By Toni G. Atkins
June means summer’s coming. That’s one of the times of year that reminds us what a truly remarkable place we live in. June is also the month we celebrate Father’s Day, and while I lost my Dad many years ago, I am still grateful to him for so many things.
My dad worked until he ached in order to keep a roof over our heads. And sometimes, after he was done working and my sister and I were getting ready for bed, he would tell us about this sleepy little place on the California coast called “San Diego” that he had been stationed during World War II.
This summer is a critical time for all the work we have been doing to help more folks get a roof over their heads. With our June 15th constitutional deadline approaching, the Senate is finalizing the details of a bold state budget that includes historic funding levels for housing and homelessness, on top of major investments in recent years.
Summer is also the time for remaining bills to be acted on before the legislature adjourns this year’s session in September. That means many of the bills in the Senate’s Housing Production package, which I’ve highlighted here before, have passed the Senate and will soon face critical votes in the Assembly.
I’m very pleased that one of those bills, my SB 7, was just signed into law by Governor Newsom on May 20. SB 7 extends California’s effective AB 900 CEQA streamlining process, which lapsed last January, through the end of 2025. SB 7 also expands the process so it applies to much smaller housing projects, lowering the threshold to qualify to $15 million.
SB 7 also requires that to be eligible, projects must have at least 15% lower-cost housing, be infill projects, and meet environmental and labor safeguards.
While we are working to add the housing units California desperately needs, we are also taking steps to protect the special characteristics that brought so many of us to our neighborhoods and communities in the first place. That’s especially true when it comes to SB 9, my bill to build upon California’s successful Accessory Dwelling Unit, or “Granny Flat” law. This bill passed the Senate on a bipartisan 28-6 vote.
SB 9 streamlines the process for a homeowner to create a duplex or subdivide an existing lot. SB 9 also includes important protections many people asked for in a previous version of the bill, including the limitation that it would only allow up to four units. Any new housing created as a result of SB 9 must meet a specific list of qualifications that protects historic districts, preserve environmental quality and the look of communities, and prevent tenants from being displaced.
To me, one of the most exciting things about SB 9 is the opportunities it provides for more homeowners to build intergenerational wealth—to create a duplex or add an ADU and then have a little something they can pass on to their kids and grandkids — the way my hardworking dad would have done if he’d had the chance.
— Toni G. Atkins represents the 39th District in the California Senate. Follow her on Twitter @SenToniAtkins.