ADU expansion is a goldfish compared to the Great White Shark of Senate Bills 9 and 10 pending in Sacramento. SB 9/10 increase housing density in single family residence (SFR) neighborhoods from 1 house to 6 units up to 10 with local approval.
Imagine a 6-10 unit building next door or up and down streets in your neighborhood, often with no additional parking. State Senators Lena Gonzalez and Scott Wiener love the idea. No more R-1,2,3,4 zoning allowing 1-4 units per lot. The state will take over this section of local zoning.
The ruination of SFR neighborhoods throughout the state is Wiener and Gonzalez's answer to “Why does it cost so much to live in California?” There’s no public vote on these laws. Only the “120” (40 state senators; 80 assembly members) decides these matters.
During the 1980s, Long Beach had similar up-zoning, later reversed after permanent ruin to many neighborhoods. Politicians should learn from history. Let’s say 14 million residences house California’s 42 million. It’s expensive to rent/own in core urban markets. Would adding 1 million more homes relieve that pressure? More supply to satisfy demand? As if more people won’t come to California gradually over the years these get built.
When you build 200,000 6-plexes throughout SFR neighborhoods, materials and labor aren’t cheap. There is no affordable concrete, no affordable lumber. Affordability is not mentioned in, and in reality, not possible in SB 9 and 10. Without subsidies, affordable housing cannot be built close to urban cores with higher incomes per capita. These new homes will require and get the high market rents needed to justify their creation.
Our politicians, who probably never built anything, don’t connect these dots. Every time you hear the phrase “affordable housing,” add the codicil “except in core urban areas where high incomes drive prices up and there can barely be any such concept.” In outlying areas like Palmdale/ Lancaster or much of the state, homes cost mid-$300,000s or less. Rents are reasonable and so are local paychecks.
High incomes concentrated in urban cores drive prices up. Flip side-housing providers won’t get that high rent if no one can pay it.
Why it costs so much to live in (a small part of) California gets the same answer as in Manhattan, Newport Beach, San Francisco — the high incomes concentrated in these areas drive prices up. We don’t have a housing crisis in these areas, we have too much success.
After these million apartments are built and neighborhoods are ruined, then new tenants arrive to pay the high market rent they absolutely must charge, all you have done is increase the population of the state to 45 million with no noticeable dent in housing costs. Wiener and Gonzalez will be proven wrong, and all the ruined formerly SFR neighborhoods will have paid the price for their folly and incomplete thinking.
Wiener has stated front yards are immoral, and if you promote, defend and like the single family neighborhood, you are racist. Emotion clouds his invalid thinking, in my opinion.
Who wins, who loses? No SFR owner occupant called Wiener and Gonzalez to say, “This is a great idea. Who cares if my values fall and quality of life I paid for disintegrates.” All houseowners who live in SFR neighborhoods are the losers.
If you owned 4,000 SFRs (or 40 or 4) currently performing as typical rental stock in your business plan, you could expand your holdings value by three and four times by building 6-plexes on your lots. Development costs amortize over 10 to 20 years and the future yields many times the cash flow and profits you now have. The winners are every (potential) developer who owns rental houses in the state.
How many rented SFR homes are in California right now? A hundred thousand, 200,000, maybe more. Google “how many homes does Blackstone own in California.” It was once 13,000 owned by one company, mostly bought cheap out of the foreclosure tidal wave from 2007-2014. There are hundreds of Blackstones, hedgefunds, investment groups, and thousands of individuals who own rental homes throughout the state who would build these 6-plexes.
Big corporate money wants more money and lobbies politicians to change laws so they can get it. Here are Gonzalez and Wiener trying to change the laws. You connect the dots.
This misguided agenda has eclipsed any sense of representation. Your personal wealth, your city's culture, and decades of planning and zoning that define your city’s true fabric and feel will be trashed. It is impossible to believe educated elected officials think this way.
Bill Sheldon is a housing advocate in Long Beach.