SB 9 and SB 10
UPDATE: On September 16, 2021, Governor Newsom signed into law SB 9 and SB 10. Both bills have serious implications for heritage conservation efforts statewide and throughout Los Angeles.
On August 18, 2021 the Los Angeles City Council came out in opposition to the proposed SB 9 and SB 10 legislation.
California senate legislative bills 9 (SB 9) and 10 (SB 10) are intended to help alleviate the affordable housing crisis by easing perceived land use and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) barriers to increase density and streamline the production of multi-family housing development statewide.
SB 9 streamlines the process for an owner to subdivide an existing single-family residential lot to create a duplex and/or allow for new infill construction. Senator Atkins is the main sponsor of SB 9.
SB 10 establishes enabling legislation for jurisdictions that want to opt in and upzone urbanized areas close to transit, allowing up to 10 units per parcel without any CEQA oversight. SB 10 is sponsored by Senator Wiener and in direct follow-up to his previous legislative session bills (SB 1120, SB 50 and SB 827) that failed to receive support.
SB 10 establishes enabling legislation where jurisdictions can choose to opt in or not, yet there are no safeguards for historic resources once adopted. It will allow muncipalities to upzone parcels and override existing zoning with little public input or review. If passed, SB 10 severely weakens existing protections for historic places as it allows communities to bypass CEQA review for a critical stage in the redevelopment process, and will undoubtedly directly result in the demolition and loss of historic resources.
Until recently, the City of Los Angeles did not have a unified position regarding SB 9 and SB 10. Some council members have come out in opposition, including Councilmember Paul Koretz.
Neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles County are concerned, such as Leimert Park in South Los Angeles, featured in this short video.
Recent polling indicates a majority of California voters oppose both SB 9 and SB 10.
Are SB 9 and SB 10 equally harmful for heritage conservation?
The Conservancy has consistently pressed for these bills to include adequate preservation safeguards (ensuring reviews and possible exemptions) to protect structures and districts placed on, or that have been identified by a public agency as eligible for, inclusion on a national, state, or local historic register.
Thanks to efforts by the California Preservation Foundation (CPF), SB 9 now has language included that provides for some protection for historic resources. If passed, a property owner could not split a lot under the ministerial provisions in the bill if the property met the definition of a historic resource as defined in Section 5020.1 of the Public Resources Code, or within a site that is designated or listed as a city or county landmark or historic property or district pursuant to a city or county ordinance.
SB 10 is another story, as the legislation currently includes no safeguards for historic resources. The bill exempts the upzoning for up to 10 units from CEQA review but not the project itself which theoretically will follow. In reality, local jurisdictions will upzone parcels without taking in consideration potential historic resources that may be impacted by a future project. A local jurisdiction that upzones a parcel is unlikely to reconsider their decision in the future (even with CEQA to come later) following a speculative sale (driving up real estate values) of a recently-upzoned parcel.
While CPF has requested Senator Wiener and the Senate Housing Committee amend the bill and include similar language within SB 10 as in SB 9 for consistently and clarification purposes, this text is still missing from the latest version of the legislation.
While the intent of providing more housing may be good, these bills and approach are highly problematic. It poses a one-size-fits-all solution and a blunt, statewide fix that would outstrip local authority and planning. It also does not recognize the diversity of communities and development statewide, let alone throughout Greater Los Angeles.
Preservation safeguards needed to be added to SB 10 to protect historic resources. Unlike SB 9, this language is currently missing.