(SOAR Photo)

Jan. 9, 2021 (updated July 8, 2021)

SB 10 does two things: First, it lets city councils overturn voter-approved ballot measures that protect from overdevelopment local farmland, urban boundaries, shorelines, canyons — or that protect neighborhoods from overdevelopment by enacting height limits or other concepts.

Second, SB 10 allows hundreds of cities to approve 14-unit market-rate apartments almost everywhere, regardless of zoning. SB 10 is a near-repeat of the widely ridiculed SB 902 by Scott Wiener, killed by legislators in 2020. Minor recent amendments by the author protect public land from SB 10. This misses the point. As shown below, voters are focused on protecting private land.

SB 10 Fact Sheet:

1. SB 10 by state Sen. Scott Wiener would override the 108-year-old constitutional right of Californians to pass ballot initiatives that politicians cannot undo.

Livable California has compiled a partial list, below, of citizen-approved ballot measures that are law in California. These ballot measures protect from over-development vast amounts of private land including shorelines, canyons, urban boundaries, open space, historic districts and neighborhoods. Please contact us at [email protected] to alert us to voter-approved land protection measures not listed below. We will update as info arrives.

2. SB 10, like Wiener’s 2020 lookalike bill SB 902, would allow 10-unit market rate apartments plus 4 ADUs (“granny flats”) built almost anywhere. SB 1o does this by empowering any city council to enact an SB 10 ordinance that overrides local zoning, state CEQA law, and a city’s General Plan. The concept of unaffordable market-rate 10-unit apartments almost everywhere was the core goal of Scott Wiener’s defeated SB 50, killed in January of 2020 by legislators.

3. Under SB 10, 14-unit market-rate apartment buildings (10 units plus 4 extra units known as “granny flats”) can be approved by city council on ANY land deemed “urban infill” under SB 10’s highly unusual new definition of infill.

The squishy term “urban infill” as proposed in SB 10, is defined as any lot, either occupied by housing or vacant, in towns or cities either tiny or large, in mixed-use or residential areas including single-family neighborhoods.

In short, SB 10 seeks to allow “14-unit apartment buildings nearly everywhere.”

Statewide List of Voter Private Land Protections that City Councils Could Overturn Under SB 10

(Due to additions, the list may not be in exact North-to-South order. If you know of an approved ballot measure not cited, let us know at [email protected]. Example: Older or really new ballot decisions may be missing.)

1) Napa County initiative Measure J to protect farmland was approved by voters in 1990. It was challenged in court, and ultimately the California Supreme Court sided with voters, ruling that voters can alter a city’s General Plan via initiative (California Supreme Court/Devita v. County of Napa 1995).

2) Napa County General Plan Initiative, Measure P, a citizen-initiated measure approved by voters on Nov. 4, 2008, extending to the year 2058 the provisions of Measure J from 1990.

3) Martinez voters passed in June 2018 a citizen initiative to establish an open space and parks overlay in the city’s General Plan and require voter approval on changes, including changes to private lands (Martinez Measure I, Open Space and Parks Overlay – Citizen Initiative June 2018).

4) Albany residents in 1990 approved Measure C by 75%, a shoreline protection initiative sponsored by Citizens for the Albany Shoreline and backed by environmental coalition CESP that saved private land for open space.

5) Emeryville shoreline protection measure passed in 1987 that saved private land for open space.

6) Alameda voters in 1973 passed Measure A, restricting multi-family housing to preserve Victorian Era homes, now Article 26 of the City Charter. In 1991 it was amended to add density limits. Recent state laws somewhat weakened Alameda’s protections. In 2020, four Alameda City Council members, backed by legislator Rob Bonta, urged voters to back local Measure Z. to kill Alameda’s protections. Measure Z overwhelmingly failed: 59% of voters opposed.

7) Fremont voters approved the Hill Area Initiative of 2002 to protect agricultural and rural private land including recreational and open space. Measure T was put on the ballot by 13,000 Fremont residents.

