Sacramento moves toward becoming one of 1st U.S. cities to eliminate single-family zoning

California
In this photo taken Aug. 16, 2017, sheet metal worker Benjamin Voget prepares to install a gutter on a home under construction in Sacramento. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

In this photo taken Aug. 16, 2017, sheet metal worker Benjamin Voget prepares to install a gutter on a home under construction in Sacramento. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Sacramento is a step closer to becoming one of the first cities in the country to eliminate traditional single-family zoning.

The City Council on Tuesday voted 8-0 to proceed with a draft zoning plan that would allow houses across the California city to contain up to four dwelling units, the Sacramento Bee reported.

City officials said the proposal would help the city alleviate its housing crisis and achieve equity goals.

“Everybody should have the opportunity to not only play in Land Park but to live in Land Park,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said, referring to a neighborhood and its namesake park considered one of the more desirable places to live in Sacramento.

The vote is the first step in a long process. If the council adopts the 2040 General Plan in about a year, property owners would then be able to start adding units to houses in roughly two years.

The cities of Portland, Oregon, and Minneapolis have passed similar ordinances in recent years. The state of Oregon passed a law eliminating traditional single-family zoning statewide. A similar bill was introduced in the California Legislature but died. Sacramento could be the only city in the state formally considering the change.

A similar proposal that would have forced California cities to increase housing density failed last year after being introduced to the Legislature by state Sen. Scott Wiener.

Supporters and opponents of the proposal in Sacramento spoke for nearly an hour during the public comment session at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Neighborhood association leaders in Land Park and Elmhurst, an area with tree-lined streets, have raised concerns that the change would cause investors to tear down existing homes in historic neighborhoods and build luxury rentals. As an alternative, they suggested the city only allow multi-unit houses in certain areas of the city, along commercial corridors and near transit stations.

“No one will have the ability to live in lower-density neighborhoods,” said Maggie Coulter, president of the Elmhurst Neighborhood Association.

Most of the roughly 30 people who called in to give public comment were in support of the change. Some Elmhurst residents said they disagree with the association’s opposition. Thirty-two of them signed a letter to the city saying they support the proposal.

City leaders said the neighborhoods would look essentially the same as they do now, because buildings would still have their current height restrictions. There would also be historical protections, limits on how much of a lot size a house could occupy and on the amount of square footage.

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