Changes are coming to CA’s zoning rules. Some cities are resisting

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An aerial view shows Redondo Beach homes, pier, and waterfront. Photo by Shutterstock.

California’s new “duplex law” may change the landscape of building in the state. Senate Bill 9 (SB9), signed into law in September, allows new duplexes — and in some cases, fourplexes — to be built in most neighborhoods previously zoned for single-family homes. This bill makes California the second state in the nation to prohibit single-family-home-only zoning in most areas (Oregon was the first in 2019). Although SB9 doesn’t take effect until January 1, 2022, some of California’s cities are already working on measures to limit its impact.

“For those of us on the frontlines who’ve been dealing with housing — I’ve been dealing with it for over 12 years — this is of no help. This will displace affordable housing, gentrify neighborhoods, and actually be a financial disaster for cities,” says Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand.

“There are some concerns, and this is what I’ve heard from folks at the state level, that some of these cities’ actions may be things to try to dodge the law entirely or make it so difficult that nothing would get built,” says Liam Dillon, LA Times staff writer covering housing affordability. “And so for instance, there was some concern as a proposal in the city of Pasadena that to build, you would have to put two mature trees potentially on the property, which could be very expensive. So some things that were seen as overly prescriptive and prescriptive in a way that would potentially prohibit any housing from getting built.”

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