Single-famly homes under construction by Pardee Homes in San Diego. REUTERS/Mike Blake

From San Diego to Mt. Shasta, homeowners and their representatives are speaking out against the state legislature’s ill-conceived effort to eliminate single-family zoning. I’m adding my voice to that tidal wave of opposition because I’m convinced that Senate Bill 10 also presents an ethical and probably indefensible legal problem for our elected officials.

I’ve read the fine print in SB 10, and there’s no doubt that the proposed law allows the construction of ten housing units on a single-family lot, plus four additional “Accessory Dwelling Units” (also known as ADUs or “granny flats”). That’s a total of 14 housing units, on one parcel, in a single-family neighborhood like mine. 

Those are the facts, even though the author of SB 10 tried to minimize the negative impact of his proposal by not counting the four additional structures as “housing units.” Why the sleight of hand? I think there’s an obvious answer: city councils that want to wipe out single-family zoning can avoid public hearings and environmental reviews for projects with up to ten living units, but that scrutiny is required for projects with more than ten units!

In fact, California has historically acknowledged that ADUs are housing units. It’s right there, in black-and-white, in the state’s 2020 ADU Handbook. If an ADU is defined as a housing unit in that state regulation, it must also be considered a housing unit in SB 10, especially because both documents address the issue of ADUs on single-family zoned lots.  

I’m not a lawyer, but I’m sure the state legislature cannot — and must not — arbitrarily decide when an ADU is or isn’t considered a housing unit. That’s what SB 10 would do. Judges reject that kind of faulty reasoning as “arbitrary and capricious abuse of discretion.”

We non-lawyers call it what it is: using word-salad to hide the facts, mislead the public, and pave the way for the stealth elimination of single-family zoning.

I urge all our state legislators to closely read SB 10’s language. Not counting ADUs is unethical and possibly legally indefensible! When you understand the negative and irreversible impact SB 10 will have on all communities in your districts, I know you’ll join me and millions of other Californians in our unwavering opposition to SB 10.

Danna Givot is a San Diego homeowner, community activist, and volunteer with Neighbors for a Better San Diego.

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