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Whittier Prevails in Legal Battle Over SB 9, Asserting Local Control in Housing Policy

By Rebecca Canales, Founder and CEO of Whittier 360 News Network

In a landmark victory for local governance, the City of Whittier emerges triumphant in its legal confrontation against Senate Bill 9 (SB 9), solidifying its commitment to preserving the autonomy of municipalities in shaping housing policies. The lawsuit, joined by Redondo Beach, Carson, Torrance, and Del Mar, underscores the relentless advocacy for local control in land use decisions, which could have far-reaching implications for communities across California.

SB 9, a legislative measure purportedly aimed at alleviating the state's housing shortage, proposed the allowance of up to four residential units on single-family lots. However, Whittier and its fellow charter cities contested the bill, arguing that it encroached upon their prerogative to manage local land use effectively. The concern loomed large over the potential alteration of neighborhood character and the strain on infrastructure, devoid of comprehensive strategies addressing the intricate housing challenges.

Mayor Joe Vinatieri of Whittier articulated the essence of the legal challenge, emphasizing that it wasn't a mere rejection of state interference but a concerted effort to safeguard the distinct essence of the community. The victory represents a resounding affirmation of Whittier's unwavering dedication to its residents, ensuring that housing policies resonate with the genuine needs and conditions of the locality.

Beyond the legal discourse, practical apprehensions loom large over the implications of increased density, ranging from parking woes to heightened traffic congestion and exacerbated greenhouse gas emissions. Mayor Vinatieri's stance underscores the imperative of nuanced, context-driven approaches to housing, dismissing the inadequacy of a one-size-fits-all model in a city as diverse and built-out as Whittier. A check by Whittier 360 found that housing units built under the auspices of SB 9 in other communities were priced out of reach of low income households.

Whittier's proactive stance in tackling housing challenges is evident in its track record of approving and constructing over 1600 residential units, coupled with the streamlined approval process for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). Moreover, negotiations are underway to allocate up to $10 million for a mixed-use project, signaling a concerted push towards ensuring broader accessibility to affordable housing options within the community.

The City's commitment to collaborative engagement with the state remains unwavering, advocating for a partnership model that respects local governance while harnessing the unique strengths and insights of communities to chart a more sustainable pathway towards affordable housing opportunities for families. As the legal battle draws to a close, Whittier stands as a beacon of resilience, epitomizing the triumph of local empowerment in the face of overarching legislative mandates.

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