Blog

How do SB9 & SB10 Impact San José?

Now that SB9 and SB10 have been signed into law by Governor Newsom, you may be wondering how they affect the City of San Jose proposal (aka “Opportunity Housing”) and what you can do before the City Council vote. This newsletter edition addresses the most frequently asked questions.


What are the key provisions of SB9 and SB10?

SB9 has eliminated single-family zoning everywhere in the state of California, however, it less extreme than San Jose proposal. SB9 allows single-family lots to be split into two parcels (each as small as 1200 square feet) and allows a duplex to be constructed on each subdivided parcel. It effectively means any piece of land with one house can be replaced with 4 dwelling units.

SB10 lets municipalities opt-in to enabling legislation that bypasses the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and allows up to 10 units plus 4 ADUs (up to 14 units) on single-family parcels in most neighborhoods. It would affect houses that are within a half mile radius of bus lines, impacting approximately 2/3 of the houses in San Jose. Furthermore, SB10 provides no safeguards for historic resources once adopted by a municipal jurisdiction.


How do SB9 and SB10 affect the San Jose proposal to allow multi-unit development “by right”.

The San Jose City Council could vote to opt-in to SB10 at any time. Voters should proactively contact Mayor Liccardo and all members of the City Council and express opposition to adopting SB10.

Even though SB9 is now ingrained in state law and applies to every single-family zoned parcel in the state, the City Council is still planning to consider the Envision San Jose 2040 General Plan Task Force recommendation to advance citywide Opportunity Housing – a proposal that is even more extreme than SB9. Council consideration of Opportunity Housing is expected to occur during the holidays. We believe this timing is intended to deter feedback from homeowners.

The well-funded groups and lobbyists driving this proposal in San Jose are not satisfied SB9. They continue to push for a more extreme local version.

We need to continue pressuring the Mayor and the Council to reject the General Plan Task Force recommendation as again it is more extreme than SB9. It does not require developers to go through the lot-splitting process - a single-family house can be replaced with a 4-Plex plus 3 ADUs without subdividing the property. Furthermore, unlike SB9, which requires the landowner to occupy one of the dwellings for three years, the SJ proposal has no owner occupancy requirement. This shortens the time from demolition to permanently changing your neighborhood block.

It is also important to note that the San Jose proposal eliminates the public review process. There is no community notification requirement, no community meeting, no public hearing, and no appeal process. We are unaware of any other city matter where special interest groups are advocating for elimination of the public review process.

Finally, it is important to remember that San Jose’s current General Plan will accommodate a 40% increase in population without implementing this radical proposal that will permanently destroy single-family neighborhoods.


What can residents do now to preserve the quality of life our neighborhoods?

1. Contact the Mayor and members City Council today. Request the following:

  • Reject the General Plan Task Force recommendation outright and take a public stand now to oppose. Do not vote to “study” since what is “studied” is inevitably implemented.

  • Do not opt in to SB10.

  • Pass a resolution endorsing the proposed ballot initiative from Californians for Community Planning that would restore zoning and land use decisions to municipalities. * (see footnote)


2. Contact Families & Homes - SJ via email (familiesandhomessj@gmail.com) or via the volunteer form on our website (FamiliesHomesSJ.org) to sign up for speaking (Zoom or in person) at City Council meetings when Opportunity Housing and related matters are on the agenda. Be sure to provide your email and text information so that we can keep you apprised of upcoming dates and times, and provide you with scripts and talking points as well as links and instructions for public comments.


3. Hold your elected representatives in Sacramento accountable. State Senator Dave Cortese co-authored SB9. He, and State Assembly members Ash Kalra and Evan Low voted to pass SB9 and SB10.


4. Make this the #1 issue for the June 2022 election both for Mayor and City Council as no other policy would negatively impact your quality of life as these detrimental policies.


Stay tuned for future updates!


*A bipartisan organization called Californians for Community Choice has already drafted a statewide ballot initiative that would amend the state constitution and return local zoning and land use decisions to cities and counties where they belong. The ballot language has been submitted to the state Attorney General’s office for formal review, and the signature gathering effort will soon follow. To learn more and keep abreast of progress, you can visit the website https://www.communitiesforchoice.org/

'Opportunity Housing’ Will Devastate San José’s Tree Canopy

According to the San Jose planning department, “trees make the city a healthier, more beautiful place. They provide residents many benefits…shade, beautifying the city, and improving air quality.”

But our city’s tree canopy is at risk. The planning department reports that “citywide tree canopy cover has decreased from 15.36% in 2012 to 13.54% in 2018. That’s 2.7 square miles of tree canopy cover! Replacing lost canopy isn’t easy; it can take 30 to 40 years to replace a mature tree.”


The elimination of single-family zoning (i.e., ‘Opportunity Housing’) will accelerate this loss of citywide tree canopy. By its very nature, Opportunity Housing spreads new construction horizontally across our city. It is a low-density addition to existing low-density neighborhoods, which will require the removal of many trees on existing single-family lots. Economically motivated developers will use their newly granted rights under Opportunity Housing to build out to the maximum footprint on every parcel they acquire for conversion to multi-unit use, trees be damned!

High-density Urban Villages, on the other hand, increase housing density vertically, not horizontally. This minimizes tree canopy destruction. Simply put, multi-story high-density Urban Villages maximize the number of new housing units per tree removed.

A comprehensive study using Google Earth imaging technology in Seattle, one of the few municipalities to implement an ordinance similar to Opportunity Housing, confirmed that replacing single-family homes with duplex, triplex and fourplex units resulted in significant tree canopy loss.


Today single-family lots in San Jose account for less than 62% of all land use, but 70% of all trees. Under Opportunity Housing, the conversion of these single-family lots into multi-unit dwellings will inevitably lead to accelerating tree canopy loss throughout the entire city. Even more concerning, the conversion of single-family lots to multi-unit use—and the resulting tree canopy loss—will be greatest in the most economically disadvantaged parts of our city where land purchase costs are lowest.

“High-density Urban Villages minimize tree canopy destruction while creating the population centers needed to support mass transit. Because they minimize the amount of land required for buildings and roadways, there is more room for trees; they are the very definition of smart growth,” explained Dave Poeschel, a conservation activist with the local chapter of Sierra Club. “The proposed citywide ‘Opportunity Housing’ ordinance is the opposite. It would expand low-density developments across the city and their building footprints, likely accelerating the number of tree removals in our city already woefully short of tree canopy, especially in East San Jose. Vertical growth clearly beats horizontal growth for environmental sustainability.”