Senate Bill 902, authored by the home-and-yard hating state Sen. Scott Wiener, is even worse than his SB 50 neighborhood-bulldozing bill, which we all worked to kill TWICE. And SB 902 is far worse than Wiener’s demolition derby bill SB 827, which we all worked hard to successfully kill in 2018.
SB 902 requires no affordable units be built, yet it severely destabilizes working-class and middle-class single-family communities in almost all 400-plus cities and 58 counties in California.
With all households fearing for their future amidst the pandemic, Wiener doubles-down on another giant experiment — on all of us. We need to stop Wiener’s SB 902 cold.
Under SB 902, Wiener intends to hand land-use decisions directly to developers, empowering them to up-zone single-family parcels to 8-unit market rate projects in cities with more than 50,000 people (not “four-plexes” as wrongly reported by the Los Angeles Times and other badly decimated media). In smaller cities and towns, SB 902 would automatically up-zone single-family areas to six-units, fourplexes or duplex market-rate developments.
We estimate that SB 902 will destabilize 5 to 7 million homeowners, sharply drive up land (and thus housing) costs, and silence most public input about all of these ugly issues. With California households struggling to survive the economic crisis and the future unknown, Wiener’s move to invite wide-open land speculation and displacement is inexcusable.
Bullet Point Analysis — Reasons to Oppose SB 902:
- Medium-sized cities (10,000 to 50,000 pop.) will lose their single-family zoning to 6-unit market-rate apartments without local input or review. Large cities (50,000 and up) will lose their single-family-areas to 8-unit, market-rate projects without local input or review.
- Small municipalities including unincorporated areas will lose their single-family areas to market-rate fourplexes — not duplexes as stated in the body of the bill.
- Due to ADU law (state laws allowing granny flats), the stated upzoning in SB 902 to “duplexes” or “four-plexes” is not a true outcome. Granny flat laws will automatically doubles these densities, allowing 8-unit apartment buildings on almost all single family streets in cities of more than 50,000, an unprecedented experiment with people’s lives. How did the Los Angeles Times and most other media miss this crucial fact?
In its convoluted and misleading second section of the bill, SB 902 creates yet another pathway to overrun single-family areas and in this case replace them with luxury 10-unit apartment projects. SB 902 achieves this by letting cities pass ordinances to rezone any parcel for a 10-unit project if the land is within SB 902’s vastly expanded “Transit-Rich” or vastly expanded “Jobs-Rich” areas, or is deemed “urban infill.”
- “Transit Rich” areas under SB 902 would apply to vast new swaths of California that Wiener dubs “high-quality bus corridors” because they have bus service every 15 minutes during rush hours. This bill creates new mile-wide “corridors” in which all single-family zoning could be upended to make way for 10-unit luxury apartments.
- “Jobs-Rich” areas, under SB 902, would be radically expanded from the current definition, to include any area in which constructing a 10-unit luxury project could, theoretically, at least on paper, “enable shorter commute times.” This would entail utterly unproven and untried region-wide guesswork by the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). In other words, a crapshoot.
In a nod to the upheaval this absurd Wiener bill will bring to California, SB 902 protects tenants from developer abuses under the Ellis Act, protects historic homes on the state or national register, and bans developers from using this law to build in high fire hazard severity zones. It makes a dubious promise to prevent demolition of rental housing that has been occupied in the previous seven years — an unenforceable concept in California.
These band-aids change almost nothing regarding the turmoil SB 902 would bring.