Oct 5 2022

OPINION: Lot Splits and Duplexes Have Not Been Added to Housing Element Numbers

SB 9 is not a core element of the proposed Housing Element.

A recent letter sent to residents by the City Administrator stated that one of the 4 core elements of the Housing Element is:

“Adopting zoning changes that would allow property owners to split certain single-family homes into duplexes, triplexes, or fourplexes, which is now State law (SB9).”

It should be noted that the split of single-family homes into duplexes is not an idea that originated with the Housing Element but with state law, SB 9, which took effect January 1, 2022. 

Under certain conditions, residents can split their lots and residences to create entirely new lots and housing; applications to do so must be approved expeditiously by local governments. The City may have already received applications from residents to do just that.

The reason for SB9 is to create new housing to address California’s housing crisis so it should be part of the Housing Element.  Unfortunately, the current draft  Housing  Element calls for a study of SB9 and does not propose any actual zoning changes that would implement SB9 once the Housing Element is adopted.  That’s unfortunate because other cities implemented SB9 shortly after it went into effect and are now using SB9 as a basis for projecting housing growth. 

By going slow on SB9, Piedmont lost the opportunity to account for SB9 units, thereby increasing density in other parts of town.  Perhaps by the time the Housing Element is approved in May 2023 the city can assign some numbers to this core element.

Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont City Council Member

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

6 Responses to “OPINION: Lot Splits and Duplexes Have Not Been Added to Housing Element Numbers”

  1. March 2022 HCD published “SB-9 Fact Sheet On The Implementation of Senate Bill 9.” At page 6 the report states: page 6 “HOUSING ELEMENT LAW: To utilize projections (italics added) based on SB9 toward a jurisdiction’s regional housing need allocation (RHNA). . .” HCD then lists four elements needed in a Housing Element to have projections count towards a RHNA reductions: site specific inventory, undeveloped site analysis, identify government restrain and show policies that establish zoning standards early in the process. All are well within the ability of the consultants to include in the draft Housing Element.

    Utilization of SB-9 was not incorporated into the Draft Housing Element by the consultant.

  2. My understanding is that SB 9 and SB 10 units can not be counted towards the 587 allocation until it is fairly certain the units will be constructed. I am unsure what creates certainty. Perhaps an approved building permit would satisfy this criteria.

  3. Jeanne Solnordal: The City has maintained SB 9 units cannot be counted based on allegorical information presented by the LWC (Lisa Wise Consulting, Inc.) Director. The written clarification by HCD March 2022 appears to contradict that, if proper analysis is done.

  4. I never understood why LWC consultants and staff have objected to counting SB9 units when it so very much helps them out with their dilemma of too few viable sites in the inventory. HCD has published guidelines on how to count them. With the LWC proposed sites on the city HE inventory being deleted or questioned, the pressure to find alternatives is mounting.
    A site by site analysis is needed. I’m not suggesting plagiarism, but checking what other jurisdictions are doing could save a lot of time. They shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel.

  5. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. To Jeanne’s point, I’ve skimmed Atherton’s HE and they used SB9 applications/inquiries since January 2022 to develop their estimate. For site by site analysis, I believe they inventoried current lots that could be subdivided under their zoning code to identity lots that could be split. I don’t believe they considered duplexes. I think the HCD guidance does not indicate that there be certainty. But HCD has not approved any SB9 estimates yet so it’s hard to say what they require. Cities in the 6th cycle, like Piedmont, who have to submit HE within less than a year of SB9 and HCD guidance should be given some leeway in their SB9 analyses.

    SB9 has the potential to develop new houses, not ADUs, the utility of which for families is questionable. SB9 development would probably be priced at moderate and above income levels. Nonetheless, Henn is right – including SB9 projections in the first draft HE would alleviate some of the need to find alternatives. It certainly would buy the City some time.

    SB9, like ADUs, is ministerial – currently there is very little the City can do to prevent its implementation. It makes no sense not to account for its impact during the next 8 year housing cycle.

  6. This makes so much sense! Does the City Council have to vote on Oct. 17? Is that the deadline, or can they still change the draft HE?

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