The Atherton City Council voted 5-0 in favor of a resolution on Wednesday, Nov. 4, condemning potential legislation that could put California cities and towns on the hook to allow more housing to be built in their communities.
Council members vocally opposed Senate Bill 50, proposed legislation introduced by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, which would have relaxed zoning standards for residential developments along transportation corridors. The bill failed to pass the state Senate in January.
The declaration states "the town of Atherton is opposed to the current practice of the legislature of the state of California of continually proposing and passing multitudes of bills that directly impact and interfere with the ability of cities to control their own destiny through use of the zoning authority that has been granted to them."
"Each community knows what's best to determine how to meet housing goals within their local communities," said Vice Mayor Elizabeth Lewis. "For Atherton we have to take a really strong position for this. Legislation (like SB 50) doesn't take into consideration topography or open land space."
State legislators have indicated they will continue to introduce legislation that will override local zoning ordinances for the development of affordable housing in conjunction with mixed use and/or luxury condominium and apartment housing, according to a report prepared by town staff.
Council member Bill Widmer said he doesn't like the state mandating what communities will look like.
"We should be able to determine our own fate," he said. "We should be able to manage our own destiny and keep the character of our town. ... A developer not living here might come in and decide 'This is what I'm going to build here and override what we do.'"
Widmer cautioned against the resolution going so far as to leave room for a lawsuit against the town.
The resolution is modeled after one passed in Beverly Hills in 2018.
The Atherton resolution also vows town officials will explore ways to protect the ability of cities to retain local control over zoning as each individual city within the state is best suited to determine how the zoning in their city should be allocated in order to meet the housing needs of the community.