Bait, Switch (copy)

"It’s important to take a pause, so residents and the council can get a handle on this new law, SB9," said Seaside Mayor Ian Oglesby at a Nov. 4 meeting. 

In a 4-1 vote, the Seaside City Council passed an urgency ordinance on Thursday, Dec. 16 that will essentially kneecap Senate Bill 9, a new state housing bill that takes effect Jan. 1. The law will theoretically allow homeowners to subdivide their property to and build new housing with only “ministerial” approval by a building official—meaning it won’t need to come before an agency board for approval.  

That bill allows agencies, however, to adopt objective standards to guide how those units are built.

The bill, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed this fall, is intended to address the state’s ever-increasing housing crisis, but the four of the five members of the Seaside City Counciil said: no thanks. (Councilmember Jon Wizard cast the lone dissenting vote.)

This comes after Newsom spoke in Monterey at the California Economic Summit on Nov. 9, and said, “Everybody talks a big game, but local government continues to be the biggest impediment to new construction in this state—the NIMBYism.”

Wizard—who announced his campaign for state Assembly District 29 in the morning before council met, and who has consistently been a staunch housing advocate—asked the vast majority of the questions to Seaside staff about the nuances of the ordinance. And the essence of all of his questions was: Why are we trying to make it harder to build more housing? 

Councilmember Jason Campbell was the only councilmember to vote yes who gave a fulsome explanation as to why.  

“I’m a little frustrated over the years being told by the state how to build housing,” Campbell said, adding that he was worried about outsiders coming in and scooping up properties to build more housing. “Another thing is the flavor of the city. I don’t want to change the flavor of the city drastically.”

An urgency ordinance does not necessarily remain in effect for the long-term. Council will revisit it within 45 days, and potentially extend it for 10 to 22 months. An urgency ordinance requires a four-fifths vote to pass. Mayor Ian Oglesby said he wanted more time to look at the impacts of SB 9 by passing the ordinance.

Notably, only a few minor amendments were made to the ordinance before it passed, and by far the most onerous standard—requiring a subdivided lot to be deed-restricted for the county’s definition of low- or very low-income—remained intact, despite the fact that City Attorney Sheri Damon said she’s not even sure if it’s legal (SB 9 is silent on affordability). 

That did not sway the council, which essentially told the state: Get off my lawn.

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