San Jose is not jumping aboard the SB 9 lawsuit train

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One San Jose official hoped to join Southern California cities in suing the state over recent housing legislation, but her efforts didn’t go far.

On Wednesday, Councilmember and mayoral candidate Dev Davis asked some of her City Council colleagues to support a recent lawsuit against Senate Bill 9, which allows homeowners of single-family lots to divide their properties for development of two to four homes in an effort to increase the state’s housing stock. Proponents of the law say it will help alleviate the housing crisis, while opponents say it will destroy the character of single-family neighborhoods.

The state legislation has been contentious and most leading mayoral candidates oppose it. However, the request failed at the Rules and Open Government Committee with little discussion.

The cities of Redondo Beach, Torrance, Carson and Whittier filed legal challenges in April, arguing SB 9 violates the state’s constitutional right of allowing local governments to make zoning decisions—citing legal precedent over a “sanctioning principle” that was settled almost 100 years ago.

Davis, who opposed the legislation since its inception, agreed and said it’s a “broad-brush, statewide zoning measure” that prevents the city from reaching its housing and development goals outlined in the 2040 Envision San Jose plan.

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Vice Mayor Chappie Jones asked the committee to move the discussion to closed session, as it relates to litigation, but that request also did not receive support.

“The reason I am not interested in seconding this motion is because I am not interested in joining the lawsuit,” said Councilmember and mayoral candidate Raul Peralez, who has been an outward supporter of SB 9.

Councilmember David Cohen agreed with Peralez and said he also doesn’t support joining the lawsuit.

“Whether we have difference of opinion of SB 9, there has been a lot of over-fearmongering about the effects of SB 9,” Cohen said. “We don’t have enough information to know whether this will have any effect on the city and I do not think it’s time to be having a discussion about the effect.”

Since SB 9 went into effect on Jan. 1, San Jose has only seen one SB 9 application, and that application has been either withdrawn or is not completed, Cohen said.

“At some point it will be worthwhile to have a report about how this is effecting the city,” Cohen said. “But that time hasn’t arrived yet.”

Residents urged the committee to bring the discussion to the full City Council because they wanted to learn more.

“I would encourage you, regardless of what your opinion is about SB 9 specifically, to agendize this because there hasn’t been much of a discussion about the role of local government and how much control the city should have vis-á-vis the state,” Tobin Gilman, a local historian and author, said to councilmembers during public comment.

Davis did not speak during the meeting, but wrote in a memo the lawsuit could help restore local control and avoid the “hands are tied” lament.

“Our residents and neighborhoods deserve the ability to provide feedback on the development that will affect them and they deserve a local government that is enabled to make community-tailored zoning processes and decisions,” Davis wrote.

Davis did not respond to requests for comment.

Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

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