Art Jury encourages pursuit of historical designation in light of proposed housing law

RSF Association building
(Karen Billing)

The Rancho Santa Fe Association’s Art Jury has expressed concerns about a proposed new state zoning law that they believe could have a negative effect on the Covenant.

Senate Bill 9, the California Housing Opportunity and More Efficiency (HOME) Act, was authored by Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, who represents portions of the Covenant. SB 9 streamlines the process for a homeowner to create a duplex or subdivide an existing lot.

Currently, property owners need to go through a lengthy process with the Art Jury, the Rancho Santa Fe Association board, and the county to gain approval for a lot split, which is a fairly rare occurrence in the Covenant.

In a letter to the Rancho Santa Fe Association board read into the record at the Aug. 5 board meeting, Art Jury member Beth Nelson said under the bill, several potential scenarios are possible, including converting an existing house into a duplex, putting an additional unit or two in the backyard or demolishing a house and building up to four new homes.

“Factors in the Covenant such as land values, parcel size and home prices would make this an especially attractive area for homeowners or speculators to purchase property and capitalize on their investment by using this law to their full advantage,” the Art Jury letter stated. “The real impact of higher density, smaller sized homes as well as more people on our roads, trails and in our schools would be significant.”

According to the SB 9 website, the bill does contain an owner occupancy requirement, which requires a homeowner to live in one of the units for three years from the time they get approval for a lot split. Additionally, the bill prohibits ministerial lot splits on adjacent parcels by the same individual to prevent investor speculation.

Atkins said the intent of her bill is to help expand rental and home ownership opportunities for more families in the state.

“If we don’t take action, California’s housing crisis will only get worse—further burdening the state and our local communities. SB 9 is one way of helping to moderately increase housing opportunity, while respecting local control and preserving historic and environmentally-sensitive neighborhoods,” Atkins said in a statement. “It would also lift up homeowners by giving them the option to create a new source of income or help an aging parent to live close.”

SB 9 passed the state Senate and passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Aug. 19. It next moves onto the final vote in the Assembly.

“SB 9 would not overhaul our neighborhoods, but it would welcome more families into our communities and give homeowners and renters alike the ability to pursue their version of the California dream,” Atkins said.

According to the Art Jury’s letter, they have already seen the effects of California’s accessory dwelling unit (ADU) law that took effect last year. In their review of ADU applications, they said they can no longer use their discretion based on lot size, configuration, density or impact to adjoining properties. Art Jury members believe those impacts will seem trivial by comparison if SB 9 passes as it would allow up to four homes on single-family lots.

As SB 9 excludes historic and landmark districts, the Covenant may have some protections with its California State Historic Landmark with a Cultural Landscape Amendment, however, according to the Art Jury, it may not be enough.

The Art Jury requested that the Association board be proactive and take the necessary steps to research all options, including establishing an ad-hoc committee to investigate a National Register of Historic Places designation.

“We must come together as a community and take the necessary action to protect what we have before there is nothing worthwhile left to protect,” the letter said.