City Council Sets Zoning Standards With New Ordinance

First published in the Dec. 23 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

In a race against the Jan. 1 deadline, the La Cañada Flintridge City Council adopted an urgency ordinance Tuesday that imposes objective zoning standards as well as subdivision and design standards to implement Senate Bill 9 within the city’s General Plan.
The LCF City Council unanimously approved the urgency ordinance 4-0 — Mayor Pro Tem Keith Eich was absent from the meeting — and LCF staff will then have a regular ordinance reviewed by the Planning Commission on Jan. 13. The panel will provide staff with direction and its own recommendations before it makes its way to the City Council sometime in February.
“This is something that is coming down on us through SB 9, and so if we do not adopt our own standards and policy by tonight, then we would be incumbent to adopt all the criteria laid out in SB 9,” Mayor Terry Walker said in the council’s final meeting Tuesday. “Whether or not we agree with the objectives and standards of SB 9, it’s concerning to us to lose the public control.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the controversial bill in response to the alarmingly high cost of housing in California. SB 9 essentially ends single-family zoning and allows lots to be split into two and potentially site four units. It eases the development of duplexes in residential neighborhoods in a state with a median home sale price of $782,480, according to the California Association of Realtors.
The bill has municipalities throughout the state scrambling to impose whatever development requirements they can. According to a study from UC Berkeley, 66.8% of jurisdictions across California have more than 50% of their land zoned for single-family residential development.
LCF is limited in its power to restrict future development under the bill, but can set design standards — such as roof style, prohibiting balconies, limiting decks — that are consistent with the city’s existing character.
SB 9 comes at a time when La Cañada Flintridge is in the process of updating the housing element of the General Plan, and Councilman Jonathan Curtis believes the bill will have “dramatic” effects.
“There won’t even be an environmental review in connection with this particular ordinance that’s going to have a wide effect,” Curtis said. “For a regular ordinance that’s going to be adopted, it’s obviously got a potential of changing this city quite a bit, as well as every other city in California.”