The governor signed 2 controversial housing bills; here’s what it means for Long Beach

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed two controversial housing bills into law Thursday that could affect neighborhoods currently reserved for single-family housing, but the effect they will have on Long Beach will likely be less severe than what some opponents have claimed.

Senate Bill 9 would allow for the development of duplexes (sometimes two duplexes) to be built on current single-family lots. Senate Bill 10, which is likely to have less an impact on Long Beach, would allow cities to adopt ordinances to streamline the permitting process for up to 10 units to be built on formerly single-family lots.

Because of amendments made to the bills over the last year, the effect on Long Beach has been projected to be minimal because of some of the guardrails put into place that allow for some local zoning requirements to be met in order to build under the new laws.

The cost of construction, along with the hassle of being landlords, could turn off homeowners to the incentives provided by the bills. There is concern, however, that the legislation could lead to investors buying up single-family lots to develop them.

But in Long Beach lot sizes are relatively small, which would preclude much of this from happening. Officials say in order to make financial sense, lot sizes would have to be about 8,000 square feet.

Of the 59,803 single family lots Long Beach, 4,609 are over 8,000 square feet.

Here’s what you need to know about the bills’ impact on Long Beach.

Is SB-9 going to change the way my neighborhood looks?

SB-9 allows for the construction of a duplex on a single lot by right, meaning that an owner would merely have to go through the permitting phase to build one out, rather than request a variance or zoning change that would require two levels of city approval.

Under the legislation, there are a number of rules homeowners must follow if they want to build a duplex.

Alterations cannot be made to units that were rented in the past three years, and if buildings were occupied over the past three years only 25% of the external walls can be demolished. The construction would also be subject to local zoning rules, which requires homes to be 4 feet away from property lines to the side and behind a structure.

Construction prices have also spiked over the past year. Building a duplex, or two duplexes if a lot is split, would likely cost several hundred thousand dollars, something that could be a major barrier for some homeowners.

How many homes in Long Beach are eligible to expand under SB-9?

There are over 59,000 lots that were zoned for single-family use and currently have one unit on them in Long Beach, but because of the bill’s ban on adding to units that are being rented, or were rented within the past three years, the number could be far fewer.

Planning officials in the city said that based on Census data and figures from the Los Angeles County Assessor’s office, they believe the share of those over 59,000 lots that fall into that ban is between 28% and 47%, meaning nothing could be done to those homes until they’ve been vacant or lived in by the owner for three years.

There are also 43 vacant lots in the city that are zoned for single-family use, but development of those into any kind of housing would be a positive, according to city development officials.

How do these bills make things different?

While the legislation does allow any single-family home to be converted into a duplex, Long Beach already had a law on the books that allowed multiple units on a single parcel. Long Beach’s accessory dwelling unit ordinance has resulted in an average of 283 ADUs annually being built in homeowners’ backyards. The city has another 1,228 applications to build on file.

The city’s ordinance caps the size of ADUs at 800 square feet, but Los Angeles County also allows for a “Jr. ADU,” which can share a bathroom with the primary unit so long as it meets “kitchen efficiency” standards. Those units are capped at 500 square feet.

City planning officials believe that SB-9 will result in slightly larger units being built by property owners who choose to take advantage of the law, but point out that previous law already allowed for up to three units to be built on a single parcel.

How does the lot splitting provision of SB-9 work?

The bill does allow a parcel to be subdivided to build up to two duplexes on a single existing parcel. However, changes to the bill over the past year require that lot-split to be approximately equal with the two lots being between a 40% and 60% range.

Long Beach development officials believe that for this to make sense, a person would need a lot of about 8,000 square feet or more. There are 59,803 single-family zoned lots that currently have one structure on them and of those, only about 4,600 exceed 8,000 square feet.

The bill also requires that a split lot to have a driveway for each lot and that an owner sign an affidavit that they will live in one of the units as their primary residence for at least three years as part of an agreement to split their current lot.

Is SB-9 going to turn my neighborhood into a short-rental area?

The bill explicitly forbids any units developed under the law from being rented out on sites like Airbnb. Units built under SB-9 are meant to be long-term rentals and must have lease-agreements of at least 30 days, according to the bill text.

How is SB-10 going to affect my neighborhood?

Ultimately, it probably won’t. SB-10 allows local governments to pass ordinances that would streamline the permitting for buildings of up to 10 units in previously single-family zoned neighborhoods, but unlike SB-9, this bill is not mandatory. The Long Beach City Council has advocated for local control over zoning and none of the current members have indicated support for implementing the rules contained in SB-10.

Newsom signs bills allowing multi-family housing in single-family zones

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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