On behalf of Michael Brooks of Law Offices of Michael A. Brooks posted in land use & zoning restrictions on Wednesday, May 2, 2018.

Housing in California is priced much higher than it is in the rest of the country. That’s a fact that’s plagued residents for decades — so they were understandably excited at the idea that new legislation could alleviate the problem.

The legislation, known as SB 827, would have compelled cities to allow apartment housing anywhere within walking distance of major bus and rail routes. That would overturn many zoning regulations enforced by cities that wanted to keep areas from becoming too urban and too crowded for the comfort of those already there. It would also cut through local politics that often control zoning decisions and cater to the interests of a select few.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. The bill faced strong opposition by single-family homeowners who felt that their property values would be hurt and by local governments who felt the state was usurping their power to restrict land use they way that they deemed fit. Others worried about preserving historic landmarks. Groups who advocate for low-income tenants also disliked the bill, preferring new low-income housing instead of less-affordable gentrification. Ultimately, the bill died on the floor of the state senate.

This is probably not the end of the dispute, however, because it certainly isn’t the end of California’s housing woes. Local governments have long exercised considerable control over how land can be used. Zoning regulations can effectively reshape an entire area according to a local government’s plans — and keep out anything that the current residents find repugnant to their sensibilities. A lot of zoning restrictions are enforced with the underlying intent of blocking lower-income residents from moving in.

Typically, state governments have stayed back and let zoning be a local decision. However, housing crises like those in California draw attention to the fact that the process may need to change. The desires of a few shouldn’t necessarily have more weight than the needs of the many when it comes to sharing available housing space.

As California’s population continues to grow, zoning-related legislation is likely to become a focus of more legislation — and perhaps increasing legal challenges from those who are ready to see the state expand.

Source:, “As California’s housing crunch worsens, who will control land use?,” Dan Walters, April 29, 2018

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