Real Estate LawReal Property LawCalifornia amends the Government code to allow property owners to split single-family lots

January 19, 2022by RaxterLaw

In 2021, California amended the Government Code which allows property owners of property larger than 2,400 sqft to divide the lot to allow the construction of up to four dwelling units. The advantage of this law beyond the obvious, is the application to split are reviewed and approved ministerially and must be granted if the applicant meets specific objective criteria.  The statute can be viewed here in its entirety.

Supporters of the amendment pushed the bill because they argue that, in a state with such a deep affordability crisis, opening up neighborhoods to more development will allow less expensive housing to be built there. According to the California Association of Realtors, the median sales price in California for a single-family home was $811,000 in July.

The argument against the increased zoning state they’re concerned about how increased density could change the character of quiet neighborhoods and affect their property values. California is a state that’s facing both a drought and stress on the electrical grid, it would be reasonable to question where additional resources even the most basic one of water would come from to support the potential for new housing.

Back to SB 9, it would give many homeowners in single-family zones the right to divide their lots into two and build up to three additional homes on them, essentially turning a single-unit lot into a four-unit lot. That is a substantial change to current zoning laws, which allows up to two large units — a house and an accessory dwelling unit — per single-family lot.

As with any law, the devil is in the details. Before you start planning the additional units in your backyard, SB 9 has numerous exceptions and limitations. These include:

  • The zoning changes apply only to urban areas or urban clusters. Farms, wetlands, lots at high risk of fire or flooding and sites in historic districts are among those that are specifically exempt.
  • Units reserved for low-income housing or that had been rented within the previous three years could not be altered or demolished. The point is to avoid reducing the supply of rental and affordable units.
  • Local governments can still impose safety standards and regulate the appearance of units and, to some degree, their placement on a lot. They cannot, however, require more than one off-street parking spot per unit, or any off-street parking if the units are within half a mile of public transit.
  • Units built under the terms of this act may not be offered for short-term rentals.
  • Anyone applying to subdivide a lot must commit to living in one of the units there for at least three years.
  • The subdivided lots have to be at least 1,200 square feet each and roughly the same size. Cities would have to permit units to be at least 800 square feet, and could not bar them from being adjacent or connected.

In conclusion, the intent of this new law is to allow increased inventory of rental units to ease the housing crisis. Whether it will work will remain to be seen.

If you have questions regarding Real Estate legal issues, please contact us at RAXTER LAW, P.A. We have over 40 years of combined real estate law experience. You can find us at or give us a call at 951-226-5294. 

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