The Peninsula took one giant step toward becoming a more economically inclusive place when the California Assembly passed Senate Bill 9 to legalize duplexes, breaking down one of the fundamental pillars of exclusionary zoning.

The practice of only allowing the most expensive home type — detached single-unit dwellings — on most residential land has set a de facto income requirement in many Peninsula communities. A recent report from the California Association of Realtors concluded that it takes a household income of $390,400 per year to qualify to purchase a median-priced home in San Mateo County. When the county’s median household income is just $123,000, that means that the vast majority of households here are unable to afford a detached single-unit home at today’s prices. By expanding the types of homes that can be built in any given neighborhood, SB 9 enables more types of families to live here.

That’s a huge win for equity, and it’s no wonder that support for the bill is broad and deep on the Peninsula. It was endorsed by the Democratic Party in both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties and counts MidPen Housing and The League of Women Voters of California among its many supporters.

Thank you to our state legislators, Kevin Mullin, Marc Berman and Josh Becker, for voting in support of ending exclusionary zoning in your initial votes for SB 9! And I encourage Sen. Becker to reiterate his support for equity when the bill comes up for concurrence.

Mike Dunham

Redwood City

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(7) comments

Maxine Terner

Mike - The Sacramento bullying in SB 9 & 10, based on the Democratic Party's big lie that single-family zoning is responsible for the affordable housing crisis, will not create less costly housing, will not address unbearable traffic, and will not reduce the parking crunch - all issues that were part of your platform when running for Burlingame City Council. SB10, which allows 10 units to be built on single-family lots, guts our environmental laws so that new development is excluded from addressing the drought, climate change and other environmental impacts of unlimited growth. You know better than most that the increased housing costs are due to the unmanaged jobs and population growth of the past 10 year tech boom. Without a reduction in demand, more housing supply will never reduce costs.

I strongly disagree that "support for the bill [SB9] is broad and deep on the Peninsula." A poll this month by former Obama pollster David Binder found that 71% of California voters oppose SB 9, and 75% of voters oppose SB 10 — landslide levels. These bills are a not-so-surprising gift to developers and Wall Street investors (the corrupting influence of money in politics) and will do little to provide affordable housing. Assemblyman Mullin's support for both these bills will be remembered by Peninsula voters. SB 9 was bad enough - Senator Becker still has a chance to vote No or abstain on SB10 which is even worse.


As a long time home owner in an exclusionary zoned neighborhood, I for one welcome the increased flexibility for me and my neighbors beyond the options of building a mcmansion(TM) or selling and moving away. What about the empty nesters who want to live near grown children? What about the mom and pop landlords touted during the discussion of an eviction moratorium who want to build a quadplex on their property to make a reasonable income? When I moved to my neighborhood, I did not reserve a right for unlimited parking, no shadows from the buildings around me or traffic congestion (which hasn't really gotten worse over the years despite the protests of car loving retirees). If by "developers' you mean home owners who want to freedom of choice on how they want to employ contractors to work on their property, I see nothing wrong with property owner rights. Random ranting about Wall Street investor give aways with no facts to back up such claims aside; the status quo will do little to provide affordable housing or address it's environmental impact by taking no action; I'm glad our leaders are doing the right thing. Without an increase in supply, current housing demand will never reduce costs an only benefit a handful of long time residents.


The poll you're referring to was nonsense, it polled an unrepresentative sample. If you go into the crosstabs, you find:

Poll respondents: 53% white, 25% 65+, 27% renters

Actual California population, per census data: 36% white, 10% 65+, 45% renters

Furthermore, the questions in the poll included prompting people with objectively-false statements about the bill, to elicit the response that the lobbyists who commissioned the poll wanted.


Also, the idea that SB 9 is a "gift to developers" is just ignorant about how the business of development works. "Developers" do not do jobs on single lots. Like, ever. At all. They build entire single family subdivisions, or they build big apartment projects. And while if you knew nothing about SB 9, you might imagine a developer trying to buy up a whole bunch of adjacent lots, to convert all of them to duplexes, in fact SB 9 does not allow for this -- if ownership can be traced back to a single entity, then applying it to adjacent lots is illegal. And the lot-split provision in it requires the owner to commit to living on the property for the subsequent three years. This is a law that lets homeowners convert their own land. Full stop.

To the extent that single lot rebuilds happen as a business, they happen under the ownership of small business operators who we colloquially talk about as "flippers". Buy a house, improve it, and resell it. And for these folks, the existing business model, where they clean up the surfaces but ignore structural issues, to avoid triggering any kind of review for building code issues, will remain dominant. A flipper does not want to get bogged down in months of inspections, and they _certainly_ don't want to have to live in the property for three years. So again -- they will not use SB 9.

You really need to get your information from more reliable sources.

Dirk van Ulden

Mike - do you really believe that messing up our zoning will result in more affordable housing? Think about it. Developers and realtors are smiling from ear to ear and will build/sell housing based on market value, not because of a marginal increase in units. This is a big win for speculators and a giant step back for those of us who savor a detached dwelling and paid for it through hard work and sacrifice. The real solution is to keep investors from viewing the housing market as a profit source and make them pay a hefty transfer tax if they do not intend to live in the housing themselves. Only if those who live in Presidio Heights agree to rezoning their enclave would I support these short-sighted housing bills.


Read the bills. SB9 has an occupancy requirement.

Terence Y

Mr. Dunham – it just goes to show that campaign contributions do move the needle, for the contributors, not the people. Developers and labor have most of these politicians bent to their will thanks to campaign contributions and possibly other incentives. I guess it’s time to expand my asset allocation into a bit more real estate, so I can benefit along with these developers. For those people who may be affected by this legislation do what you can to prevent your single-family neighborhood from being destroyed. Or sell, take the money and run – I can’t fault you for doing that, either.

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