Details on SB 9 ordinance provisions

Provisions that should be included in the Emergency SB 9 ordinance

Given the city of Sacramento is developing an emergency ordinance to address the enactment of Senate Bill SB 9, taking effect January 1, 2022, the following provisions are needed to protect the livability of existing Sacramento single family neighborhoods.

  • If a lot is split under SB 9, no more than two units should be allowed per lot for the two lots created.

Comment: Without this provision, two ADUs could also be added to each newly created lot, for a total of 8 units. Even putting 4 units where there is now one single family unit will have significant impact in many neighborhoods, but the law requires that 4 units be allowed.

  • Lot splits should be not be allowed for adjacent parcels that are owned by the same entity or individual(s).

Comment: Restricting ownership would prevent the redevelopment of a block by acquisition of several single family homes, tearing them down, and building a new row of houses. This restriction protects the existing character and prevents gentrification.

  • ADUs should not be allowed on unsplit lots to which a second unit is added under the provisions of SB 9, nor are they to be added to lots split under SB 9.

Comment: This prevents redevelopment of a large parcel in phases from a single-family home adding an ADU rental, then converting the house to a duplex, then splitting off a lot to repeat the process, ending up with six units where there used to be one.

  • The addition of any units using the provisions of SB 9 should be subject to standard Impact Development Fees to mitigate for the use of City infrastructure, parks, and emergency services.

Comment: Fees should not be waived because it is more cost efficient for the City (and therefore for taxpayers) to pay as you go.

  • Notification: In order to adequately notify the public, applications for developments under SB 9 should be routed to area neighborhood associations and project sites should be clearly posted.

Comment:  Even though these projects are approved administratively, technically without public input, neighbors still have a role to play to assure compliance with the ordinance. Everyone living on a block with a major construction project should be in the know in order to facilitate parking, traffic, and material deliveries.

  • Residence: No commercial use or short term rentals of less than 30 days should be allowed on split or unsplit lots developed under SB 9.

Comment: SB 9 was approved in order to alleviate an affordable housing shortage for the community workforce, not for tourists and travelers.

  • Gentrification: No demolition or alteration of existing units should be permitted if those units have been occupied with tenants in the last three years, under rent-control protection, or deed restricted as affordable housing.

Comment: It is better to preserve older units because they have a lower cost basis, contributing to more affordable rents. New replacements are more expensive per square foot.

  • Deviations: All existing zoning standards should apply without exemptions or deviations to include: lot coverage, setbacks, height restrictions, tree protection, and off-street parking.

Comments: This new ordinance already reduces side and rear-yard setbacks, which can have a negative impact on adjacent properties. To avoid even more negative impacts, the city needs to retain as many existing zoning provisions as it can.

  • Open Space: Lots of under 1600 square feet should have no more than 66% lot coverage. Lots greater than 1600 square feet require maintaining the existing maximum 50% lot coverage in R-1 zones. No further deviations of existing lot coverage should be allowed.

Comments: Our neighborhoods are often characterized by their open space. Single-family home ownership is valued because of the California lifestyle of living both indoors and out back. 66% lot coverage leaves 34% open space, creating a back yard that is 1/3 smaller than under existing 50% restrictions.

  • Parking: The city should not deny or discourage the provision of onsite parking. One parking space per unit should be required unless SB 9 prevents it.

Comment: SB 9 prevents cities from requiring on-site parking in areas that are a half-mile from a “high quality transit corridor” as defined by section 21155 of the Public Resources Code, or a “major transit stop” as defined by section 21064.3 of the Public Resource Code. These so-called transit-rich areas have frequent, dependable public transportation services often defined as every 15 minutes during commuting hours.

  • Sustainability: Tree Canopy protections per the Urban Forest Master Plan should include both  (1) the assessment and protection of all existing trees; and  (2) the preservation of open space for the planting of new shade trees.

Comment: Existing trees and tree canopy must be preserved as much as possible. Older trees provide more shade that will not quickly be replaced due to the slow growth rate of newly planted shade trees. Any replacement of trees must be on the site, not elsewhere, as removing trees from one location leaves a void that can become a heat island when the shade of a tree is removed.

  • Privacy: Infill Design Standards should be reviewed and modified to provide mitigation for privacy degradation resulting from the increased density resulting from SB 9 implementation.

Comment: Design Standards determine many aspects of privacy, such as window placement, lighting placement, and upper level deck locations, to name a few. The city must maximize the use of these standards to protect existing neighborhoods.

  • Housing Equity: To prevent investor driven gentrification, SB 9 requires applicants to sign an affidavit stating their intent to occupy one of the housing units as their principal residence for a minimum of three years, with exemptions given to community land trusts or qualified nonprofits. To fulfill this obligation, the City should require the applicant to sign and record an affidavit placing a covenant that will run with the land, confirming that the applicant will reside in one of the SB 9 units for three years. Enforcement strategies, fines or consequences will be defined by the City and contribute to the Affordable Housing Fund.

Comment: By requiring a recorded a covenant that runs with the land, the three-year owner occupancy requirement will be a deed restriction on the title of the parcel. Without requiring a recorded covenant, the three-year requirement is basically meaningless.

  • Affordability: Lot splits should require a minimum of one affordable housing unit listed on the HCD registry of affordable units for a period of ten years or more, or payment of an in-lieu fee to discourage gentrification through Investment Trusts.

Comment: SB 9 was sold to the California legislature as an affordable housing bill. Therefore, at least one unit must be formally reserved for people who need affordability. Investment Trusts do not generally like subsidized housing because of the rules they must follow, favoring the tenant over the landlord. In this manner, the ordinance can help prevent gentrification by investors.

  • Duration: Sunset for this Emergency Ordinance will be one year to December 31, 2022, which could be extended for a one additional year, to December 31, 2023.

Comment: The State is mandating the implementation of the SB 9 so-called “duplex law.” So the City is implementing an initial emergency ordinance to take one year to determine its impact and unintended consequences, and to include all allowable options when the law takes effect on January 1, 2022. A short extension could be necessary in order to make revisions and get the update through community review.

  • SB 10: City planning staff have stated that they do not plan to recommend implementation of SB 10 (which could allow up to 14 units on one single family lot) until the full combined impacts are known of SB 9, the 2021 ADU Ordinance, and the Land Use Strategy of the 2040 General Plan Update. We agree that SB 10 should not be implemented at this time, if ever.

Comment. SB 10 would significantly increase densities in neighborhoods where people have invested and want to live because they are lower density. By allowing a 14-fold increase in density, SB 10 would severely impact infrastructure including traffic, parking, schools, parks, water and sewer, etc.