Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, May 13, 2022


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Judge: Local Lawmakers May Override Zoning Initiatives

Chalfant Says SB 10, Allowing City Councils, Boards of Supervisors to Provide by Super-Majority for

 Zoning With Greater Density Than Permitted by Voter-Approved Measures Is Constitutionally Valid


By a MetNews Staff Writer


A Los Angeles Superior Court judge yesterday held that SB 10, authorizing local legislative bodies, by a super-majority, to override zoning initiatives, does not contravene the state constitutional right of the people to legislate through initiative.

SB 10, signed into law on Sept. 16, was authored by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the City of Redondo Beach sought a writ of mandate and an injunction barring Attorney General Rob Bonta and the state from enforcing the provisions, and Bonta sought a declaratory judgment upholding the law.

Judge James Chalfant sided with Bonta, ruling:

“The court declares that SB 10 is a lawful preemption of local initiative power that delegates exclusively to local legislative bodies the discretion to adopt an ordinance zoning up to ten units of residential density per parcel if the parcel is located in a transit rich area or an urban infill site, and to override any contrary local zoning initiative if the ordinance is adopted by a 2/3 vote.”

‘Unprecedented Assault’

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation contended in its petition that SB 10 is “an unprecedented assault against the power of citizens to enact effective local initiatives,” adding:

“By enacting SB 10, the State has eviscerated the fundamental protection against subsequent legislative amendment of initiatives without a vote of the people. Under SB 10, a local conditions that the people established via initiative ordinance.”

Chalfant rejected the arguments. He said the state has legislated “in an area of statewide concern,” explaining:

“[T]he court agrees that the SB 10’s tool for local government to use in addressing the low- and moderate-cost housing which they are required to implement in the housing element of their general plan is a matter of statewide interest. This housing is likely to have regional and statewide effects which take it out of the purely municipal affair which zoning generally has been.”

He added:

“The Legislature can address a matter of statewide concern by eliminating existing initiatives, and it follows that it can also allow cities or counties to override such initiatives upon a two-thirds vote of the local body as SB 10 requires.”

Redondo Beach Initiative

SB 10, the judge said, preempts Redondo Beach’s Measure DD, an initiative enacted by voters of that city in November 2008. It requires that major zoning changes be submitted to the voters.

Bonta commented yesterday:

“Everywhere you look, we are in a housing crisis. From Fresno to Fremont, San Diego to San Francisco, Los Angeles to Loomis, families throughout California are struggling to afford the cost of housing.

“Laws like SB 10 are essential to address California’s housing shortage and affordability crisis, providing local governments with an important tool to increase housing supply in their communities. Today’s decision is a critical victory for all Californians. At the California Department of Justice, we’re working day in and day out to defend and enforce state housing laws—and we’re just getting started.”


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