As a growing coalition of Californians – including two San Jose mayoral candidates – rallies against a new state law that ends traditional zoning restrictions on single-family homes in most neighborhoods, San Jose is considering d ” go beyond what the law requires of it to further ease its housing crisis.
Senate Bill 9, which Gov. Gavin Newsom enacted in September, allows homeowners to divide a property initially zoned for a single-family home into two lots and build up to four units. The new law, which will come into effect on January 1, does not apply to properties located in a historic district or to lots whose zoning already allows duplexes.
Yet in San JosÃ©, a proposal put forward by planners and approved by the city’s planning commission would explore the application of SB9’s increased density parameters to properties in these areas of the city as well.
“We have a shortage of housing units of all kinds,” said Planning Commissioner Michael Young, calling SB 9 a “small piece of the puzzle” in dealing with the city’s housing crisis. ââ¦ We all need to help solve the problem, not just the people who live downtown or in the east. “
The proposal combines the implementation of SB 9 as required by law while incorporating concepts outlined in a previous zoning change proposed by the city called âopportunity housing,â which significantly overlapped with the new state law. , but would also have allowed increased density in neighborhoods and historic areas. already zoned to allow duplexes.
The city’s planning committee voted 8-2 Wednesday night to drop the opportunity housing proposal and focus on running SB 9 with these caveats. San JosÃ© City Council will decide whether to continue in this direction on December 14.
If council goes ahead with the proposal, planners are expected to spend the next year collecting public comments to create specific design standards for projects licensed under SB 9 and decide if – and under what circumstances. – authorize SB 9 projects in historic areas and parts of the city zoned for duplexes.
“We don’t see that continuing with both (SB 9 and opportunity housing) would result in a lot more housing,” said Michael Brilliot, deputy director of the city’s planning department. “… I think we have to choose our battles or our difficult missions.”
Since cities and counties in California will already be required to approve development proposals that meet the size and design standards specified by SB 9, some residents are urging San Jose rulers to refrain from throwing a net wider until they see how the initial phase is going.
Marni Kamzan, a resident of Naglee Park, said she feared allowing more development in the city’s historic areas would have “devastating” consequences.
âThe historic and conservation districts are the jewel of our city. Once gone, they can never be replaced, âKamzan said at the planning committee meeting. “Don’t allow disgusting design standards that you can’t turn back.”
If implemented, an SB 9 project would only be allowed in historic San Jose neighborhoods if city officials were confident that it “would not negatively impact the historic resource,” according to Jerad Ferguson, the city’s housing catalyst. For example, design standards might allow the owner of a large Victorian house in a historic neighborhood to divide the house into two separate units.
As for applying SB 9 to zoned properties to allow certain duplexes, Ferguson said it was simply meant to level the playing field.
SB 9 only applies to residential properties zoned R-1, but San Jose has several thousand single-family residential properties zoned R-2 and would not be allowed to take advantage of the new state law. R-2 zoning allows the construction of duplexes on only a small percentage of properties. If the city does not expand SB 9 to cover R-2 zoned properties, it would create a patchwork policy in otherwise very similar residential areas, according to Ferguson.
San Jose council members Dev Davis and Matt Mahan, both mayoral candidates, have been vocal opponents of SB 9.
Davis recently became one of the first people in the state to sign a petition for a voting initiative to amend the California constitution to ensure that local land use ordinances precede land use mandates. state as SB 9. In response to the proposal on the table in San Jose, she said Thursday that she was concerned about expanding SB 9’s influence beyond what is required by the state law.
“I am convinced that the state cannot continue to take precedence over the voices of our neighborhood without giving us anything in return,” said Davis. âI think it’s really important to respect our neighborhoods.
A report from the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California at Berkeley found that it would only be financially possible for about 5.4% of the state’s current single-family lots to be developed under SB 9. In the Santa Clara County, in particular, the Terner Center estimated that about 40,000 new units could be produced under the new law.
According to a feasibility analysis conducted by the San Jose Planning Department, most of the units created by removing single-family zoning restrictions would be built in the north and west sides of San Jose, and any of the units are unlikely. be considered affordable. The analysis looked at several possible developments permitted under SB 9, including quadruple rentals and condos, townhouses, and single-family attached homes on a divided lot – all of which residents would need to earn more than the Median county area income of about $ 124,000 to afford.
Although some planners and town planning commissioners have called these levels of affordability “disappointing,” housing advocates have said these types of units are still needed.
âThis has never been an affordable housing opportunity,â said Michael Reed of SV @ Home. “It was an opportunity to expand the price range in different neighborhoods and different parts of the city.”