Rudy Espinoza Murray

Rudy Espinoza Murray

Anyone that spends any time in California will quickly figure out that housing is one of its most significant issues. There are a couple of different viewpoints, ranging from “don’t move into my neighborhood” to “we need housing for everyone.” I’m one of those that believe that everyone seeking a home should be able to find one and that it shouldn’t cost more than 25% of their income. I’m also one of those that has experienced housing insecurity because the rent is too damn high. Why is the rent so high? Because we don’t have enough housing. And if that weren’t sad enough — it is illegal to build duplexes and smaller homes on a single plot — on most of the land zoned for housing in the state.

The State of California has a process for determining what the overall housing need is. The latest Regional Housing Needs Assessment and Allocation (RHNA) has determined that we need 2.3 million homes over the next eight years. That’s a lot. The next obvious question: How can we start to meet the demand for housing? Senate Bill 9 is one creative way to do so.

SB9, drafted by President pro Tempore Toni Atkins of the California Senate, is focused on small-scale development to address the state’s housing crisis. How? By allowing us to build more on parcels. The bill would allow for existing lots to be split, and duplexes would now be legal. This sounds like a common-sense approach, but the opposition to this bill is fired up and using fear-mongering tactics.

What SB9 is not — the end of single-family homes. People aren’t going to split their lots in droves and bring bulldozers to tear down entire blocks. The estimate by Mckinsey Global Institute is that it could create around 800,000 new homes.

The opposition has even claimed that it would harm people of color. How can more supply of homes at lower price points reduce homeownership for people of color?

Another argument I’ve heard is that it won’t make much of a difference or create more housing. It sounds contradictory to the fear that it’ll send the single-family home as we know it. Or that it would increase fire danger. The truth is, SB9 only impacts urban areas, which means that it promotes infill (use of land within a built-up area for further construction) versus sprawling out. I have even heard that it “will destroy single-family neighborhoods.” The truth is, they will still exist, and your neighborhood may even become more desirable with duplexes in it.

Here are my arguments as to why we should be supporting SB9:

Economic: building more housing creates jobs and supports multiple industries. As we reopen our economy, we could use good, high-paying trade jobs for our workers.

Equity: more housing would allow our front-line workers, like nurses, teachers and service folks, to live closer to their work. Less time commuting means transportation costs are lower, and they can spend more time with their families. They also should be able to afford to live in homes with enough room for their families.

Environment: building more on the same amount of land protects the environment from sprawl. Also, if people can afford to live closer to work, fewer cars on the road and less pollution will occur.

I leave you with this: We will still have single-family homes. It’s not a zero-sum game.

Rudy Espinoza Murray is a Redwood City resident and community organizer on housing, gun violence prevention, LGBTQ+, and LatinX issues. He is a co-founder and lead of the San Mateo County Farmworker Affairs Coalition.

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(18) comments

craigwiesner

Thanks for this thoughtful piece! I grew up in Rockaway New York where we had tons of duplexes where hard-working families could afford to live. Many of them were owned by one family one one side of the duplex and rented to others like my family. In fact, you just gave me a sweet morning memory.... My grandparents and aunts and uncles lived in duplexes in Rockaway! I just thought of the wonderful times my siblings, cousins and I spent visiting at some of those duplexes, running in and out of each side and playing in the backyard. Thanks Rudy!

rudytudi

Thanks for sharing your personal story! What amazing experiences to be able to grow up in the same place your grandparents and parents did.

TheUrbanist

Homeowners should support this because it will empower them to: 1) do nothing and continue living their lives just as their homes currently are, 2) sell their homes and cash in big while allowing a new homeowner to potentially rebuild their lot to accommodate an additional family or 3) rebuild their property themselves and cash in on the sale or rent of an additional home! All the while, the community and environment benefit from having more people living in already developed land close to jobs and schools, creating conditions for improved walking experiences, bike lanes and public transit! It is the duty of a responsible citizen and homeowner to support commonsense solutions like SB9. Thanks for the piece Rudy!

rudytudi

You're welcome! [smile] We need to continue speaking up about the realities of this bill and other pro-housing bills.

