Opinion: Finally, Governor signs AB 68 into law, effectively ending single-family zoning statewide

“Single-family homes are luxury housing.”

These are the words of Shane Phillips of UCLA’s Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies (and creator of the condo versus single-family home cost map below)—and it is something that Gov. Gavin Newsom and a handful of adamant policy makers are hearing loud and clear, with Newsom signing AB 68 into law this past Wednesday, Oct. 10.

AB 68, authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting, allows for homeowners of single-family homes who apply to build accessory dwelling units, or “granny flats,” to also build a second, “junior” ADU on their property. In other words, it rezones all of California’s single-family homes into triplexes and effectively acts as a de facto ban on single-family zoning. For a more detailed breakdown on how it works, click here.

“This law fundamentally shifts the landscape for building new homes in our state,” Brian Hanlon, co-founder and president of advocacy group California YIMBY said.

But AB 68 also represents something else: A way to approach housing legislation when local governments, including our own, are proclaiming they’re “not the problem” and actively shoot down statewide housing initiatives. AB 68 goes for the small wins with big implications, rather than the big wins with huge implications, like SB 50—legislation which, in a very surface-level breakdown, essentially limits low density construction near transit while increasing inclusionary building and tenant protections.

And while the big implications of AB 68 are significant, they by no means address the things that SB 50 did on a much more dire basis—and Newsom appears to know that.

“We need to build more damn housing,” Newsom said at a press conference after formally signing AB 68 into law.

And, way more telling, tacked onto his speech were two specific references: one to Assemblymember David Chiu, author of the recently-signed AB 1763 which creates density bonuses for affordable housing developments and another, far more telling, of “continuing to do the good work of Sen. Scott Wiener [into next year’s agenda],” the author of the failed SB 50.

Newsom, quite directly, told lawmakers two things: Local officials are failing and the inability of statewide officials to pass two versions of Wiener’s legislation two years in a row prompts Newsom to amp up his aggression. Perhaps even more, it was a signal to both housing advocates, who claim SB 50 wasn’t perfect enough, and NIMBYs, who said that SB 50 reached too far: We have to build housing. Period. And we can’t wait for perfection and we can’t hope for the best with current policy to appease the privileged.

And given his show of aggression, including taking on legislation against cities failing to meet the state’s housing supply standard, lawmakers and local officials should be concerned if they are giving into NIMBYs—who happen to be everywhere, including Long Beach.

Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or on social media at FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.
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