The Calimesa City Council unanimously agreed at its recent meeting to send a letter opposing, unless amended, Senate Bill 9, regarding increased density in single-family zones.

“I feel very strongly that we would lose a lot, all cities would, up and down the state,” said Mayor Pro Tem Linda Molina, who had requested at a previous meeting that discussion of SB 9 be put on the agenda.

“I think this is a serious bill and I think it would have serious effects on our city,” she said at the March 15 meeting. “It would change the complexion of our city for sure because you could have a developer buy three lots on one block and potentially change a single-family lot into duplexes, apartments and what have you.”

Erin Sasse, from the League of California Cities, which advocates to preserve local control for cities, provided information on the measure and why the league opposes it, unless changes are made.

Senate Bill 9 would require local governments to ministerially approve a housing development containing two residential units in a single-family residential zone, the League of California Cities states on its website. Additionally, this measure would require local governments to ministerially approve urban lot splits.

“Really it just takes away your authority and allows the process to be approved without any public input,” Sasse said of the measure.

She then reviewed the amendments the league is requesting. There are many, but the main ones are:

•    Clarify that a property owner using SB 9 is limited to constructing two residential units, and not two residential units and additional ADUs on the same parcel.

•    Require a housing developer to acquire a building permit within one year of a lot split, so that the speculators do not sell lots and never build homes.

•    Require adequate access for police, fire and other public safety vehicles and equipment.

•    Allow cities to decide on a range of lot sizes suitable for SB 9 developments.

“This is a pretty long list and it did come about from our housing policy committee members,” said Sasse, adding the amendments had been sent to the author of SB 9.

“If we do not get the amendments, which is probably unlikely, it is likely we may move to an opposed position,” she said.

After Sasse’s presentation, councilmembers were asked their opinions.

Molina, who had brought the measure to council’s attention, had a lot to say.

“I really think it is important for our city to let it be known that we are in opposition to SB 9, and a couple of other bills that are designed to take away local control,” she said.

“This has a serious chance of winning and our cities would lose a lot. We would lose properties forever,” Molina said, continuing. “The main focus of SB 9 is it allows developers to come in and split lots. If your neighbor sells their house and a developer purchased it, they could use SB 9 and split the lot. You can have two, four, six, even up to 10 units on a parcel that was just designed as a single-family lot and that causes a lot of problems. Parking, it gets rid of yards, setbacks, a lot of impacts. Once they are gone, they are gone.”

Molina added that gated communities and homeowner associations are also affected.

“Nothing is exempt from SB 9,” she said.

The other councilmembers agreed.

“I support Cal Cities’ position on the issue,” said Councilman Jeff Cervantez. “That is to oppose, unless amended. I would be in favor of sending a letter in opposition as a council.”

Using a template letter from the League of California Cities, City Manager Bonnie Johnson said she had a letter ready to go with council’s approval.

“It is ready to go unless the council wants any amendments to it,” Johnson said. “It is ready to go as recommended by the league.”

“It looks good to me, but I am just one person,” Mayor Bill Davis said.

The other councilmembers again agreed and it was approved to send the letter opposing SB 9, unless amended, to Calimesa’s state representatives.

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