California’s state legislature is now attacking established single-family neighborhoods with a flurry of harmful housing legislation that threatens their very livability. Our state government has essentially declared war against the neighborhoods of every city, county, and community in California.

In the process, the state legislature has revealed its fixation on snuffing out the self-determination of local governments, cramming high-density apartments into existing low-density neighborhoods, gentrifying and displacing communities of color with luxury housing, and putting the real estate investment industry in charge of local planning and development review processes.

What’s alarming is the narrative legislators are using to justify their actions. They are targeting single family neighborhoods as the new frontier for high density development because such neighborhoods are “racist”, “segregationist”, and “evil” as stated in some of their own words. Despite negatively impacting black and brown neighborhoods where their homeownership is highest in South LA, East LA, Oakland, Richmond, and East Palo Alto, that narrative is working in today’s superheated political rhetoric.

It’s tragic how few Californians are aware of the changes this legislation portends for the communities in which we live. What can be done to stop this?

Nix the Nine! 

In 2019, SB 50 (Wiener)– a brutal housing bill that would have shoehorned high density housing into established single-family neighborhoods throughout California—was thankfully and ultimately defeated. Now, a bunch of ill-conceived housing bills have been introduced in the Senate and the Assembly to accomplish many of the draconian provisions that were in SB 50. 

The difference this year? Rather than one big bill, they are resorting to nine (9) separate complex and confusing pieces of legislation when public participation in the legislative process is essentially non-existent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislature is actually exploiting the COVID virus to quickly ram through their bills without public involvement. So much for transparency!

Rather than exhausting our energies trying to defeat each of these nine bills individually, those of us interested in saving our neighborhoods must simplify things. We need to oppose them as a block. Hence the notion of “Nix the Nine.”

The common denominators that plague these 9 noxious bills include:

In entertaining such legislation, California’s legislators are morphing our democracy into a top-down autocracy. Why are they doing this? Isn’t it obvious? Rather than represent their constituents who voted for them, they are acting on behalf of their big-dollar contributors in the development industry. It’s just wrong.

What specifically will these nine bills mean to our neighborhoods and communities? Below is a list of the bill numbers, their authors, and a brief summary of what these bills will do if enacted.

Senate Bills:

  1. 1. SB 1120 (Atkins): Allows existing single-family lots to be subdivided into lots as small as 1200 ft.²
  2. 2. SB 902 (Wiener): Allows any city council to overturn voter approved initiatives to protect open spaces and other lands while allowing rezoning of “any parcel” to build 10-unit luxury housing projects without any affordable housing.
  3. 3. SB 995 (Atkins): Slashes the affordable housing requirements for developers to “fast track” multifamily housing projects from 49% to 15% while exempting such projects from CEQA. 
  4. 4. SB 1085 (Skinner): Cuts in half requirements for moderate income housing from 40% to 20% to allow developers a 35% density bonus without providing any affordable housing for low to very-low income families.

Assembly Bills:

  1. 5. AB 725 (Wicks): Weaponizes inflated Regional Housing Needs Allocations (RHNA) by mandating that 25% of each community’s housing targets be shoehorned into areas zoned for single-family housing.
  2. 6. AB 1279 (Bloom): Creates an obscure state committee to identify neighborhoods throughout California as “Opportunity Zones” where 50-120-unit housing projects could be built despite local zoning.
  3. 7. AB 2345 (Gonzales): Allows developers to an additional 50% density bonus if they provide more affordable housing units than now required, regardless of city controls on building height, open space, parking, development review and other local standards.
  4. 8. AB 3040 (Chiu): Targets existing single-family homes that are 15 or more years old for demolition and replacement with 4-plexes, affecting over 6.2 million homes in California that would make working-class neighborhoods vulnerable to gentrification and displacement.
  5. 9. AB 3107 (Bloom/Ting): Allows redevelopment of neighborhood commercial sites with high-density housing projects that would be as tall as the tallest size of any buildings within ½-mile radius of the site.

The aggregate impact of these 9 bills will be devastating to California’s communities. We need to stop this now.

What to Do?

If we want to save our neighborhoods, we all need to rise up and resist the state’s intrusion into our communities. Both houses of the state legislature are set to return to their COVID-19 delayed legislative session in late July 2020 to take action on these 9 troubled bills. All of us–citizens, organizations, neighborhood associations, and cities and counties throughout California–need to take these actions as soon as possible:

The time to act is NOW!