That's an outrage!

Thoughtful piece but nary a single mention of holding cities responsible for an unsustainable jobs/housing imbalance. According to SMC tax rollls, Redwood City alone has ~15M sq ft of office space at various stages in the pipeline. This equates to ~60k workers. Where are all those people going to live? Perhaps the author should be calling for a cap on office space instead of harping on the evils of single family housing?

Dirk van Ulden

Remember, he is a community organizer and a self-appointed expert. Also, I don't recognize myself in his array of communities that he portends to represent. If it weren't for folks like me, he would not have anything to do.

rudytudi

Dirk, you never have anything positive to say. Maybe it's time to pick up a hobby, smile a little more, and share some good things with folks... :) -Rudy Espinoza Murray

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Rudy,

Your advice to Dirk is hilarious, coming from a guy that wants to change the world to his own liking. Here's some advice for you. Get a job that earns enough money to build what will enable your dreams. That is the beauty of this country. Anyone can do it. Even you. [smile]

rudytudi

@Wilfred... The beauty of this country is that if enough people want to change something, it can happen. I love my job, by the way! 🥑

Terence Y

Rudy - conversely, the beauty of this country is that if enough people don’t want something to change, it won’t happen. BTW, I'm not sure why you think Dirk doesn't have anything positive to say. Positive is in the eye of the beholder. Besides, maybe Dirk's hobby is interfacing with the DJ and the folks who read it. And he's doing a great job.

wlydecker

Bane? Isn't that a negative meaning annoyance? A PIA - Pain in the a--.

HFAB

Bravo for this common-sense, enlightened and practical approach to possibly adding 800,000 new homes for real, flesh and blood human beings.

Terence Y

Yet another pie-in-the-sky plea from Mr. Murray that exhorts us to build more housing but doesn’t provide any specifics on costs. If a single-family homeowner decides to tear down his house and build a duplex, what happens to his property tax? The lot will be re-assessed and the homeowner is now responsible for a much greater property tax, year after year after year? What would that mean? The other half of the duplex will need to sell for a pretty penny (now a pretty quarter). Or the other half of the duplex will be rented out for a pretty penny. And if that other half is rented, what happens when the renter decides to stop paying rent? Pretty hard to get that renter out, isn’t it? And who will pay for this “renovation”? Another out-of-pocket cost borne by the homeowner?

Who benefits from this tearing down of existing homes? The government, who will receive building and development fees, a recurring increased property tax share based on re-assessing the property. Potentially anybody who is tacking on fees and parcel taxes.

I leave you with this: Homeowners should not support SB9. There are no advantages. It is definitely not a zero-sum game especially for a homeowner who has to “invest” much, much more than zero in the hopes there is some return in the future. Meanwhile, a homeowner can choose to do nothing and their home values will increase or decrease based on supply and demand, while their property tax increase is limited. Let’s not forget parking and water requirements and how existing and neighboring home values will decrease. Let builders convert an Oracle tower, or two, to condos or apartments. They don’t need SB9 for that. I’m pretty sure homeowners would also go for that option.

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Terence mi amigo,

As another community organizer has already proven, you need only sound smart and pretend you care about the little guy. As a reward, this racist nation of theirs will punish them with millions of dollars for nothing they built and throw in a multi million dollar Martha's Vineyard vacation home . For a bonus, an unearned Nobel Prize will adorn their trophy room. But most importantly, they will be far, far away from the stench of the toiling masses they fight for. And the toiling masses will continue living like rats in a shoebox, infecting one another with highly contagious disease.

If it were not so sad, this vision of improvement is laughable.

rudytudi

I love pie! Apple is my favorite. Happy to share a slice with readers 🍎🥧

Dirk van Ulden

This guy needs to take a course in basic economics. His plethora of misinformation would be a reason for Twitter and Facebook to ban him for life.

Lou

Dirk - As always, your wisdom shines.!!

rudytudi

I'm happy to hear where I failed your economics test. I'm always open to learning, so if I got something wrong, feel free to let me know.

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