By Nick Waranoff, January 2021

SB 9 Fact Sheet: Understanding the proposed up-zoning law that would end single-family zoning in California

SB 9 would allow 8 units where there is now one parcel (one lot). A city, however, would not be required to approve more than 6 units.  Here is how this would happen.

1. SB 9 would add Govt Code section 65852.21 (allowing 2 units on a single parcel in a single family residential zone [the so-called “duplex” provision but in reality a “two separate houses on one parcel” provision]) and Govt Code 66411.7 (the lot split provision). 

a.)  The two separate houses on one parcel provision authorizes two separate houses on a single parcel in a single-family residential zone.

b.)  The lot split provision authorizes a single lot to be split into two lots of equal size.

c.)  An application to do either or both of these is processed ministerially, by right.

d.)  There is no requirement for affordable housing and no CEQA review.

2. Under existing law, there is a right to one Accessory Dwelling Unit and one Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit per parcel (Govt Code 65852.2).

a.)  An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) can be attached, or detached from an existing home, or a conversion of an existing space such as a garage. A local agency is prohibited from establishing a maximum size of an ADU of less than 850 square feet, or 1,000 square feet if the ADU contains more than one bedroom. When ADUs are created through the conversion of a garage, carport or covered parking structure, replacement off-street parking spaces cannot be required by the local agency (Gov. Code 65852.2, subd. (a)(1)(D)(xi)).

b.)  A Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit (JADU) is allowed to be created within the walls of a proposed or existing single-family residence or garage and shall contain no more than 500 square feet.

c.)  A local agency can limit the places within its jurisdiction where ADUs can be located, only be based on the adequacy of water and sewer service, and the impacts on traffic flow and public safety, if the agency chooses to pass an ordinance.

d.)  “Although cities and counties are mandated to permit ADUs and JADUs, they are not required to adopt ADU and JADU ordinances. However, any city/county that does adopt an ADU ordinance, must submit the ordinance to HCD within 60 days.”

e.) There is no requirement that an ADU or a JADU be limited to any category of affordable housing.

f.)  Here is link to the HCD website. https://hcd.ca.gov/policy-research/accessorydwellingunits.shtml

g.) Here is a link to the HCD Handbook. https://hcd.ca.gov/policy-research/docs/adu-ta-handbook-final.pdf

3. Under SB 9, there are three scenarios that illustrate how many units could be built on one existing parcel:

a.) Scenario One:  The “two free-standing houses” provision of SB 9 (sometimes mistakenly called the “duplex” provision, even though not limited to “duplexes”) is invoked but not the lot split provision: One parcel now has two free-standing houses. An ADU and a JADU are allowed as of right on the parcel. Total of 4 units: two free-standing houses plus an ADU and a JADU on the single parcel.

b.) Scenario Two:  The lot split provision of SB 9 is invoked but not the “two free-standing houses” provision: one parcel becomes two. Each parcel can have a free-standing house plus an ADU and a JADU. Three housing units on each parcel for a total of 6 units.

c.) Scenario Three:  Both the lot split provision and the two free-standing houses provision are invoked. Two parcels. Each parcel has two houses, PLUS each parcel is entitled to an ADU and a JADU. Four housing units per parcel, for a total of 8 units.

Note re Scenario Three: Under SB 9, a city is not required to approve an ADU or a JADU where BOTH the lot split provision and two free-standing houses provision are invoked, so a city could limit this scenario to four housing units on what was formerly one parcel. See proposed section 65852.21(e), part of the “two free-standing houses” provision, that would provide, “Notwithstanding Section 65852.2 [the existing ADU law referenced above], a local agency shall not be required to permit an accessory dwelling unit on parcels that use both the authority contained within this section [the two free-standing houses section] and the authority contained in Section 66411.7 [the lot split section]” and proposed section 66411.7(h), part of the proposed lot split section, that would provide “Notwithstanding Section 65852.2 [the existing ADU law], a local agency shall not be required to permit an accessory dwelling unit on parcels that use both the authority contained within this section and the authority contained in Section 65852.21 [the two free-standing houses section].