Fall seven times and stand up eight.--Japanese Proverb
Imagine thousands of Californians, both Republicans and Democrats, homeowners and renters, working together towards a common goal to defeat two housing bills (SB-9 and SB-10) that will permanently change the nature of home ownership, forcing more people to be renters. Yes, that’s what’s happened over the past six months.
Let’s assume you know a little about the basics of both bills. SB-9, authored by Senator Toni Atkins from San Diego, allows an owner to construct two duplexes on a parcel currently zoned for just one single-family home. Some experts who have analyzed the bill believe an owner could also build two Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). There’s nothing to assure affordability and many fear the infrastructure—like water, sewer and gas lines, or funding for added services like fire and emergency vehicles—is just not there, so the expense would fall to current tax-paying homeowners.
SB-10, authored by Senator Scott Wiener from San Francisco, goes a step further. It claims to “allow” a city to change their zoning to support 10-unit complexes on a single family lot, but some say a city could already make that change without a state law. Of course, the bills are more complicated, and I encourage you to find other articles posted on The Marin Post for details.
Both bills have worked their way through the Senate and Assembly Committees and passed, often by narrow margins if you include the No Vote Recorded. NVR is a strategic way to sidestep a vote either for or against a bill. In the tally, NVR counts as a NO vote. Marin Senator Mike McGuire has been a staunch supporter of Toni Atkins and an advocate for SB-9 and SB-10. He voted yes on both of them. Assembly member Marc Levine voted No on SB-9 and Yes on SB-10.
Now the bills sit on Governor Newsom’s desk. He has until October 10 to sign or veto them.
Legislators, hedge fund and pension investors, housing speculators, and builders like BlackRock who swagger with global capital, would have us believe we have a housing crisis that can be solved by taking away local control of zoning and land use planning. But, in fact it's local control that protects the rights of average citizens against the ravages of corporate greed.
Here’s an example of how investor money is already a factor in 2021.
Newly married friends in their late 30’s have been saving money because they want to buy a home and start a family. They’ve previously put in offers on two homes and learned you have to overbid asking price to have a chance to get a home. This third prospective home was an 1,800 sqft home on a quarter acre in Sonoma County.The couple doesn’t make a lot of money by Silicon Valley standards, but enough to qualify for a $808K loan, $43K over the $765K asking price. But once again, they lost to the investor speculator, this one paying $900K in cash!
A NextDoor neighbor wishfully claims that with the passage of SB-9, “millions of people are going to have better access to housing.” She shouts out with capital letters, YES, IN OUR BACKYARDS! But she’s likely to be wrong about gaining better access to housing that is affordable. These bills will increase the cost of housing.
The residential landscape is changing. With the passage of SB-9 and SB-10, the investor speculators, relying on deep pockets stuffed with other people’s money, will swarm like locusts. They’ll have one thing on their mind: PROFITS. Remember the corporate raiders of the 1980’s? They bought up factories and businesses, stripped them of their assets, transferred the profits to Wall Street, and left Main Street in ruin. SB-9 and SB-10 are dream-smashers for average Americans and cater to the already-wealthy-beyond-measure crowd.
Just like in the game of Monopoly, as a few players acquire key properties and build them up with houses and then hotels, it becomes increasingly risky and expensive to be near them. The woman on NextDoor that gleefully anticipates better access to housing is in for the rude surprise of rising, not declining rents.
It’s not too late. Challenge is the opportunity to rise to the occasion, not give up. Here are four actions you can take:
- Call Governor Newsom with a short message that urges him to veto SB 9 and SB 10. 916-445-2841.
- Email Governor Newsom using the online portal to urge his veto of SB 9 and SB 10. Use the pull-down menu to select “Legislative Issues/Concerns.”https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail/
- Call Assembly Member Marc Levine at 916-319-2010 or email him. Since Marc voted NO on SB-9, encourage him to urge the Governor to veto SB-9.
- Join Catalysts Call, a Zoom meeting every Monday night from 5:00-6:00 pm. Meeting ID: 838 2348 2531. Passcode: 084268 https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83823482531?pwd=MDdybloxbzJTWVRTSTRjS1VsdXh
If you’re feeling discouraged, remember these words from South African anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) who said, It always seems impossible until it's done.