April 14, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Column: Cities Fight to Maintain Distinctive Characters

By Tom Elias, Columnist

Anyone who knows California well will realize that Palo Alto does not look much like nearby Mountain View. Or that Pasadena looks very little like its neighbor Altadena. That Rancho Mirage looks quite different from next-door Cathedral City.

These distinctions are often called character. They make locales different from one another; they make life less boring and offer choices to people deciding where they’d like to live and what lifestyle they want.

Sure, it costs more to live in some places than in others. And yes, some persons and their families can afford larger homes than others.

America, after all, bills itself as a land of equal opportunity, even if it’s far from perfect in providing that. But it has never claimed or sought to be uniform. Many laws suggest that every American should be provided for.  None says all will have equal means.

Yet, the state of California has sought uniformity in the field of housing for the last several years, led by Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, who tried unsuccessfully for years to pass bills requiring every city in the state to become much more dense.

Wiener’s persistence paid off for him last year, when he pushed through new laws best known by their numbers, Senate Bills 9 and 10, which ban zoning for single family houses everywhere in California. SB 9 allows six residential units on almost all lots where there is now one; SB 10 allows up to 10 units on any lot within easy reach of rapid transit.

Neither law requires builders to provide new parking or parks, mitigate added traffic, assure water supplies or any other requirement usually imposed on developers of new home subdivisions. Nor are there any controls on how much of the new housing can become short-term vacation rentals or temporary corporate housing.

It’s open season, then, on the character of every city in the state. If Wiener had his way, California would have nothing but apartments and condominiums, no houses with sizeable yards and open space. For him – and for Gov. Gavin Newsom, who seemingly will sign any bill Wiener writes – it’s fine if all cities look alike. One size fits all, even in cities that already have plenty of vacant units, as many now do.

When cities try to slow this down, seeking to preserve their unique qualities, in steps Newsom’s appointed attorney general, Rob Bonta.

This, of course, is Bonta’s right, which he sees as a duty. And it’s within the tradition of state attorneys general enforcing the laws they like and ignoring those they don’t. Every attorney general of the past 50 years has done this: Republican Dan Lungren enforced almost no laws intended to ensure equal access to housing for minorities. Democrat Xavier Becerra did little to enforce state masking mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic. And on and on, going back at least 50 years.

Bonta makes it his mission to go after cities trying to carve out exceptions to SB 9 and 10. When leafy Woodside tried to exempt itself as a cougar habitat, Bonta warned of a lawsuit and the town backed down.

When multifaceted, racially pluralistic Pasadena tried to limit SB 9 lot splits and consequent teardowns in areas with historic or architecturally significant housing, Bonta denied that any such areas should be exempted because, his top deputy claimed, they are not really historic. But he could not disprove the Pasadena argument that in the neighborhoods the city called landmarks, there is “historical, cultural development and/or architectural context.”

Doesn’t matter, Bonta says. Go ahead and buy up historical bungalows, he essentially told developers, then tear them down and split the lots if you like.

Do this, of course, and Pasadena will lose much of its distinctiveness.

Some cities, of course, accede readily to state housing demands, despite relatively high vacancy rates. Much of once-resorty Santa Monica, for one, now looks somewhat like a mini Miami Beach, with many new apartments and condominiums lining its main streets.

Only time will tell how much California will change, and feelings are mixed among homeowners, with some licking their chops at selling their longtime homes and others determined to resist.

Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It,” is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

Related Posts

“New Girl” Actor Sells Palisades Abode for $3.1M

April 10, 2024

April 10, 2024

He and His Wife Undertook a Renovation of the Unique, Two-Story Abode, Transforming It Into a Picturesque Beachfront Dwelling Actor...

Report: State Farm’s California Policy Shakeup to Hit Palisades the Hardest

April 10, 2024

April 10, 2024

Customers Affected Will Receive Notifications Starting July 3 for Property Holders and August 20 for Commercial Apartment Holders The San...

1920s Spanish Revival Home in Palisades Hits Market at $3.8M

April 8, 2024

April 8, 2024

It Is One of the Earliest Homes Constructed on the Bluffs and Located Just Five Houses Away From Ocean Cliff...

SM.a.r.t. Column: BLINK NOW!

April 7, 2024

April 7, 2024

Nine years ago, I wrote a column for SMa.r.t. titled SANTA MONICA: BEACH TOWN OR ‘DINGBAT’ CITY? (https://smdp.com/2015/05/09/santa-monica-beach-town-dingbat-city/)Here is the...

SM.a.r.t Column: ARB Courage (Part 2 of 2)

March 31, 2024

March 31, 2024

Last week we discussed the numerous flaws of the Gelson’s project as a perfect example of what not to do...

Mixed-Use Development Set for Sloping Property along Chautauqua Boulevard

March 27, 2024

March 27, 2024

“Canyon Place” Is Set to Include Two Apartment Units and 1,415 Sq. Ft. of Office Space By Zach Armstrong A...

ARB Courage (Part 1 of 2)

March 24, 2024

March 24, 2024

On March 4, 2024, your ARB (Architectural Review Board) ruled in favor of the 521-unit Gelson’s Project at Ocean Park...

Larry David Puts His $8.9M Palisades Estate On The Market

March 22, 2024

March 22, 2024

It Offers 180-Degree Mountain Views From Every Room Larry David, the renowned comedian and co-creator of “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your...

Time is Running Out To Give Public Input on Malibu’s Revised Housing Element

March 18, 2024

March 18, 2024

City Asks Residents to Comment on Strategies for Addressing Housing Needs The City of Malibu has released an updated Revised...

SM.a.r.t Column: Can California ARBs Balance Affordable Housing with Community Character in the Face of New Housing Laws?

March 17, 2024

March 17, 2024

By suggestion, I attended the March 4th ARB (Architectural Review Board) meeting that addressed the Gelson Lincoln Boulevard Project.  After...

S.M.a.r.t Column: On the Need for Safety

March 10, 2024

March 10, 2024

Earlier this week, in the dark pre-dawn hours, a pair of thugs covered in masks and hoodies burst into the...

Near $17M Home of the Late Composer Burt Bacharach Goes on Market

March 8, 2024

March 8, 2024

Purchased by Bacharach for $2.5 Milli, the Property Offers Mountain, Canyon, and Ocean Views The Tudor residence of Burt Bacharach,...

Film Review: The Oscar Landscape 2024

March 7, 2024

March 7, 2024

FILM REVIEWTHE OSCAR LANDSCAPE 2024A Look at the Choices – Academy Awards – March 10, 2024, at 5:00 p.m. on...

Instagram Executive Puts Spanish-Style Venice Home on the Market

March 4, 2024

March 4, 2024

Nestled in the heart of the East of Lincoln neighborhood, the bungalow includes coved ceilings According to a report by...

Seven-Bedroom Beachfront Home Lists for $12.5M

March 3, 2024

March 3, 2024

Built in 1929, Amenities Include a Sparkling Pool, Home Theater and Elevator  This beachfront residence, boasting panoramic views from Palos...