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Two housing density bills that HJTA opposed were passed by the Legislature in August and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in September.

Senate Bill 9 creates a right to subdivide single-family lots throughout the state, allowing up to four residences on a parcel that currently has just one house on it. Once subdivided, each lot could have a house and an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), also known as a “granny flat.”

Senate Bill 10 enables local governments to pass an ordinance that automatically zones all single-family lots for multifamily housing of up to 14 units if those lots are in an “urban infill” or “transit-rich” area, as defined. This ordinance would override the California Environmental Quality Act as well as any local voter initiatives that blocked dense developments of this kind.

HJTA warned the Legislature of possible property tax implications. In some circumstances, county assessors could choose to value a single-family home based on the value that the property would have if it was developed into multi-family housing. While owner-occupied single-family homes are protected from reassessment by Proposition 13, homes that are sold could potentially be assessed at a value higher than the sale price based on the potential value of the property if developed into four or fourteen units. Homes that are inherited and reassessed under the “death tax” provisions of Proposition 19 could also be hit with high tax assessments based on unrealized development potential.

These bills are especially concerning when coupled with local efforts, underway in multiple cities including Berkeley and Sacramento, to wipe out single-family zoning entirely. Revenue and Taxation Code Section 401.4 prevents assessors from valuing property “at any value greater than that which would reflect the use of the land as a site for a single-family dwelling” on land “which is zoned exclusively for single-family homes.” But there may not be any neighborhoods in California that are “zoned exclusively for single-family homes” under the new laws.

However, it appears that the fight over single-family zoning is not over.

Led by Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand, Yorba Linda Mayor Peggy Huang and others, an effort is underway to restore and secure local control over zoning and land use decisions. A new initiative has been introduced to amend the state constitution: the Californians for Community Planning Initiative, which would ban the type of centralized zoning proposals that have been introduced year after year in the Legislature. The measure would call a halt to the state’s forced imposition of uncontrollable density.

The initiative’s proponents will need about one million signatures to qualify the measure for the November 2022 ballot. Visit www.CommunitiesForChoice.org for more information.