8) Belmont voters in 2005 approved Measure F by a huge 73%, to protect private land on hillsides from increased density and development. It asked “Shall an ordinance be adopted to protect and preserve hillside areas of Belmont by requiring voter approval of any future amendments to the zoning …?”

9) Merced Citizens’ Right to Vote on Expansion of Residential Areas Initiative, Measure D (November 2010)

10) Merced Citizens’ Right to Vote on Expansion of Residential Areas Initiative, Measure C (November 2010)

11) Gilroy citizen-initiated ballot measure prevents over-development on private lands outside boundaries, approved by voters November 8, 2016 https://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2016/02/19/gilroy-group-taking-growth-boundary-to-the-ballot.html

12) Pacific Grove measure to limit short-term rentals approved by voters November 6, 2018. Put on the ballot via initiative petition led by Pacific Grove Neighbors United.

13) Ventura community leaders in 1995 created the region’s SOAR movement, or Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources. Seven other cities in Ventura County have followed suit. In the City of Ventura, the SOAR initiative approved by voters in 1995 requires voter approval before rezoning private unincorporated open space, agricultural land or rural land for development.

14) Camarillo’s SOAR initiative requires voter approval for urban development of private lands beyond a City Urban Restriction Boundary (CURB), and was renewed by voters in 2016.

15) Fillmore’s SOAR initiative requires voter approval for urban development of private land beyond a City Urban Restriction Boundary (CURB), and was renewed by voters in 2016.

16) Oxnard’s SOAR initiative requires voter approval for urban development of private land beyond a City Urban Restriction Boundary (CURB), and was renewed by voters in 2016.

17) Santa Paula’s SOAR initiative requires voter approval for urban development on private land beyond a City Urban Restriction Boundary (CURB), and was renewed by voters in 2016.

18) Simi Valley voters approved Measure Z, a City Urban Restriction Boundary extension, on November 8, 2016. It protects private lands through 2050, via the initiative petition campaign in Ventura County known as SOAR.

19) Thousand Oaks voters approved City Urban Restriction Boundary extension on November 8, 2016. Protects a boundary protecting private lands through 2050. Initiative petition campaign involved SOAR.

20) Moorpark voters approved their SOAR urban boundaries plan to protect private lands, on November 8, 2016.

21 ) Los Angeles residents in 1986 approved the citizen initiative Prop. U, which reduced by 50% the size of high-rises on commercial corridors near homes. It was heavily backed by South L.A. and Eastside voters as well as Westside and Valley voters. Prop. U was partially overturned by voter-approved JJJ in 2016 to allow market-rate housing towers if a very small number of affordable units are included. However, commercial tower heights remain restricted under Prop. U.

22) Redondo Beach citizen initiative Measure C won handily, restricting development on private lands in the King Harbor-Pier area. Approved by voters March 7, 2017.

23) Redondo Beach Measure DD, a citizen initiative in 2008, got 58.5% of the vote. It requires voter approval of major land-use changes that would convert public land to private use; significantly increase traffic, density or intensity of use on private land in neighborhoods; change business zoning on private land to residential or mixed-use zoning with certain density limits.

24) Dana Point, California, Town Center Plan and Parking Citizen Initiative, Measure H (June 2016) initiative approved by voters.

25) Dana Point, California, Town Center and Public Parking City Council Referral, Measure I (June 2016) initiative approved by voters.

26) Solana Beach in 2000 passed by 62% the citizen initiative Proposition T. It requires voter approval to alter or increase General Plan Land Use categories, including private lands, with the exception of residential land that is being reduced in density. Prop. T allows the city to comply with state and federal law and the local coastal program, without seeking voter approval.

27) Encinitas approved in 2013 its “Right to Vote” initiative, Prop. A, which requires voter approval to increase zoning density or the city height limit of 30 feet. The initiative is the focus of a complex legal battle over how much power the State of California has in ordering cities to increase their density and population.

28) Santee voters in November 2020 approved Measure N, a hotly contested initiative that requires voter approval of any zoning changes or developments that intensify or increase density on residential land, approved in Santee on November 3, 2020.