Santa Monica City Council voted Tuesday to formally oppose two bills that are currently proposed in the state legislature, despite concerns the City would be seen as anti-affordable housing.
Councilmembers voted 5-1 to oppose SB 9 and SB 10 as they are currently written. Councilmember Gleam Davis was the only no-vote and Mayor Sue Himmelrich recused herself from the vote prior to discussion of the two items.
Councilmembers Phil Brock and Oscar de la Torre introduced the items in separate discussions Tuesday evening while they both explained why councilmembers should break from tradition and oppose the two bills before they have had an opportunity to set the City’s legislative agenda.
Brock said Tuesday he specifically takes issue with SB 9 potentially allowing a single-family lot to be split into a total of six units.
“This change will be allowed with no public hearing; oh, there’s no affordable housing mandate either, so homeowners will lose any say over the zoning of their streets and this state-ordered upselling will drive up land costs even higher, and housing costs will rise — not fall,” Brock said.
“Even the opportunity for four units will be disruptive both here, in South L.A., East L.A., and other parts of the state from Stockton to South San Francisco, etc.,” Brock later added. “I think we can do better. I think, yes, if the bill is amended then we may want to support it, but as of right now, we should not support this bill as written. If we support our neighborhoods, not only in Santa Monica, but our state, then we’ll be against this bill and will urge our legislature to find a different way to help us.”
Councilmember Kevin McKeown did not personally agree with all of what Brock said, but the former mayor does believe the bill should be opposed as written.
“I do not think this will destroy neighborhoods… and I do think that by saying oppose-as-written is different from saying flat-oppose; just flat oppose closes the door,” McKeown said. “But taking an ‘oppose as written’ or ‘oppose unless amended’ position, rather than simply ‘oppose,’ keeps us in the negotiation process to make legislation better even if we can’t stop it.”
McKeown added he believes the decision to oppose the bills could have more weight since they’re coming from a city with the reputation of Santa Monica.
“I think it almost forces the question, ‘Why is it you oppose it as written?’ and we get to say because it doesn’t include affordability,” he said.
Davis recognized she was likely “on a fool’s errand” by trying to convince her peers to not bind themselves into a position where they won’t be given a chance to give an opinion on amendments since they’ll be seen as opponents of the bill. Even so, she said, “I remain troubled that we’re once again going to send a letter to Sacramento saying we oppose a house bill that doesn’t even impose anything on us. Once again, we’re sort of taking ourselves out of the housing debate. So, I’m going to make a substitute motion, and my substitute motion is that we authorize the sending of a letter saying we support SB 10 with the specific amendments.”
The motion failed to receive a second.
“To come up with a list of things that would have to be amendments on the fly, after Midnight, is unfortunate and, perhaps, is as premature as us taking this up in the first place tonight. We really should have waited to have a legislative agenda, and then look at all these different bills through that prism rather than try and cobble together solutions to problems that are still tentative as these bills are in such early stages right now,” McKeown said after the motion was dropped.
Council agreed after the pair of votes that it will discuss a legislative agenda rather than look at bills on a case-by-case basis.
“I think at the end it was good that we got it done,” Brock said, “but I will take Councilmember McKeown’s advice and not put us through this agony again.”