The Marin Post

The Voice of the Community

Blog Post

T Keith Gurnee

California’s War Against Our Neighborhoods


California’s single-family neighborhoods and its cities and counties are under mounting attacks by a State Legislature that’s determined to pass a spate of ill-conceived bills that will change our neighborhoods and communities forever. If the state’s “Housing Package”, including bills like SB 9, SB 10, SB 478, as well as AB 1401 and AB 1322, make it through legislative committee meetings that are happening later this month, get ready for some significant, negative impacts on the livability, functionality, and public safety of your neighborhood.

Just last week, State Sen. Mike McGuire presented SB 9 (Atkins) to the Assembly Local Government Committee that approved SB 9 and told them that “SB 9 would allow no more than four units” subject to an “urban lot split”. But a careful reading of SB 9 reveals something quite different. Section 2.66411.7.(i) (1) states that “Notwithstanding any provision of Section 65852.2, section 65852.21, section 65852.22, section 65915, or this section a local agency shall not be required to permit more than two units on a parcel created through the exercise the authority contained within this section.

Note that this section does not prohibit local agencies from permitting ADU’s and JADU’s as part of urban lot splits if the local agency allows them by local ordinance. So, according to Senator McGuire, that means that each parcel created by an urban lot split could allow two (2) units by right as well as an ADU and a JADU if allowed by the local agency. That would make for a total of eight (8) units where one home once existed on one lot.

The Changes That Are Coming…

If you live in a single-family home in a single-family neighborhood-- whether it be in Sausalito, San Anselmo, Healdsburg, Petaluma, or anywhere else in California -- the changes outlined below will come if SB 9 (Atkins) becomes law, perhaps not immediately but certainly soon:

Loss of tree cover: Mature trees in established single-family neighborhoods will likely be on the chopping block to make way for high-density development, eliminating the carbon sequestration values that these trees have been fighting climate change.

Hardening the landscape: Eliminating permeable yards through high-density development will transform porous green spaces into hardscape and buildings initiated by mature degrees, thereby increasing the heat island effect in your neighborhood.

Increased stormwater runoff: The hardening of the landscape will also generate considerably more stormwater and urban runoff than neighborhoods may be equipped to handle.

Unless Californians wake up, realize what is about to happen to the places where they live, and take immediate action to contact your state representatives to fight this legislation, these changes will have dramatic, negative impacts on our neighborhoods.

Those who live in the northern Bay Area should be aware that State Senator Mike McGuire has been an advocate for SB 9 and the rest of the state’s dystopian Housing Package. It’s currently unclear where Assemblyman Mark Levine stands on these bills.

All of our neighborhoods are in the state’s cross-hairs. It’s time to rise up and fight back! Call or email your state representatives, ask them to stop this madness, and let them know how you will vote in the next election if they vote for these bills.


T Keith Gurnee is a member of the Board of Directors of Livable California, he is also a professional Planner and Urban Designer, former San Luis Obispo Councilmember, and past President of the California Planning Roundtable.