Another Silicon Valley Town Tries To Sidestep State Density Law

Palo Alto could designate more than one hundred properties as historic in an attempt to prevent lot splitting permitted under a new state law designed to lightly increase residential density.

March 23, 2022, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Sundry Photography / Shutterstock

"Since SB9 went into effect this year, affluent communities across California are in the midst of trying to implement the new state lot-splitting law aimed at increasing the number of new homes as officials continue to battle homelessness and the worst unaffordability in the country." Aldo Toledo reports on one effort to skirt the law using historic preservation.

SB9 was passed as an attempt to address California's worsening housing crisis, but as we noted in a prior post, cities around the state have proposed a variety of creative measures to circumvent the law's density requirements. In Palo Alto, "City staff is currently sitting on a 20-year-old study that identified 165 properties and a handful of unique city districts eligible for historic preservation which it has yet to list on any register." According to Toledo's article, "City officials say new commercial buildings, mid-century modern structures and historic homes and districts already surveyed as eligible for the historic registry could be added to the city’s landmark list, which would further limit where Senate Bill 9 can apply in Palo Alto."

Other cities have landed in hot water for similar attempts. "On Tuesday, California Attorney General Rob Bonta notified the city of Pasadena that its attempt to broadly exempt neighborhoods from SB9 requirements by declaring them 'landmark districts' violates state law." And in a highly publicized case last month, the Silicon Valley town of Woodside briefly considered exempting the entire community from SB9 as protected mountain lion habitat, a proposal widely criticized and which the city quickly retreated from.

Monday, March 21, 2022 in The Mercury News

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