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SB 9: What It Really Means

SB 9 is a complex and highly confusing bill. Since this bill affects us and our customers on a personal level, we’re breaking it down so you know exactly what it means for you, and what your best options are. 

This bill, which took effect on January 1st, 2022, will make it easier for Californians to build more than one housing unit on properties that, for decades, have been reserved exclusively for single-family homes. 

But, before you start splitting your lot or breaking ground here are a few things you should know.

  • This law applies to R1 zoning only. Only about 5.4% of R1 lots in California would likely be eligible. 
  • Lots must be split into approximately equal sizes, one being no less than 40% of the existing lot. The resulting two lots must be at least 1,200 square feet each.
  • Larger lots can not be split and then split again.
  • The property cannot be located within a historic zone, flood zone, fire hazard zone, on prime farmland, within other environmentally protected areas, or outside city limits.
  • Each lot can have a primary and an accessory dwelling unit. The newly created lot can have a duplex or a house and an ADU.
  • Each lot must have 4-foot side and rear setbacks and 1 off-street parking place for each lot, except near transit (same as ADU requirements).
  • The current owner must occupy one of the two lots for at least 3 years. 
  • No more than 25% of the existing home shall be demolished in order to make it possible to permit a lot split. 
  • Permit approval is “ministerially” meaning that cities can’t require special review or hearings (i.e. not a variance process).
  • Restrictions on architectural style mean new homes must comply with existing neighborhood architectural style. 

Here are the potential infrastructure requirements you’ll want to know:

  • The utility connections for both resulting properties must be connected to a city sewer and city water on the curb’s street side. 
  • Upgrade PG&E transformer.
  • Natural gas is unlikely available to new structures.
  • Solar will likely be required for new structures.
  • Older neighborhoods with constrained sewer capacity may be exempt.
  • New units will likely be required to have fire sprinklers.

Here’s our take.

This law will begin to have a measurable impact in about 2 years and will have a minimal impact overall. Per Holland and Knight:  “…local jurisdictions that have been less than acquiescent in adapting to amended state ADU laws may continue to languish in adopting ordinances, checklists and internal practices that comply with the new legal requirements.”

Want to dive a little deeper and see if and how you can take advantage of SB 9? Contact us today and we’ll discuss if this is right for you.

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