CONCORD, CA (Feb. 21, 2022) — Editor: As part of our Election 2022 coverage, the Pioneer will pose one question a month to local candidates running in the June Primary. This month’s question is directed to those that have announced their intention to run for Contra Costa County Supervisor. Harmesh Kumar declined to answer.
SB 9, also known as the California Housing Opportunity and More Efficiency (HOME) Act, was effective Jan. 1. SB9 requires cities to allow property owners to build one additional residential unit onto parcels zoned for single-dwelling units. Supporters say that SB-9 will generate additional housing for California’s undersupplied housing market without requiring localities to re-zone the land—a task that can take years to complete. The bill’s opponents argue that the law circumvents local control of zoning and could lead to overburdened residential infrastructure, a change in neighborhood culture, and a lack of parking.
How do you see the county implementing SB9, and what do you see as the positive and negative impacts for residents who live within the county’s jurisdiction?
Implementation of SB9 is largely the responsibility of the municipalities; the county’s implementation would impact only residential properties located in unincorporated areas, most of which meet the exemption criteria under the law. While SB9 will spur small scale residential development and add more housing to the available inventory, it may also increase neighborhood density and put a strain on existing services, such as fire, police, and schools. It also leaves adjacent property owners with little say over neighboring development.
As supervisor, I would work to add design standards to existing ordinances to ensure the rights of all property owners are respected, and to create objective development criteria to the extent allowed under SB9. I would also work at the county level to enable development in unincorporated areas where appropriate by providing adequate infrastructure and needed resources.
SB9 was definitely an attack on Local Control. People who moved into single family homes in similar neighborhoods took the zoning into account. They also knew that the local city council could change it and would be directly held accountable for that change. The state disrupted that power dynamic aspect. I think the infrastructure aspect may be much less felt because of the increase of people working at home. However, the parking fights will give us some more Hatefields and McCoys neighbor feuds.
On the positive side they put the hammer to everyone so that we do not have this city doing one thing and the adjacent doing another. We do need more housing and so far, I have seen a few issues coming up but nothing like a wave of new buildings. From the County side we will have to deal with it, but I do not like it.
The implementation of SB9 is causing concern across the state. While we clearly have a housing shortage especially across the moderate and low to very low-income ranges, I don’t see this as the solution to closing the gap. SB9 speeds the process for residential lot splits allowing for the development of 2 residential and potentially with ADUs and JADUs up to 6 units on a previously single-family lot.
SB9 ties the hands of the county only allowing them to impose only subjective standards on the development of these projects. It limits our control over design and other standards. Given the language of SB9 these projects are for the property owner to initiate and must occupy one of the units. Most homeowners can’t afford to do these projects. Given the specific language of SB9 our hands are tied in the overall implementation, and we risk the character of our single-family neighborhoods.
Contra Costa County residents are experiencing housing insecurity, high rents in units that are not maintained by out of town and corporate landlords and a lack of housing that leads to homelessness or leaving the region because of unaffordable housing. This leads to a leadership and workforce drain adversely affecting our future economy.
SB 9 attempts to give individual homeowners a chance to be part of the solution and build an accessory dwelling unit without the costly and prolonged process of rezoning. However, SB 9 can be misused and hurt communities by taking out affordable housing. I would be very watchful of the implementation and not hesitate to call out for change in the law if it is not fulfilling its intent. I will use my experience with Community Benefits Agreement negotiations to help guarantee protections for workers and housing that is affordable to more residents, along with sustainable policies to protect the environment.
SB9 was passed by lawmakers in Sacramento, so local jurisdictions including Contra Costa County are required to implement its provisions. If elected as District IV Supervisor, I would ensure that our county’s Building & Planning Department has the necessary guidelines in place to protect our Urban Limit Line, beloved parks, and open spaces when approving specific projects that meet SB 9 criteria.
SB9 is very clear that local cities and counties retain the administrative authority to approve or deny housing projects. For example, under SB9 housing units cannot be built on earthquake fault lines, farmland, in a high fire hazard zone, or within a historic district. We have a serious housing crisis in Contra Costa County and throughout California. I would push to focus development in areas close to transit, while retaining the character of our local neighborhoods, to help keep our residents, especially families, in Contra Costa County.
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