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OAKLAND, June 22, 2022 – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today filed an answer in defense of Senate Bill (SB) 9, which allows homeowners to build up to four residential units on a single-family lot. SB 9 was part of a package of bills passed by the Legislature last year to alleviate California’s housing crisis. In March, four Southern California cities filed a lawsuit in the Los Angeles Superior Court arguing that SB 9 is unconstitutional and asking the court to block the Attorney General’s Office from enforcing the law. In today’s answer, Attorney General Bonta responds to the cities’ allegations and asks the court to deny their petition. 

“SB 9 is an important tool to combat California’s statewide housing crisis by promoting supply and affordability,” said Attorney General Bonta. “In California, the average price of a home is a record-breaking $880,000, leading to the lowest home ownership rates in more than a century. Our statewide housing shortage and affordability crisis requires collaboration, innovation, and a good faith effort by local governments to increase the housing supply. SB 9 is an important tool in this effort, and we’re going to make sure homeowners have the opportunity to utilize it.” 

Last year, Attorney General Bonta announced the creation of a Housing Strike Force within the California Department of Justice. The Housing Strike Force actively monitors compliance with state housing laws, including SB 9.

In February, the Strike Force sent a letter warning the town of Woodside that its memorandum declaring the entire town a mountain lion sanctuary violated SB 9. Woodside subsequently reversed course. The Strike Force also sent a letter notifying the city of Pasadena that its urgency ordinance, which among other things, would have allowed the city to broadly exempt existing areas from SB 9 requirements by declaring the areas “landmark districts,” violated state law. Pasadena subsequently passed a revised ordinance narrowing the definition of landmark district to be consistent with state and federal law definitions of historic districts, bringing the city into compliance with SB 9.

Today’s response in defense of SB 9 is part of the Attorney General’s ongoing efforts to enforce and defend state housing laws in order to support California families struggling to afford housing. Last month, the Attorney General successfully defended another state housing law, SB 10, in court. SB 10 allows local governments to rezone transit-rich areas or urban infill sites for denser housing, irrespective of existing zoning restrictions.

A copy of the answer is available here.