Senate Bill 9 (SB 9)

Senate Bill 9 (SB 9) aims to streamline the approval of housing production. Effective January 1, 2022, SB 9 requires all local jurisdictions to ministerially approve up to two residential units on a parcel in a single-family residential zone if the project meets specific objective standards. It also requires jurisdictions to ministerial approve the subdivision of one lot into two lots in a single-family residential zone if specific objective standards are met.

What does ministerial mean?

Ministerial is defined as a decision that involves little or no personal judgement by a public official. This means that as long as the proposed project complies with all objective standards of the Orinda Municipal Code, the City must approve the project. There are no discretionary decisions made, no public hearings, and no neighborhood notification.

An SB 9 unit is when a project is proposed that would create a new residential unit in a single-family zoning district. SB 9 allows up to two residential units per parcel. Some of the objective standards that would apply include meeting the minimum property setbacks, not exceeding the maximum building height, and not exceeding the maximum floor area of the lot.

An SB 9 lot split is when an existing legal lot is subdivided into two legal lots. Each lot must be at least 40 percent of the original lot's size, or at least 1,200 square-feet, whichever is greater. SB 9 Lot Split applicants must sign an affidavit stating they intend to occupy one of the units on the property as their principal residence for a minimum of three years from the date of lot split approval.

The following project types in a residential zoning district qualify if all eligibility requirements are met:

  • SB 9 Unit
    • On a vacant parcel
      • The construction of a new single-family home
      • The construction of two single-family homes ("duplex" provision)
    • On a parcel with an existing home
      • The construction of an additional home
  • SB 9 Lot Split
    • The creation of a new parcel (lot split of an existing residential parcel)
      • Two new homes can be constructed on the newly-created lot. 

Are SB 9 Units and ADUs the same?

No, an SB 9 unit is not the same as an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU). See the ADU page for more information regarding ADU requirements. On January 11, 2022, the City Council adopted Ordinance 21-8 implementing SB 9 that addresses ADUs and Junior ADUs on parcels created through an SB 9 Lot Split. Consistent with SB 9, no more than two dwelling units of any kind are permitted on a parcel created via an SB 9 lot split. For example, Orinda’s rules allow an applicant to construct a single family home and ADU on a parcel that was created via a SB 9 lot split.

How do I apply for an SB 9 unit or SB 9 lot split?

Fill out the applicable form and submit your application through the Application Submittal Portal here. We strongly recommend discussing your potential SB 9 project with a planner before you submit your application. Schedule a 30-minute appointment to speak with a planner here.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • What if a component of my SB 9 Unit application does not meet the objective standards? If you project does not meet the objective standards, it is not eligible for SB 9. Examples include exceeding the maximum building height, exceeding the maximum FAR (floor area ratio) of the lot, or encroaching into the required setbacks.
  • What if a component of my SB 9 Unit application requires a discretionary permit? If your project requires discretionary approval, such as a Tree Removal Permit or Elevated Deck Permit, you must obtain approval for all discretionary permits before applying for an SB 9 Unit application. See the Planning Applications page for more detail on discretionary permits.
  • I have a vacant lot where I want to split my lot and build new unit(s). Can I apply for a SB 9 Lot Split and SB 9 Unit application at the same time? SB 9 requires the the property owner to declare they intend they intend to occupy one of the onsite housing units as their principal residence for a minimum of three years from the date of the SB 9 lot split approval. Because vacant sites do not have any onsite housing units, applicants would need to (1) apply for an SB 9 Unit Application first, or (2) apply concurrently for an SB 9 Unit and SB 9 Lot Split. For concurrent submittals, construction of the SB 9 Unit would need to be completed prior to final approval of the SB 9 lot split. 
  • How long will it take for my application to be approved? There are multiple factors that influence how long it can take to process your application. The primary factor includes how complete your application submittal is. Be sure to carefully review the application form and all required submittal documents. Once an SB 9 application is submitted, staff has 30 days to do a completeness review of your application. A completeness review includes a thorough review of your application to ensure all submittal documents are received and all pertinent information is provided. If your application is deemed incomplete, each resubmittal will restart the 30-day completeness review period.
  • If I demolish an existing residence and construct a new residence, does that qualify for SB 9? No, because the project would be replacement of an existing unit. Projects only qualify for SB 9 when a new unit is created.
  • What happens after my SB 9 project is approved? Once an SB 9 Unit application is approved, you may apply for building permits to construct the new unit. See the Building Permits page for more information. For SB 9 Lot Split applications, once approved, you will need to record your newly created lot with the County Recorder's Office.
  • Does an ADU count as a SB 9 unit? No, an ADU is not an SB 9 unit and must comply with all ADU requirements. See the ADU page for more information.
  • Can I rent my SB 9 unit as a short-term rental? No, state law prohibits SB 9 units to be used as short-term rentals. Short-term rentals are rentals for overnight lodging of less than 30 days. Long-term rentals (30 days or greater) are not regulated by SB 9.
  • How do I obtain a new address for my new SB 9 unit or newly created SB 9 lot? Contact the Moraga-Orinda Fire District (MOFD) for a new address assignment.
  • My neighbor has applied for an SB 9 Unit or SB 9 Lot Split. Why wasn't I notified? Per state law, SB 9 is a ministerial approval so there is no neighbor notification and no public hearings.