California ‘Taking Away Local Control’ on Housing: Laguna Beach Official

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LAGUNA BEACH, Calif.—Laguna Beach is among 12 cities in Orange County to put boundaries on a new state law that allows homeowners to convert single-family lots into multiple units.

Laguna Beach City Councilman George Weiss said residents fear the new state law.

“There is that fear the state is taking too much power away from local authorities,” Weiss told The Epoch Times. “It’s clearly there, whether it’s real or not.”

Last year Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 9 into law allowing single-family lot owners to subdivide their properties into a duplex or split the lot into halves for a total allowance of four units, each eligible for sale separately.

The law allows local governments to impose some guardrails, limiting the size and height of each unit approved under SB 9.

But cities don’t have much room to maneuver “without getting in the crosshairs of the state,” Laguna Beach City Councilman Peter Blake told The Epoch Times.

“All [Laguna Beach] can do is try to alleviate or mitigate some of the issues that come with it. It’s a balance between what the state of California is requiring of us and what the residents of this community are requiring of us.”

Last month, Laguna Beach implemented a 45-day emergency ordinance that places a limit on additional units under SB 9.

Under the ordinance, new structures must not exceed 1,000 square feet, 16 feet in height, and cannot add roof decks or balconies.

City officials indicated during a March 15 meeting that residents have already submitted such applications since SB 9 took effect on New Year’s Day.

“Really, what the state is doing is taking away local control and discretion over housing, and then essentially adopting their own zoning standards,” Marc Weiner, director of community development, said during a March 15 council meeting.

Weiner said that issuing an emergency ordinance rather than creating a permanent code amendment bypasses coastal review processes that could “likely take over a year.”

Weiner also said the state requires a 3-year occupancy to prevent developers from buying and dividing properties that could “really change the character” of those neighborhoods.

SB 9 also exempts property owners from design review, public hearings, and even some California Environmental Quality Act restrictions so long as the residences are not located in a historic district or within environmentally hazardous areas.

Last month, California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a warning to the City of Pasadena for unlawfully blocking new housing through an urgency ordinance that exempts areas from SB 9 marked as “landmark districts.”

Bonta called the ordinance a way to “circumvent” SB 9, leaving residents with “grave housing insecurity concerns unaddressed, and the statewide housing crisis unabated.”

As for Laguna Beach, city officials estimate that 75 percent of its residents could be eligible for an SB 9 application.

Laguna Beach city councilors may extend or amend the emergency ordinance at the end of its 45-day lifespan at the April 26 council meeting.

Brandon Drey

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Brandon Drey is a California-based reporter for The Epoch Times.



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