Fire Smoke Drifting In; Housing Bills Facing Opposition

By Sharon Byrne   |   August 31, 2021

In the past few weeks, you may have noticed a smoke smell in the air and greyer skies. That’s wildfire smoke drift coming into the area. If you watch the Purple Air site (, you can zoom in or out to monitor air quality conditions in our area and across the state. Our Air Pollution Control District (APCD) has been issuing smoke forecasts as conditions change. It’s important to try to keep a clean room in your house that is free from smoke, if you’re sensitive. While air conditions here have been mostly OK, sometimes the air quality moves into the direction where it’s unhealthy for 24-hour exposure. N95 masks, which disappeared into pandemic use in 2020, are the best for filtrating smoke particles that can lodge deep in the lungs. You can now find N95 masks again at hardware stores and online.

On September 7, at our Land Use Committee, we will be talking about backup generators powered by natural gas for Cox Communications equipment. This is part of living in a high-fire world, and they’re already installing them in Montecito. On February 11, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) unanimously adopted a decision (21-02-029) requiring wireline communications providers to increase system resiliency so they can remain operational during emergencies and power outages. The CPUC’s actions are in response to communications services impacted during Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events. This decision helps ensure reliable access to wireless communications, such as maintaining service for a minimum of 72 hours immediately following a power outage; maintaining customer access to 9-1-1 and 2-1-1 services, emergency notifications, and basic internet browsing.

Update on the Housing Bills

Last week, Los Angeles City Council put forth some arguments to oppose Senate Bill 9 that allows lot splits and duplex construction, and Senate Bill 10 that allows 10-14 units on a single-family lot with no local oversight. Councilmember Paul Koretz sponsored the resolution to oppose the bills and spoke eloquently. Councilmember Mike Bonin, dealing with homelessness at Venice Beach, said the problem with bills like these, handed down from Sacramento every year, is they start from the wrong premise. Bonin said they’re written by developers, for developers, and then everyone tries to get amendments in that appease. We need to go from the other direction: start with housing activists, with housing justice groups, and propose the legislation that will work. L.A. City Council voted with him to oppose both bills.

The problem for California, and the world, is an affordable housing crisis. When entire buildings are held vacant in Barcelona and residents face rapidly rising rents, homelessness is spiking in the UK, and Amsterdam’s citizens are wondering who can afford to live there except for tourists and foreign investors, affordable housing is not just a California issue. Worldwide, investors are plowing pandemic gains into housing, and firms like Deutsche Bank are outbidding families for a place to live. Unfortunately, Senator Scott Wiener (San Francisco) and the YIMBY (Yes, In My Backyard) groups funded by Facebook, Twitter, and Stripe have draped single-family zoning as racist, and decried the only justice is to end it. Their solution? “Build more luxury housing. Then it will trickle down and become affordable.” This plays nicely into the hands of developers and investors, who’d love reduced zoning barriers and a building spree. 

Montecitans have been concerned by “spite ADUs,” where a neighbor sites an Accessory Dwelling Unit against your fence, and there’s nothing you can do about it because the ADU law was written precisely to override local planning and development to expedite the creation of affordable housing. SB-9 and SB-10 are built on the same premise as the ADU law: override local controls and allow development with no oversight. SB-10 just barely passed the Assembly on Monday. Now it goes to Governor Gavin Newsom to sign. We want to encourage him to veto it and do something that will work instead.

As the world’s fifth largest economy, California is at the forefront of an affordable housing crisis happening all over the world. The legislature’s piecemeal attempts to fix it somehow make it worse. We want to encourage Gov. Newsom instead to form a blue-ribbon Housing Task Force made up of housing activists, tax-law specialists, housing authorities, affordable housing developers and similar experts to propose serious policies to solve the problem of affordable housing. We need to start from the right premise and do something meaningful.


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