6 in 10 Californians want to end single-family-only zoning near transit and jobs, poll says

Single-family homes in the Granada Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. Such tracts have drawn the eye of housing advocates seeking to increase density.
Single-family homes in the Granada Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. Such tracts have drawn the eye of housing advocates seeking to increase density.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
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A strong majority of Californians want the state to force local governments to allow apartments in single-family-home neighborhoods near transit and jobs, according to a new statewide poll.

The survey from the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California released Wednesday found that 62% of adults surveyed were in favor of requiring cities and counties to permit apartment construction in communities that now comprise only single-family homes if they’re near rail stations or clusters of jobs.

The question mirrored the policy proposed in Senate Bill 50, now-shelved state legislation that would have allowed for four- to five-story apartments near mass transit and four or more homes on parcels of land in single-family home neighborhoods.


Mark Baldassare, the institute’s president and pollster, said he was surprised that residents were willing to support such radical changes to the state’s historical development patterns. Between half and three-quarters of developable land in much of the state is zoned for single-family housing only, according to UC Berkeley research.

“This really demonstrates that housing is truly a crisis today,” Baldassare said. “Every survey we’ve done this year, something comes out that just points to the fact that Californians are deeply concerned about housing. These findings say that they want something to get done and they want the Legislature to go boldly.”

Allowing apartments in single-family neighborhoods attracted support in the survey from all regions of the state and among diverse interest groups, although support broke down along partisan lines. Every region of the state reported at least 60% approval. Nearly three-quarters of Democrats backed the idea — compared with 36% of Republicans. More than half of those 55 and older were in favor, as were 70% of those 18 to 34.

Perhaps most surprising, 51% of homeowners were in support. SB 50 failed in a legislative committee last month after substantial lobbying from neighborhood groups of predominantly suburban homeowners.

Baldassare said it’s possible that lawmakers heard from those most passionately opposed to SB 50, whose views did not reflect the broader public sentiment.

The revenge of the suburbs: Why California’s effort to build more in single-family-home neighborhoods failed »


“This particular solution, which has been very controversial in the Legislature, is not very controversial when it comes to the general public,” he said.

Some housing advocates say large expanses of single-family zoning in California constrain housing construction, drive up rents and contribute to homelessness, which increased 12% in Los Angeles County over last year, according to a point-in-time count released Tuesday.

The Public Policy Institute of California found that 74% of adults surveyed supported Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to spend $1 billion to address homelessness.

The poll also found that 52% of adults said their housing costs are causing them a financial strain, up 5 points from when the same question was asked two years ago.

Residents gave similarly strong backing in the survey to another idea that has struggled to gain traction in the Legislature: withholding state transportation dollars from cities and counties that have not approved housing projects.

Newsom proposed doing so in his first week in office but pushed back the idea until his potential second term amid opposition from Democratic legislators. It’s unclear whether lawmakers will agree to the revised plan, which the governor is advocating as part of budget negotiations expected to wrap up this month. The PPIC poll found 61% support among California adults for the proposal.


The survey of 1,713 adult Californians took place between May 19 and May 28 and has an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.3%.