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By Phillip Pesola–
A controversial new California law designed to address the state’s housing crisis allows for greater possibility of lot splits and constructing multiple homes on single-family lots, and some property owners in Citrus Heights are already taking advantage of it.
Senate Bill 9, also known as SB 9, went into effect on Jan. 1, 2022. The law requires local agencies to “ministerially approve” urban lot splits and housing developments of two single-family units on one single-family zoned lot, actions which previously could have triggered the need for a public hearing and approval from the city’s Planning Commission.
The city’s communications officer, Elyjah Wilbur, stated in an email to The Sentinel that Citrus Heights has received three applications for lot splits since SB 9 went into effect. He said the applications do not require public hearings unless they fail to meet specific requirements of the new law.
According to the city’s website, the lot split aspect of SB 9 may be combined with the two-unit development allowance, resulting in the possibility of building four units on what previously was a vacant property zoned for single-family use.
Once the law went in effect, the city began accepting applications for these new types of housing developments. Within the city, RD-1 through RD-5 zones and Special Planning Areas that allow single-family residences are eligible for the new provisions. Exceptions to this include areas within a special flood hazard area or regulatory floodway unless certain requirements are met, lands set aside for conservation, or within designated historic sites or districts.
The League of California Cities was among the opponents of SB 9, arguing that a top-down approach like SB 9 fails to address local needs and community concerns. In a statement issued after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill, the League said SB 9 prevents local governments from responsibly planning for housing according to their specific needs, and fails to address the issue of making housing more affordable.
In contrast, the California Senate Democratic Caucus stated that SB 9 provides a number of benefits to communities and property owners, including the ability for homeowners to build inter-generational wealth by creating rental opportunities for other families, limiting the market power of institutional investors, and respecting local zoning restrictions.
Certain requirements must be met in order to start new projects under these rules. For example, one parking space per unit is required, with provision for exemptions under certain circumstances. Projects also cannot alter or demolish units that have been occupied by a tenant within the past three years. Requirements also specify that new units must be rented for terms longer than 30 days.
For lot splits, the minimum created lot size is 1,200 square feet, and one of the split lots must be at least 40 percent the size of the other lot. A complete list of requirements, and other information regarding SB 9 and how it will affect Citrus Heights, can be found on the city’s website.
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