates. 

But, not so fast. The bills still need to go back for a concurrence vote and win Gov. Gavin Newsom’s approval, which can take up to a month. Each aims to ease housing construction and, surprising no one, both bills are controversial. Drum roll, please:

Revolution No. 9

SB9 essentially states that Californians would no longer need local government permission to split single-family housing lots, and the zoning would allow homeowners to slap on extra units. 

The bill permits a split lot as long as resulting parcels are no smaller than 1,200 square feet in total. They also allow up to two units on each parcel, meaning a single-family lot could potentially house four units, whether they be accessory dwelling units (ADUs) or two duplexes. Caveat: the homeowner must live in one of the units for at least three years. To speed the process along, discretionary review and a California Environmental Quality Act review, tools commonly used to block planning projects, won’t be necessary to split lots. 

Via CalMatters, some cities aren’t happy. Cities claim that neither they, nor their services, can handle an influx of density. They also don’t love losing the right to hear projects. 

Todd David, the executive director of pro-housing group Housing Action Coalition, is stoked, but not convinced that this will significantly nor swiftly change the city’s housing landscape. 

San Franciscans dreaming of bulldozing a pre-existing single-family home for four more smaller units seems unlikely, David noted. The bill probably targets developers and fresh, vacant lots. But “frankly, how many empty lots” are there? He wondered. “I’m guessing not that many,” David said.  

SB10 is a Wiener

Ex-supe and current state senator Scott Wiener penned SB10, which allows up to 10 units of housing per parcel if it’s near an “urban infill site,” such as parking lots, or if it’s near transit. If you push out enough legislation, one’s gotta stick right? 

Wiener and David view SB10 as a win for climate change goals, stating more homes near transit will decrease driving and emissions. 

However, this bill is an opt-in for local governments, and “this Board of Supervisors is not going to,” David theorized, unless they feel pressured to fulfill the state housing requirements.

Jury’s still out on both bills, but a tweet by Supervisor Dean Preston did appear to critique SB9 on Monday. 

Critics of both bills condemn how they fail to explicitly reserve units for affordable housing. 

Clock ticks on eviction moratorium 

The statewide eviction moratorium expires on Sept. 30, 2021, potentially leaving thousands of Californians at risk of displacement and homelessness. 

Yet no job and plenty of bills means piles of back rent for some. Despite the creation and availability of state and local rent relief programs, it appears not all qualified applicants are participating. And those who are must wait … and wait … and wait.  Tens of millions of available state funds are unclaimed, according to the SF Public Press’s rent tracker. 

The moratorium expiration’s onset has some tenants worried. Take Elena Cruz, who said she never missed a rent payment until she lost her job in the pandemic, and now owes $20,000 in back rent. 

“We have to keep screaming that they will help us, and we have to keep looking for help,” Cruz said in Spanish at a rally this week in Garfield Square Park. 

On the other hand, landlords hope the moratorium expiration finally arrives. Albert Tam, who rents about 20 units on Mission Street, said most residents don’t pay, and alleges two are squats. We have a mortgage. The bank doesn’t care,” Tam said. “People just stay for free. It’s not fair.”

Housekeeping: What you missed and what I’m reading

From us, to you, with love: 

From us, to you, with love: 

Joe Eskenazi walks us through the state of play in erstwhile Planning Commissioner Dennis Richards’ litigation, and points out that DBI corruption can be a family affair.

From me: Mission Street’s experiencing more vacancies, but it’s always been hard to lease there. Why? 

Also, look what the anti-recall campaign dragged in. Gov. Gavin Newsom stopped by 19th Street to clear some homeless encampments

Welcome Anlan Cheney, who joins us as an intern! This week, she delves deeper into Elena Cruz’s fight for eviction protections

What I’m reading: 

Back to school, baby! Frances Dinkelspiel strikes again at Berkeleyside, updating the University of California at Berkeley and neighborhood group debacle. The latest: A judge ordered the university to freeze admissions. 

Via Jade Martinez-Pogue at Noozhawk, UC Santa Barbara students, on the other hand, felt their school didn’t issue a timely nor adequate warning that most classes would return to classrooms. This left students scrambling to find a place to stay; some were so desperate, they claim they may sleep in cars

Of note: Both universities far surpassed their “Long Term Development Plans” for enrollment.

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Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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2 Comments

  1. SB10 repeats the error of Eastern Neighborhoods, using Transit Oriented [sic] Development as bait for upzonings (under the promise that added supply will lower housing prices) that switches to luxury condos and Ubers in practice.

    It was apparent when the SF Planning Commission passed 7 statements overriding the significance of above CEQA threshold transit delay and crowding from newcomers and their to-be TNCs. Taxis would have done the same trick.

    So when it comes time to linking land use and transit, there needs to be tests to ensure that transit capacity is sufficient to handle the new loads prior to entitlement.

    Given the inability of San Francisco to deliver transit capital projects in less than two decades, it is not reasonable to claim that the public sector can just spin up more transit capacity as tax revenues rise. The MTA’s budget has doubled over the past 15 yr or so with no commensurate upgrading in transit service. To the contrary, service is being cut.

    Our underlying problem here is corruption, corruption in running a transit system and corruption in land use entitlements.

    TOD upzonings like SB10 should be reversed any time that the transit agency, the services on which these upzonings are predicated, cuts service as the MTA is doing with Muni right now.

    The Mission has proven that TOD is either a scam or requires much more investment to make work, investment which developers are loathe to pay, they’re not practicable, so the downside costs are outsourced to existing residents.

  2. Two excellent pro-housing bills — SB09 and SB10 — are now State law.

    The corrupt/rent-seeking NIMBY naysayers can pound sand.

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