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New California housing law challenged in court by Los Angeles nonprofit

·2 min read

A Los Angeles-based nonprofit sued California on Wednesday to halt the implementation of a new housing law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed last week that allows cities to rezone certain urban neighborhoods for small apartment buildings.

The law, Senate Bill 10, will let cities and counties pass ordinances that pave way for up to 10 units on a parcel in transit- and jobs-rich areas. The law allows the local governments to streamline the environmental review process in efforts to quickly rezone single-family neighborhoods in the interest of building more housing.

Newsom signed a package of housing bills, including SB 10, on Sept. 16, saying the new laws would help build homes for all California families.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation alleges in its lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court that SB 10 is unconstitutional because a provision in the law lets local governments through a two-thirds majority vote to supersede some land use policies approved by voters.

In a statement, Michael Weinstein, the foundation’s president, called that element of the law a “blatant constitutional overreach.”

“This provision ignores the intent and will of voters totally disregarding the sanctity of voters’ rights,” Weinstein said. “We believe the provision is clearly unconstitutional and are therefore seeking to invalidate that provision and the entire law.”

The foundation also lobbied against SB 10 for failing to address an affordable housing shortage. The law is set to go into effect in January.

During a press conference to formally announce the lawsuit, Los Angeles Urban League President Michael Lawson added that SB 10 would do little to solve the homelessness crisis or help communities in need of affordable housing.

“It is a birthday present to the developers,” Lawson said. “It will decimate our communities.”

SB 10 author and San Francisco Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener refuted those claims in a statement.

“SB 10 is a serious and meaningful approach to California’s profound housing shortage,” Wiener said. “It empowers cities to be full partners in solving this crisis. SB 10 is legal, and I have confidence it will be upheld in court.”

The law doesn’t apply automatically to local governments or overhaul all single-family neighborhood rules. Instead, cities or counties would have to “opt-in” and approve their own policies that pave way for up to 10 units in these areas. The city of Sacramento is considering a similar ordinance. California YIMBY, a pro-housing group with several city chapters, sponsored SB 10.

The legislation passed through both houses in the Capitol with bipartisan support, though several Democrats either abstained or voted against SB 10. The Senate approved the bill on a 28-6 vote and the Assembly passed it 44-12.

Wiener and AIDS Healthcare Foundation have a long history of disagreements over housing policy and the use of PrEP, a drug that helps prevent HIV. Wiener has been an advocate of increasing access to and information on PrEP.

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