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The History and Future of Single Family Zoning United Way Bay Area

4/6/2021: Read this important piece from our movement partners at United Way Bay Area, offering context around the history of exclusionary zoning and its impacts today.

Berkeley to end single-family residential zoning, citing racist ties San Jose Mercury News

2/24/2021: The same city that was the birthplace of single-family zoning in the early 1900s has now voted to eliminate it by December 2022. The Berkeley City Council took the first step early Wednesday morning in a unanimous vote to undo “exclusionary zoning,” which would eliminate single-family residential zoning and allow for other types of housing such as apartments, duplexes and triplexes. Single-family residential zoning has roots that led to racial and economic segregation, according to city officials.

Sacramento Leapfrogs State Capitol in Zoning Reform Race The Terner Center for Housing Innovation

1/28/2021: Last week, the Sacramento City Council unanimously approved a preliminary plan to allow for up to four units to be built on nearly every residential parcel throughout the city. The move pushes America’s Farm to Fork Capital into the ranks of major American cities such as Portland and Minneapolis that have taken steps to address the racist legacy of exclusionary zoning through progressive land use reforms. The move is more than symbolic: Sacramento faces significant rent burden pressures, especially as more San Francisco Bay Area residents priced out of the Bay Area migrate in. With this vote, Sacramento city leadership is affirming their commitment to catalyze the construction of enough and more diverse housing to accommodate all who would like to reside in their city.

Cities Start to Question an American Ideal: A House With a Yard on Every Lot The New York Times

6/18/2019: Today the effect of single-family zoning is far-reaching: It is illegal on 75 percent of the residential land in many American cities to build anything other than a detached single-family home.

While zoning remains invisible to many people, the problems it’s connected to increasingly are not. Zoning laws helped cement patterns of racial and economic segregation in cities across the country by separating housing types so that renters would be less likely to live among homeowners, or working-class families among affluent ones, or minority children near high-quality schools. Single-family zoning leaves much land off-limits to new housing, forcing new supply into poorer, minority communities or onto undeveloped land outside of cities.

Awesome Explainer Videos

Got a minute? Okay, maybe a minute and a half. Check out this 90-second explainer video from Sightline Institute on the problem of exclusionary zoning and the upzoning affordability solution. Learn more about how zoning keeps prices high and builds invisible walls around our cities and how upzoning for more homes, all shapes and sizes (Opportunity Housing), protects mixed-income communities and stabilizes prices!

Got a little longer? Watch this phenomenal 15-minute video from The Two Hundred, Redlined, A Legacy of Housing Discrimination. It traces the often-forgotten history of the federal government sponsored financial “redlining” of communities of color. More importantly, it uncovers some of the enduring psycho-social impacts on not only communities of color but on the White community as well.

Redlined, A Legacy of Housing Discrimination from The Two Hundred on Vimeo.

Got time for a deep dive? Check out this hour long conversation from SPUR, Single-Family Zoning Drives Exclusion. Recent bestselling books like The Color of Law and Evicted have brought to light the history and ramifications of decades of racist housing policy. Despite greater awareness, these injustices continue through widespread exclusionary zoning policies that favor single-family zoning. A groundbreaking report recently released by the Othering & Belong Institute at UC Berkeley documents the relationship between single-family housing and racial exclusion in the Bay Area. This is a discussion about how housing policy has created areas characterized by exclusion and what can be done about it. 

Single-Family Zoning Drives Exclusion from SPUR on Vimeo.

Check out this recorded event from Catalyze SV, and hear about the Opportunity Housing movement sweeping the nation! The panel features speakers from cities where this zoning reform has already been enacted.

Learn more about Catalyze SV’s work


How Housing Supply Shapes Access to Entry-Level Homeownership UC Berkeley’s Terner Center

New housing production increasingly has shifted toward larger formats and single-family homes, as many cities have adopted restrictive land use polices that keep small multifamily homes out. This has caused steep home price increases, particularly among entry-level homes in high-cost, supply-constrained markets like San Jose. Smaller multifamily homes, such as duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes, have been more accessible to younger and lower-earning homebuyers, making homeownership more inclusive.

Single-Family Zoning in the San Francisco Bay Area: Characteristics of Exclusionary Communities UC Berkeley’s Othering and Belonging Institute

As part of our series on racial segregation in the San Francisco Bay Area, we examined the relationship between restrictive zoning (and single-family zoning in particular) and racial residential segregation. That investigation led us to a broader understanding of the effects of single-family zoning, which we now document.

Single-family zoning dominates the Bay Area’s residential neighborhoods, squeezing out much-needed denser housing options. None of this information condemns the single-family home nor the residents of these neighborhoods. The policy solution we advocate for is not to deprive single-family neighborhoods of resources, but to eliminate the barriers that prevent the rest of the Bay Area’s residents from accessing them. The elimination of single-family zoning will help to allow a greater supply of housing in these neighborhoods so that the opportunity they provide will become more broadly and equitably distributed.

San Jose General Plan Task Force 4-Year Review Materials

At the August 20, 2020 Task Force meeting, the Task Force voted to recommend that the City Council should explore opportunity housing for properties citywide with a Residential Neighborhood land use designation. Recommendations from staff and the Task Force, and a summary of public comments will be presented to City Council in Spring 2021 for further direction on opportunity housing.

Why Opportunity Housing? Presentation on Missing Middle Housing to the Task Force by Dan Parolek, 12/18/19

Slide deck for Missing Middle Presentation

San Jose City Staff Presentation on Opportunity Housing, 7/30/20

San Jose City Staff Memo: Overview of Opportunity Housing

San Jose City Staff Memo: Opportunity Housing FAQ

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