Gov. Gavin Newsom passes SB 9, ending single-family zoning in CA

photo of houses in Berkeley
Andrew Huang/Staff
On Sept. 16, California Gov. Gavin Newsom passed three state bills geared toward addressing the housing crisis and zoning regulations.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed several housing-focused bills Sept. 16, one of which effectively ends single-family zoning in the state.

SB 9, the bill in question, allows duplexes to be built in single-family zones and gives homeowners the ability to subdivide existing lots into residential areas, according to the bill.

Darrell Owens, housing activist and co-executive director of East Bay for Everyone, said the passage of the bill is a “monumental deal.”

While duplexes alone will not solve California’s housing crisis, according to Owens, the passage reflects a cultural shift away from the “fervent anti-housing philosophy” that has historically shaped California’s housing policy.

“It’s sort of a statement about the American way of life, which has always been about (a) low-density, living far away from people, suburban, frankly unstable and not very climate-friendly lifestyle,” Owens said.

City Councilmember Rigel Robinson said in an email that he is “proud” to have helped lead the conversation to end single-family zoning in California. He added that SB 9 represents swift action toward combating the housing and climate crises.

Owens noted that the roots of single-family zoning stem from Berkeley in 1916, and that single family-only zoning promoted “Eurocentric nuclear families.”

“I mean this is kind of a suburban lifestyle, which is no apartments, big houses, big lawns and a car,” Owens said. “It’s also the byproduct of extreme unaffordability and segregation.”

In opposition to SB 9, City Councilmembers Kate Harrison and Susan Wengraf previously issued a proposal in June, asking that City Council draft a letter to the state legislature “advocating against the bill,” according to a previous Daily Cal article.

While Harrison and Wengraf both acknowledged the need for a concerted response to the city’s housing crisis, they noted that the bill’s more “ambiguous” elements and lack of affordability mandates made it ineffective for addressing the needs of various Californian cities, the letter notes.

In their plea to City Council, Harrison and Wengraf also cited SB 9’s circumvention of the California Coastal Act of 1976, the legislation responsible for establishing the California Coastal Commission, as a reason to oppose SB 9’s passage.

“I just hope that my colleagues on the council understand that this is a very poorly thought-out piece of legislation that will not solve the problem,” Wengraf previously told the Daily Cal.

Newsom also signed several other bills directed toward California’s housing affordability crisis, including SB 8, which extends the duration of the Housing Crisis Act of 2019 from 2025 to 2030, and SB 10, which seeks to streamline the city rezoning process.

Contact Samantha Lim and Iris Kwok at [email protected]