Learn all about SB 9 in Berkeley.
The City of Berkeley has decided not to adopt an ordinance on Senate Bill 9, so state law is in effect without any special restrictions or requirements.
In this article, we’ll examine Berkeley’s SB 9 guidance to help you understand where, what, and how much you can build with SB 9 in this progressive Bay Area city.
For visual guides, local news articles, and more information, visit Homestead’s SB 9 City Guide for Berkeley.
SB 9 At-A-Glance in Berkeley
- Eligible zones: R-1
- Ineligible: conservation and protected species habitat areas, historic districts and properties
- Possibly eligible: Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones, Delineated Earthquake Fault Zones, Flood Zones
- Residential use only
- No short-term rentals (minimum 30 days)
- 3-year owner occupancy required for lot splits
Demolition prohibited on parcels containing the following:
- Current or former (within the last 3 years) rental housing
- Registered affordable housing
- Rent stabilized housing
- Two primary units per lot
- ADUs and JADUs allowed (though city may prohibit ADUs and JADUs on projects that combine a lot split and a two-unit development)
- Height and floor area ratio determined by zoning code
- 4’ minimum side and rear setbacks
- 1 off-street parking space per unit (except in High Transit Areas)
- Objective design requirements from municipal code must be followed to the extent possible
Details on SB 9 in Berkeley
Senate Bill 9 only applies to properties in urban areas located within single-family residential zones. In Berkeley, the only qualifying zone is R-1. If your property is zoned differently, you will not be able to develop it under SB 9.
According to state law, development is not allowed in floodways, wetlands, conservation lands and protected species habitat areas, and historic districts. These sensitive areas are excluded from SB 9 eligibility in order to protect fragile ecosystems and historically significant architecture within the city.
Parcels located within Earthquake Fault Zones and (Very) High Fire Severity Zones may be eligible for SB 9, provided the proposed project complies with all safety requirements. Click the links above to learn more about the special requirements for SB 9 development in these zones.
In accordance with state law, all SB 9 units must be reserved for residential use only. No short-term rentals are allowed, and any rental or lease periods must be a minimum of 30 days.
Urban lot split applicants must live on one of the two lots as their primary residence for a at least three years following the split.
SB 9 development is allowed on rental properties, but demolition is prohibited on rent controlled or price stabilized housing and rental units. To be eligible for demolition or significant alteration (defined as changing 25% or more of the structure's external walls), units must be either vacant or entirely owner-occupied for the last three years.
Properties with a history of tenant eviction (within the last fifteen years) are ineligible for any SB 9 development.
Senate Bill 9 lets homeowners build one duplex or two single-family homes on their property for a total of two primary units per lot. Intact lots are eligible for any ADUs and/or JADUs the zoning code allows. However, cities may prohibit the building of ADUs on SB 9 projects that include both an urban lot split and a two-unit development. It is unclear at the moment whether or not Berkeley will allow additional accessory dwelling units on such projects.
To qualify for a lot split, parcels must be at least 2,400 square feet prior to the subdivision. Each resulting lot must be a minimum of 1,200 square feet and retain 40-60% of the original lot's size.
SB 9 developments in Berkeley must adhere to all applicable objective design standards in the zone’s municipal code (except or the requirements that contradict SB 9). However, they cannot prevent the building of up to two 800 square foot units. Building height and floor area limits are determined by underlying zoning.
SB 9 projects can have 4’ minimum side and rear setbacks, but front setbacks may need to follow municipal code standards.
One off-street parking spot is required per unit, unless the property is located within one half-mile of a high-quality transit stop or within one block of a car-share vehicle.
The future of Senate Bill 9 in Berkeley
By applying state law rather than enacting a restrictive ordinance, Berkeley is providing a clear path for SB 9 development within the city. This could change, as the city has announced their intention to outlaw single-family zoning by the end of 2022.
While abolishing an outdated and historically racist zoning practice is applaudable, it comes with an unforeseen consequence: it would make all of Berkeley ineligible for SB 9. Beyond allowing duplexes, SB 9 increases housing stock faster than most development paths because of its streamlined approval process and CEQA exemptions. Furthermore, the lot split provision--unique to SB 9--has the potential to add even more homes.
Partner with Homestead
Thinking about developing your Berkeley property with SB 9? Search your address on our SB 9 eligibility search tool to see if it qualifies. Follow our SB 9 News Twitter account to stay informed on SB 9 developments across the state.