Photo courtesy of Studio E Architects

It was a bad week for housing bills in Sacramento, but two by San Diego lawmakers survived.

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins’ SB 1120 might be the most significant housing legislation in the state that survived the week. Her bill would allow duplexes on any single-family lot, and would let owners of single-family homes split their lots into two without requiring special permission.

It’s intended to make way for more and cheaper housing in California’s sacrosanct single-family neighborhoods, and is in some ways an outgrowth of state Sen. Scott Wiener’s SB 50, which failed in January but would have made similar changes to single-family neighborhoods, in addition to allowing dense development near transit, jobs and good schools.

But the other bill that grew out of Wiener’s controversial bill from last year – SB 902, which passed the Senate in June and would allow cities to quickly change its zoning to allow up to 10 homes per lot in any place near transit or jobs – died in the dreaded Assembly appropriations committee, chaired by San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez.

Atkins had a bill of her own held in appropriations, one that was specifically touted as a major state response to the pending eviction crisis from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her bill, SB 1410, was announced in May, and would have prevented landlords from evicting tenants while creating a process by which they would be compensated through tax credits.

Pro-housing group California YIMBY issued a sharp statement on the Legislature’s failure to pass much from the suite of bills intended to produce more housing statewide.

“Our legislators get to go home today to housing that the vast majority of them own – they have housing security,” Brian Hanlon, the group’s CEO, wrote. “Their refusal to act on behalf of the millions of Californians who have no such security is shameful.”

Gonzalez’s own housing bill, SB 2345, though, is still alive. That bill would take San Diego’s so-called density bonus law – which lets developers build more housing on a given property if they agree to provide some low-income housing in exchange – and extend it to the rest of the state. It passed the Senate’s appropriations committee Thursday, but did so with amendments that have not yet been released.

A Roller Coaster Week in the Uber/Lyft Saga

When the state appellate court blocked an order that would have forced Uber and Lyft to start classifying their drivers as employees, it do so with some big caveats: The companies must agree to a schedule the court laid out for the case to move forward, and both CEOs must sign sworn statements pledging that they have plans in place to convert drivers to employees if they lose their legal cases and if voters do not pass Prop. 22 in November.

That ballot measure would exempt app-based drivers from having to comply with AB 5, the state law limiting when employers can classify their workers as independent contractors.

The appellate court’s move made moot the companies’ promises to pack up and leave the state if forced to comply.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer waded into the fray this week, by signing onto a letter along with San Jose’s mayor, urging the court to grant the stay.

Faulconer’s office did not respond when asked whether the mayor supports Prop. 22.

The companies, meanwhile, seem to be making contingency plans: The New York Times reported this week that Uber and Lyft are examining whether they could license their brands to vehicle fleets in the state, similar to how black car services are run.

Gov Sides With Weber in Ethnic Studies Dispute

Gov. Gavin Newsom had the last word in the dispute between Assemblywoman Shirley Weber and the California State University system over ethnic studies class requirements – and he sided with Weber by signing her bill, AB 1460, into law this week.

Weber’s bill mandates that CSU students take a three-unit ethnic studies course in order to graduate, and specifies that to qualify, the course must focus on four historically defined racialized core groups: Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latina and Latino Americans.”

Late last month, the CSU board of trustees passed its own ethnic studies requirement, but wrote the rules in such a way that other courses, such as ones on LGBTQ issues, would count toward it. A CSU spokesman called the requirement “more inclusive, and more expansive” than AB 1460, but Weber, an SDSU professor emeritus, criticized the plan for calling itself an ethnic studies requirement while allowing students to fulfill it without actually taking ethnic studies classes.

With Newsom’s signature, Weber’s version of the requirement wins out.

Golden State News

Andrew Keatts is a former managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego.

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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