Court Throws Out Pro-Density Law SB9

Daily Post Staff Writer April 29, 2024


Court Throws Out Pro-Density Law SB9

Cities that are against state housing mandates have won their lawsuit against the state of California that challenged a controversial law allowing four homes on properties where only one home had been allowed before. The ruling means that Senate Bill 9 has been invalidated in charter cities, including Palo Alto, according to the lawyer who won the lawsuit.

“This is a monumental victory for all charter cities in California,” said attorney Pam Lee, who represented five Southern California cities against the state and Attorney General Rob Bonta.

Charter cities have their own local constitution, or charter. California has 121 charter cities, including Palo Alto, San Mateo, Redwood City and Mountain View.

The rest of the cities are “general law” cities, which operate under the general laws of the state. The SB9 ruling doesn’t apply to general law cities.

Councilwoman Lydia Kou, Palo Alto’s harshest critic of Sacramento’s housing laws, announced the ruling on Monday night.

“We received news today that (SB9) has been struck down. This is a great win, and I look forward to hearing more about it,” Kou said. Five Southern California cities had asked Judge Curtis Kin to invalidate SB9, and Kin granted their request on Monday, court records show.

Kin hasn’t published his full order yet, so details about how his ruling will apply and the reasoning behind it were not available yesterday. The decision can be appealed.

A representative for Bonta’s office said they are reviewing the decision and “will consider all options in defense of SB9.”

California’s pro-housing lawmakers passed SB9 in 2021, and it took effect in January 2022.


What’s SB9?


Under SB9, lots that are zoned for a single-family home can be split into two lots without a city hearing. Two homes can then be built on each resulting lot for a total of four homes, where previously just one was allowed.

Cities can’t deny SB9 projects. There’s a few exceptions, like if a house is historic or if the lot isn’t big enough.

The town of Woodside tried declaring its entire town a mountain lion sanctuary to get around the law, but Bonta made council reverse course.

A lobbying group called Our Neighborhood Voices tried to put a statewide initiative ballot to overturn SB9, but they didn’t get enough signatures to qualify.

The city of Palo Alto has approved three SB9 projects and is reviewing another five applications, Chief Planning Official Amy French said yesterday.

Bonta defends law

In response to the lawsuit, Bonta said that SB9 is an “important tool” to combat California’s statewide housing crisis by promoting supply and affordability.

“In California, the average price of a home is a record-breaking $880,000, leading to the lowest home ownership rates in more than a century,” Bonta said.

“Our statewide housing shortage and affordability crisis requires collaboration, innovation, and a good faith effort by local governments to increase the housing supply. SB9 is an important tool in this effort, and we’re going to make sure homeowners have the opportunity to utilize it.”

But five cities — Redondo Beach, Carson, Torrance, Whittier and Del Mar — said the state shouldn’t be making land-use decisions for them.

“In essence, SB9 eliminates local authority to create single-family zoning districts and approve housing developments, a right that has existed for practically a century,” the lawsuit said.

The League of California Cities filed a brief supporting the lawsuit.

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