California passes new laws in attempt to increase housing

Long Beach group expresses concern that the new law could cause negative density around the city.

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Sacramento’s top officials have recently passed a series of laws to relax restrictions on accessory dwelling units (ADUs) to address the growing need for housing throughout the state.

These laws include Senate Bill 13 (SB 13), Assembly Bill (AB 881) and Assembly Bill 68 (AB 68), which all focus on relaxing restrictions for ADUs or commonly called granny flats.

Corliss Lee, president of neighborhood activist group Eastside Voice, told the Signal Tribune during an interview last month that she is concerned the new bills will negatively impact population density in Long Beach.

Her group, Eastside Voice, formed in 2017 after a group of residents in the 3rd, 4th and 5th Council Districts opposed legislation of the city’s Land-Use Element legislation.

“Traffic and parking will be impacted, and we can expect an increase in the crime rate–– more people means more crime,” Lee said.

She said local agencies previously had control over zoning limits for ADU developments. She claims these laws will remove that control.

“No one was too worried when the city approved our ADU ordinance, because it had controls on it that maintain the rights of neighborhoods,” Lee said. “These new laws go a step further and they basically say, ‘You can have two ADUs on a property–– a regular ADU and a junior ADU,’ and it takes away things like all the work that we did on trying to determine what’s good for this city.”

Patrick O’Donnell, 70th District State assemblymember, voted against passing these bills, his concerns with the bills seemed to echo Lee’s worries about local agencies losing control.

During an interview with the Signal Tribune on Sept. 23, O’Donnell said that although he supported “legislation that does address the housing crisis” in the state, he feels each city should tackle the issue individually.

“I believe cities plan cities–– Sacramento shouldn’t plan cities,” he said. “Cities can already have multiple ADUs in a backyard if they so desire. I don’t believe it’s the role of Sacramento to mandate that they have multiple ADUs in a backyard.”

At the Senate level, Lena Gonzalez, 33rd District State senator and former Long Beach councilmember, voted to approve all three bills, according to the California legislation website.

In an emailed statement to the Signal Tribune, Gonzalez said, “the bills push back against local ordinances that limit ADUs, and instead support the development of multiple ADUs, remove owner-occupancy requirements, and limit fees.”

“At the heart of the issue is that we need to build more housing—not just in Long Beach, but throughout the state,” Gonzales said when asked about the concerns of negative density in Long Beach. “With any type of housing construction— whether it’s ADUs, single-family homes, or multi-family developments— many people have shared concerns about increased traffic flow and parking impacts. While parking is certainly a challenge in many neighborhoods, housing is also a top priority. ADUs are often used to house family members, students, or older adults and we need to ensure we are building housing for all these residents.”

The bills will not take effect until Jan. 1, 2020– until then, the city will keep a watchful eye to see how these bills will impact local projects, Diana Tang, Mayor Robert Garcia’s chief of staff, said.

“You’re going to find folks on both sides of the issue on that, and so our priority, in the interest of the local government, is to make sure that we are following state law,” Tang said. “We will work with the community to develop an ADU program that is compliant with state law but then also is congruent with our LUE as well.”