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Los Altos Hills passes “urgency ordinance” to restrict SB9 applications — inviting legal challenge

By Alexei Koseff, San Francisco Chronicle, November 24, 2021

Los Altos Hills, the affluent Silicon Valley town that maintains a standard of minimum one-acre lots to preserve a semi-rural character and where homes sell for millions of dollars, led the way last week when it adopted an urgency ordinance, likely the first in the state, restricting the type of housing that residents can build if they split their properties [to take advantage of SB9’s allowance for duplexes or quadplexes].

“The Los Altos Hills ordinance, approved unanimously last week by the town council, caught the attention of SB9 supporters because of [wide-ranging restrictions on lot splits, including capping new units at the minimum required by state law].

“To discourage lot splits, which could allow one of the properties to be sold, the town would allow homeowners to build up to two additional secondary units if they change their parcel deed to prohibit subdivision. All units approved under SB9 would be restricted to low- and very low-income households, though they would not receive any discount on municipal development fees, which critics contend is a way to make the law altogether financially infeasible in Los Altos Hills.

“Mayor Kavita Tankha defended the rules as accommodating residents’ desires to maintain their privacy, preserve open space, and reduce fire risk.

“[YIMBY Law] Executive Director Sonja Trauss … said a lawsuit could pertain to the emergency rule-making, which requires an imminent threat to public health and safety, as well as a belief that the restrictions illegally reduce the amount of new housing that can be built, in violation of another state law.

“Representatives for the California Department of Housing and Community Development … and Attorney General Rob Bonta … said they are monitoring the situation.”

Read the full story here, including more accounts of push-back against SB-9 in Cupertino, Campbell, and Pasadena. (~8 min.)

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