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How California Courts Are Ruling On Housing Density Issues

September 8, 2022 Sean Gaffney Construction & Development

The supply and affordability of housing is one of the most pressing and challenging issues facing the country, especially in California, where local governments and advocacy groups historically averse to high-density building are challenging new efforts by state government to encourage residential development.

For one current example, see the growing number of cities challenging S.B. 9, a new law that took effect this year and intended to encourage more housing by allowing for all existing single-family lots to be redeveloped into up to four new residential units.

Southern California cities spanning from wealthy coastal communities such as Redondo Beach and Rancho Palos Verdes, to middle-class inland municipalities including Lakewood and Carson, have recently filed lawsuits to challenge the constitutionality of S.B. 9, arguing that control over residential zoning is one of the fundamental powers reserved for local government and may not be usurped by state regulation.

Other municipalities have employed different approaches. The affluent Northern California community of Woodside attempted to secure an exemption from S.B. 9 on the basis of the presence of protected mountain lion habitat, while residents of neighboring Atherton concerned regarding impacts on their city’s 1 acre minimum residential lot size have urged their representatives to consider paying the yearly $1.2 million fine in lieu of making efforts to comply.

Although such resistance is expected to continue, observers of California’s real estate industry are noticing increasing momentum in favor of state government’s development efforts. Over the past year, California courts have issued a handful of decisions addressing various efforts to push back against the preemption of local regulations, and a body of precedent is beginning to emerge that indicates some important trends.

CGS3 partner Sean Gaffney provides an in-depth analysis of S.B. 9 and its impact on landowners and common interest developments in Law360’s Expert Analysis.

The full article can be read in Law360 here (subscription required).