Governor Newsom Signs Package of Housing Bills That Could Reduce Parking and Increase Neighborhood Density

On Wednesday, Oct. 9 thCalifornia Governor Gavin Newsom signed five housing bills into law that could potentially aid the California housing crisis, but some residents worry about creating overly dense neighborhoods throughout Long Beach that do not provide parking space and they fear could hurt lower-income families buying houses. The five bills signed (SB 13, AB 68, AB 587, AB 671, and AB 881) work together to eliminate several barriers homeowners face when trying to convert their garages into an extra living space or build smaller, additional homes in their own backyards, otherwise known as “accessory dwelling units” (ADUs). 

Homeowners are recently constructing more ADUs to house family members or generate additional income through renting them out, but often face expensive fees and extensive requirements when trying to obtain the permits to build. 

Three of the bills are facing the most attention (SB 13, AB 881, and AB 68) as they limit the power of local governments to stall or deny homeowners such permits. Although expediting the process and likely to provide more available housing, critics of the new legislation hold concerns about the impact that loosening restrictions could have on neighborhood density, parking and property values. 

The bills would allow property owners to develop up to two ADUs on a single lot, totaling up to three residential dwelling units, if they are building one detached ADU and one “junior ADU” out of an existing structure even if the area has been zoned for single-family homes only. 

Unlike other cities, Long Beach did not require property owners building rental ADUs to reside in the main home. However, critics believe the elimination of owner-occupancy requirements throughout California opens up local properties to developers and large corporations who now see an investment opportunity in the property’s potential to hold two ADUs. In the event of this, critics predict rising property values would make it difficult for lower-income families seeking to buy single-family homes or rent out ADUs if government incentives are not offered to encourage renting to these communities.

Besides owner occupancy, several requirements of local ordinances that forced property owners to provide parking space or pay development impact fees are all being stripped away by the state. In areas like Long Beach that already experience heavy traffic congestion and minimal parking spaces, when the bills go into effect and homeowners no longer have to provide off-street parking space after converting garages into ADUs, residents could have to deal with the consequences of eliminating such requirements firsthand. 

The bills all seemed to have quietly made it through the Senate to the governor with fairly minimal opposition. Long Beach’s State Assembly representative, Patrick O’ Donnell, did, however, vote against two of the bills, with no vote recorded for AB 881, but the bills were inevitably passed through to the governor. Yet, bills like SB 50 that prompted four residential dwellings on a single lot received a great deal of public protest earlier this year.